“Know your worth.” This is a phrase my mom would say to me time and time again. To be honest, I didn’t ever deeply know or feel what she meant until yesterday afternoon.
My mom may be a brilliant, beautiful woman, but she didn’t come up with this phrase. The words are nothing new. I have heard them from my mom, aunt, family friends, hairdressers, blogs, pillows… it is truly everywhere. Rarely does anyone escape hearing these words throughout their life. I remember the first time I heard it and paid attention to it from my mom, because let’s face it, she probably said it before I was fourteen and I wasn’t really listening. I knew the concept was important so I did what so many other teenagers do when they don’t understand something: I took to the internet. (I’m rolling my eyes at myself too.) I looked up what it meant to “know your worth” and I saw a bunch of articles about “self-worth”, “self love”, etc.. These are all such important concepts, but what I was reading were all very fluffy, “rainbows and unicorns” pieces that didn’t seem relevant or relatable. Everyone has their own method and definition when it comes to knowing your worth and none of those narratives are more or less wrong than the others. I just felt like I was only getting the final snapshot of the destination versus the entire journey that may have helped in understanding and integrating their stories. It’s like when you see a picture on Instagram and you have no idea whether it took sixty different attempts, ninety different angles and four thousand different filters before what you see, the final product.
I am choosing to write about this because even though there are so many different takes on what “self-worth” and “knowing your worth” means, it cannot be said nearly enough until every last person understands and knows their worth. It is that important.
Getting to that point yesterday afternoon was not easy. The past nine months have been incredibly difficult and confusing for me in ways that would probably take another nine months to describe. I was recently in Hawai’i with my sister Elizabeth* (Yes I know, how bad can your life be if you’re in Hawai’i? External circumstances are not always representative of internal landscapes.) We were talking about what our top priorities in life were. Elizabeth and I haven’t spent a consistent, appreciable amount of time together since she has been in college. This trip was one of the first times I really got to know the beautiful young woman she is now and continuing to grow into. She said her top priority above all else was her career. This makes a lot of sense if you have ever met my mom because she is a strong, driven Jamaican-American woman who has gone on quite a journey to get to where she is now. It is the same thing with my dad. He worked incredibly hard, against all odds really, to be where he is now. To say the least, career is the most important thing to them. When Elizabeth asked me what my number one priority was, I said family because I know I want to create a family and have kids some day. Elizabeth looked at me in awe like I had just ran around the restaurant with my pants on my head. She couldn’t believe that with our parents, my career was not the number one thing to me in the world. I immediately clarified my statement and told her that even though family is so important to me and that I can’t wait to figure out what I want to do next career wise, neither one of them will make or break my life.
I was not always this way. My parents drilled into the both of us that career was the most important thing in the world. My parents are divorced so there may be some other things/bias going on there (definitely), however, I adopted this idea very early. It didn’t help that my school system was very competitive from the time I was ten. That’s not an exaggeration. By the time I was fourteen I had a very clear image of what I wanted to do (so I thought). I knew I had to do extraordinarily well in high school, get into some amazing college, have an even more amazing career and I would be set for life. Even as I type this now all I can think is, “what was I thinking?” The limited perspective of my fourteen year old self is all a part of this invaluable experience. Fast forward eight years, I ended up graduating from that “amazing” college and I thought I was all set. (Truth be told, my college experience was key in my development, not because of the ranking but because of the cumulative, multi-dimensional experiences involving countless people, situations, etc. that have shaped me.) As soon as I graduated, I was so burned out mentally, emotionally, physically for a number of important reasons and I realized that I didn’t have a clue as to from my core and heart what I wanted to do next. I still felt that need to stay “on track” and begin a job as soon as possible even thought every other part of me needed a break. I immediately began ramping up my search (started beginning of senior year, didn’t pan out how I thought it would) and I became even less excited than I was with every interview because I knew that I actually wanted nothing to do with computer science. I just felt as if I had to continue it because that is what I spent the past four years doing. I knew in the back of my mind and my heart that I wanted to do anything else but at the time I didn’t know how to admit it to other people, my parents or more importantly, myself.
