Personal Worth

What is your time worth? What is the energy you put into your day worth?

Is it worth hearing the occasional "thank you" from house-mates or coworkers? Is it worth $20 an hour? $50? $10? If you were to receive funding equal to the actual value of your efforts in your job-- be it corporate, care-taking, or creative-- how much would you pay yourself to do what you do?

It's an interesting question. More so, because of the challenges many of us currently face as the job market plummets. We often make-do with work that does not fulfill our potential, or with a salary that does not reflect our contributions. We do this because we have a responsibility to ourselves and our families to provide shelter, food, and other basic necessities. Most of us cannot afford to be laid off or downsized.

And many of us feel that our time is SO valuable, and in SUCH short supply, that we will hire someone else to do the work for us that we just don't find it worthwhile to do. Sometimes, we hire someone who gets more per hour than we do. Often, this is because of the expertise required, or the effort involved, in that hour's work. We just aren't able to plumb the bathroom, lift the broken washing machine, scrub the floor 'till our knuckles turn red, or sit at an aging parent's bedside 24-7.

I often refer back to a book that a friend bought for me several years ago, when I first realized that credit cards were dangerous. It's called "Your Money or Your Life." I'd give you the author, but I seem to have loaned the book to a friend... hmmm...

This book explains how to calculate the actual dollar-payment that each of us receives for our efforts in the job market. It includes things like dry-cleaning bills, transportation costs, etc... And if you read far enough into the book, you apply that dollar-per-hour figure to your whole life. Is it worth 4 hours of my time to buy the expensive lipstick for $16.95? Is it worth 27 hours of work each month to watch cable TV?

On a personal level, I've been struggling with placing a dollar value on the work that I do as a Consultant. Not just the calculations, but the person-to-person communication that is required to explain that value to the people who utilize my services. Healing --the healing that I do with my clients-- is so vital to well-being. If I had the resources, I would offer it for free. But I realize that unless I can balance out the dollar-value of the things I need to buy with the dollar-value of the extreme amounts of energy I put out in any given session... I won't have the resources to heal anyone at all.

I do work on a sliding scale. And I recognize that it is my own responsibility to uphold the value of my services-- to say "Well, we've had our 90 minutes, but we could do a lot more work together today. Should we wait until our next session, or are you able to pay for another hour of my energy today?" But... it sounds so calculating. So disrespectful of the humanity that is the basis of the work I do. And I struggle with the challenge of truly valuing my own personal worth.

And... knowing that so many people currently struggle to make ends meet, I don't want my services to be unattainable. I'd rather receive a lower payment than make one of my clients wait another six months to see me-- when the market begins to improve. NOW is when my work is needed the most. NOW I have time to give. ...but as a good friend of mine is fond of saying... "A Girl's Gotta Eat." How do I balance that out?

I suspect that there are many of us who face a similar struggle. Many of us who have chosen to receive lower wages rather than risk receiving no wages at all. It frustrates me to know that even when the market was booming, women regularly faced this choice. In most professions, women can still expect to receive between 15-35% lower wages for the same or better quality performance as their male counterparts. I'll be interested to see how that challenge trickles down now that so many businesses are struggling.

And I am grateful for the opportunity to help. We do not face the struggles in our lives alone, unless that is the path we choose to take. Life is full of possibilities, and opportunities to share what we have with those who have less. Like the ant who shared his summer harvest with the grasshopper, in exchange for friendship and music to feed his soul when winter came, we each have within us the seeds of nourishment for someone else.

The challenge of the seed is to step forward with joy for the journey, at a time when none of us truly knows what lies ahead. The wise gardener plants many seeds, never knowing which will grow to nourish her family down the road. I am learning to value each seed, and to step forward with appreciation for the harvests I have already enjoyed.

And it is through this process-- the process of stepping forward blindly, because I am busy looking at where I have already been-- that I begin to appreciate the true value of my gifts. The true value of the energy I have expended in service to others over the years. The opportunity to plant seeds that might someday grow and provide nourishment for someone else-- that is the true value of my work. And at least in this, possibility is every bit as motivational as results.

I value you. Thank you for sharing a piece of your journey with me. May your Autumn Harvest see you through the restful Winter, and on into the fresh possibilities of Spring.

1 comment:

pc said...

Valuing time and energy. Valuing yourself. I like how you put it. However, it's hard when it comes to differentiating between a professional relationship and one of friendship. I'll bet it's even harder in your line of work where you are a "friend" to your clients. My complication seem to come into play when I ask friends for advice in their professional field. I hope that they never feel pressured or put upon and if they did they could speak their truth to me about it.
thanks for the insight