When I graduated college and decide to pursue a career in writing, I knew I would not be making a lot of money. What I didn’t anticipate, though, was how bad that would make me feel. While all of my friends were taking girls’ trips to Miami and moving into one-bedroom apartments, I was sharing a bathroom with three other people and calculating if I had enough money to fly home for Christmas.
After a while, it became hard not to equate my value as a person with my value as an employee, and my negative attitude about both spilled into my personal relationships. I would have a bad day at work and find myself snapping at my roommates or whatever family member had the audacity to call me and see how I was doing.
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It was only when I started to focus on the value I had in all parts of my life—not just the ones I was paid for—that my net worth stopped dictating how I treated people and how I treated myself. Here are four tips to help you keep your net worth from deciding your self-worth.
1. Understand your market value.
If you choose to enter a competitive field, sometimes you will have to make financial sacrifices. Me, along with half of New York City, seemed to be pursuing a career in writing. This meant that I was easily replaceable and didn’t have the leverage to ask for a whole lot of money. Those were, and still are, realities I had to face every day.
However, if you feel you are being legitimately undervalued at your job, talk to someone about it. A mentor, the person who holds the position right above yours—someone who will be honest with you about what you should be getting paid, and how to ask your employer for more if your salary is not meeting those goals.
Once you flesh out what your market value is, it will be easy to not feel so alone and bogged down by how much money you are making. Your salary doesn’t define you, and it shouldn’t be your only source of happiness. Your market value is just that—your value in a specific market. Don’t make it more than it is.
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2. Don’t bring your work home.
When you make a mistake at work, there are two things you need to do: Learn from it and then let it go. According to Gail Saltz, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell Medical College, work stress “does damage—it causes a rise in blood pressure, GI issues and brain cell death over the long haul.”
In other words, work life causes a lot of physical and mental stress. And because you don’t want to show any stress or anxiety at work, you end up bringing it home with you. So, often, we fall into a cycle of slipping up at work, being in a bad mood with the people in our personal lives because of it, and then feeling guilty about both. If you keep your work mistakes at work and out of the home, you’ll be less likely to equate the value of the two.
The easiest way to feel more valuable is to find joy and purpose in an activity that does not earn you money. A common and worthy suggestion is volunteer work. According to HelpGuide.org, “Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.”
If you don’t feel like you can commit to volunteering, try picking up an old hobby. Creating something you know you won’t be judged on gives new meaning to how you spend your time and how you value yourself. You are more than what your company pays you—it might just take you picking up knitting to believe it!
4. Don’t compare your market value to others.
This may seem obvious, but making a conscious effort to focus only on your own progress each day is actually a lot of work. Mainly because there are an endless amount of people you can compare yourself to, and more than likely, you are going to compare yourself to someone who has accomplished something you wish you did.
Comparing yourself to others can also keep you from being genuinely happy for those who are progressing. Set personal goals for yourself that have nothing to do with those around you, and you will be more willing to celebrate your own, and others’, accomplishments.