I kept on interviewing for different positions and at this point it had been several months since I graduated from school. That is when I began to break down. If you go back to what I said about what my vision was when I was fourteen, I thought that I would have begun my job by now, would be totally happy, check off all the boxes and be set for life. Oi. This was nothing like that. I began to doubt myself and wonder what was wrong with me that I wasn’t getting a job as quickly as I anticipated? I realized after weeks of doubt that this was very problematic with regards to how I viewed (/how I personally wanted to view) myself. I had one of those “crying on the floor” moments and for a split second I snapped out of it and asked myself, “what are you doing?”. It was one of those moments of “clear knowing” where I knew everything that was so out of alignment with that picture before I could even put it into words. Number one was that I was crying over something I didn’t even want. I believe in the Universe, God, Source, Unmanifested, Spirit, etc. and it was definitely looking out for me the entire time. I had been applying for all of these jobs I didn’t want but I was too chicken to check in with myself and admit that I wanted something different. Number two was that I had been placing my worth into an external experience and expectations that I had previously created for myself.
The experience of “knowing your worth” is multi-dimensional (if you ever see this in my writing you can replace it with something along the lines of: “has many aspects” or “there are so many factors involved” etc. depending on your core views of life and how everything works). On one hand, I was so distraught because it had been hammered into me that the career that came from the life path of great grades in high school, top ten university, etc. was the most important thing in the world and I didn’t have that. Thus I failed. Everything that I had been working for my entire life wasn’t achieved in the timely fashion that I expected. So what was I without it? What was I now that I had not achieved that great expectation? Nothing? Of course not! But that is damn sure how it felt. It was a double whammy because not only did I not have the “thing” that I “needed” to be happy and to be complete but I also wasn’t the person anymore that wanted the “thing”. I was having a quarter life crisis before I was even in my mid twenties. It was bad enough that I wasn’t where I expected to be because that is what I built my entire identity upon but I also wasn’t even sure if that was me anymore. I wanted that to be me because it would have been so much easier to just get back up, continue along the path that I had forged when I was a teenager (?!), follow through and get everything I knew that would make my life and myself complete. Big red flag. It is one thing to want something, we are all human. We have desires, goals, ambitions, etc.. It is a whole other thing to say, “my life depends on this ‘thing’ and my identity/happiness/completion depends on this ‘thing’ so if I don’t have it, I am nothing.”
I placed all of my self-worth in my life path/ career AND who I expected myself to be/want etc. My mindset for months was that if I didn’t end up getting this type of job and I wasn’t the version of myself that I imagined/ expected then I wasn’t worth anything. I placed my self worth in external things and expectations.
I am going to take a complete 180 and say that there is nothing wrong with this. Why? There is no wrong way to live your life. Everyone has their own life path/ destiny/ energetic evolution/ karma/ dharma/ life’s purpose etc. (if you believe in it). No one knows what someone else needs in order to learn whatever it is that they need to learn in this lifetime. However, this is not how I want to live my life. External things are unstable. They come and go. Let’s say I got the job that I “wanted” right out of college. I would have been so unhappy and started looking for something else. If I placed my worth in external things, I would have been “worthy” of love when I had the job and unworthy as soon as I decided to leave. WTF. Why would I ever place my worth in the hands of something that is bound to change? Nothing is guaranteed in this lifetime, certainly not your job.
Fast forward to yesterday: not placing your worth in external things is important but so is knowing your worth. I am talking about that unshakable confidence where you know exactly who you are, that you are Love and that your worth is determined by you and you only. Take that power back. Placing your worth in things like jobs, relationships, houses, cars, money, clothes, where you live, checking off all of the “life boxes” gives all of those things more power than you because now they determine whether your are worthy or not. Not you, because you gave it away. It is possible to also place your worth in being a certain way or meeting a specific expectation and if you don’t then you are not worthy. I don’t recommend that because you change every single second. I have been there. That is a very unstable expectation to place your worth in. None of these ways of living are wrong, just very unstable because you and your circumstances change all the time. That’s fantastic! Change is great. Placing your worth in something that changes constantly, thus allowing you to have your worth one moment and maybe not the next is tricky. It’s kind of like a guessing game, moment to moment, as to whether you are worthy or not. If you do not know that you are inherently worthy of love and everything you want to experience in life, you are opening the door for something or someone else to take it away from you. You need to know you are worthy intrinsically because otherwise you will spend a long time convincing yourself that you are worthy depending on whether you have “the thing” or not. The “thing” can be anything you place value in. For some it is the external validation from physical things, for others, it is that external validation from parents, other family members, friends, etc. or the value someone places in being/ looking a certain way. There are infinite things you can place your worth in outside of yourself. Either way, your life could be this unstable, everlasting cycle of questioning whether you are worthy or not if you do not already know your worth in your heart, body, mind and soul.
Knowing your worth directly ties into your view of abundance. Before I really questioned it, I viewed abundance relating to money, energy, manifestation etc. a.k.a common definitions I had picked up from other people. There is nothing wrong with that because abundance is multi/infinite-dimensional (or multifaceted) just like everything else. When I really sat with the word, I noticed that I viewed it a little bit differently. For me, abundance is pretty much the same thing as “infinite possibilities” or “infinite potential”. So when I look all around myself, all I see is abundance because I see a world of infinity. Let me give you an example: when I see a flower, I understand how someone else could see the beauty, smell, colors, texture, and everything you can perceive with the five senses. We all perceive things wildly differently. Whether you agree with my following ideas depends on how much value you place in the unseen. Neither way is right or wrong. We live in a society that places so much value in everything that can be “seen” and “known” though the five senses. Anything else may or may not be important depending on who you talk to. When I see the flower, I see/know the color, smell, beauty, texture, etc. of course but also the infinite potential of stories, history, healing powers, spirits, messages, lessons, ideas, symbols, memories, and all around infinite possibilities within the flower. Same thing goes for everything, especially people. People are so amazingly dynamic. Think about all of the infinite potential there is within a person. If this sounds too “out there” for you, here is a more grounded example: think about everything you know about your best friend. All of their deep secrets, programming, thoughts, intricacies, complexities, needs, desires, narratives, etc. that are within them. Could you tell when you first met them that all of that was beneath the surface? Maybe, maybe not. But it is there and you know that because you know your best friend after many experiences, conversations, etc. This applies for everyone, including you. You may not know the specifics, but you know the infinite possibilities and potential is there. Everyone you see has the potential for you to get to know them deeply or to be your “best friend”. That is abundance and that is within you, neighbors, best friends, teachers, pets, wild animals, flowers, mountains, trees, water, strangers, classmates, bees, stories, books, thoughts, and I could go on forever. You are abundance. You may have a different definition of what abundance means to you. This is only one way to think about it, nevertheless, you are abundance. However, if you think that abundance is something outside of you and has to do with money and “things”, it is much easier to fall into the trap of viewing yourself as “worthy” when you have those things, a certain amount of money, etc. AND viewing other people as worthy when they have the things, money etc. What I said about about comparing journeys to an Instagram photo early on was very conscious. I love Instagram. I’m not going to pretend that I am above it all because I am not. However, I have noticed that it has the potential to train us to only value the physically perceivable or the “seen” within ourselves and other people (both are potential reflections of one another, what you see and value in others can be what you see and value in yourself and vice versa) and this kind of beautiful abundance falls into the realm of the “unseen” but still knowable. Think about it the next time you see a photo of anyone, Instagram or not. What do you see? Do you see their face? What they are wearing? How attractive they are? Where they are? All of that is natural and human. There is no shame in that. However, if that is all you see and all you know, it could be very hard for you to recognize the inherent abundance and worth within yourself if you practice only seeing everyone at a very surface level. Again, you don’t need to know specifics because that would take forever to explore the infinity of one person. That doesn’t stop you from knowing that it is there in them and in yourself.
Now that you know you are abundance, how could you not know your worth? You as infinite abundance are quite literally priceless. There is nothing that could take that inherent infinity/abundance from you unless you let it.
By the way, I am purposefully writing this while I still don’t have a job. I feel like there are so many people out there that need some sort of “happy ending” or need to put a bow on it and put it away. That’s not me and that is not where I am right now. I don’t even think of my life in a linear way (this is another post coming) where I learn lessons and then it is just over. I am continuing to learn different dimensions/ aspects of self-worth and knowing your worth. It could be a zig zag, spiral or literally anything else. I have no idea but it isn’t a straight line for me. The timing of this (depending on the role “time” plays in your life) is important because I know my worth now even though I still don’t have the “thing”. I don’t have the “thing” and my world is not crashing down like I thought it would nine months ago. That is because I know my worth and it comes from within. There is nothing out there that will complete me because I am already complete.
Goals are wonderful, healthy, natural and what keeps the world going. This is not about complete detachment and never wanting anything every again. There is space for not only wanting things and having goals but also realizing that they are not the only keys to your happiness. I mentioned the trip to Hawai’i earlier because it was a key component in realizing that the infinite ways in which I can live my life are all perfect and valid. I have many ideas about what I would love to do next. None of them will determine my worth and they are not the only ways for me to live a wonderful life. I want them, I honor that I want them, I hold space for wanting them, but I do not need them and they do not complete me.
with unconditional love and space, katie
* name has been changed