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  • Writer's pictureProject Black Girl

Cultivating Self-Worth Despite Your Job Title or Income

Updated: Apr 11


 

Let's do a temperature check. On a scale of 1-10 how are you feeling about life in general at this moment? Think about it. Choose a number then reflect on what in your life is causing you to be at that number.


I'm at a solid 8. I'm joyful and at peace! There is room for improvement, but I'm doing really well and life is great. At the beginning of every meeting my amazing Loving Yourself First (LYF), Coach Keyonna Monroe would always do a temperature check with me.


A couple months ago I was hovering around a 5. Life outside of work was good, but for months I entertained the possibility of going on stress leave. I was depressed and months back started taking anti-anxiety pills I hadn't taken in over 5 years. The stress level at my job was unbelievable to those in the same position as me. Looking back on my journal entries I repeatedly wrote,

"I don't think I'm going to make it [to the end of my contract]".


With Keyonna's help and by the grace of God, I made it!!!!! But why did I feel I had to? Looking at your own experiences, would you have made a different decision than me? How many of you are or know someone in a similar situation right now?



I obviously was struggling in a toxic work environment created by administration with staff members who were instrumental in contributing. I battled with not showing up as the responsible and reliable person that I am when I make a commitment, and my mental health suffered for it. I did take plenty of days off and half days, but even when I needed to travel over 300 miles for my grandfather's funeral, there was drama about me taking off five days instead of three. In hindsight, I shouldn't have pushed myself that far; to the edge of the breaking point. If I was more aware of my options I likely would've made a different decision.

Baby Boomers encouraged Gen Xers and Millennials to, "Get a good job you can retire from". They worked for companies for 20 to 40 years, often making livable wages where they could provide for their families, and in the best cases were able to retire and enjoy old age. The loyalty that older generations had towards their jobs doesn't fit in today's workforce.


In this day and age, many companies are not allowing employees to work for them for 20-plus years and retire. For years the tech industry has grown and Millennials especially have benefited in high-paying positions without years of education or experience. On the flip side, there have been over 200,000 layoffs in the past six months by Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo, Meta, Zoom, and others. Hollywood is in shambles as the writers and actors are both on strike, over 300,000 UPS workers are preparing to strike which would cost the company billions, and there are also strikes in other industries as well as Russia, The United Kingdom, Egypt, Canada, Italy and other countries. Employees and contractors are tired of struggling while people at the top are earning massive wealth.


Going back to your temperature check, how are you faring at your place of employment? Are you properly compensated? Do you have enough personal time to have a nice and fulfilling life outside of your work duties? Do you feel valued? Are you safe from layoffs? Layoffs at Google included people who'd recently been praised and promoted. How do they then get terminated from a job where they were considered valuable?



Are you a person who lives for work or works to live?


For some people, their sense of self-worth and pride comes from their job titles and how valuable they are at work. After receiving a promotion someone may feel more appreciated and valued which may carry over into their personal life. The desire for the perks of a promotion can cause employees to work hard (at times longer hours without additional compensation) and be competitive because there are few opportunities to be promoted. What happens when you're the person who's consistently producing or contributing the most, but the praise and rewards are given to someone else? Does your sense of self-worth decrease? Do you feel deflated or worthless? It's easy to say, "No" or "The opportunity wasn't best for me", but it's harder to show up with the same zeal and effort while watching someone being rewarded for doing a job that's mediocre in comparison to what you could've done or taking credit for your contributions.


t's somewhat frustrating hearing about men who were "given a chance" to show what they could deliver when I've never in my 20 adult years been given that chance without first proving I could deliver. Myself and other Black women I know have resumes detailing years of experience and/or education in both the field and position, but because we didn't have the exact field and position we were considered "unqualified".


How many of us have trained managers hired above us because they were experienced in the position, but knew nothing about the industry nor company? Check. How about being the highest grossing employee at a job that kept you at part time status even though you consistently beat out the full time employees? Check.


How many times have you experienced someone with a small fraction of your experience and none of your success stories being promoted over you because you weren't the "right fit" and then the person hired did a poor job and didn't last long? Myself and other Black women I know have removed education and experience from resumes in order to not look "overqualified" or be in a situation where a higher up felt "threatened" that we'd take their job. What are some of the ways you’ve had to play small in your career?


“I can’t be expected to deliver at the level I’m capable of delivering at while also minimizing my skills and intellect.”


There's always a pressure I feel to show up in a specific way - I need to be, look and speak professionally, and be approachable and likable. I'm naturally a nice person, so that's easy, but when a Black woman with an afro steps into a room with confidence and voices her opinion —which was formed from her education and experiences— then she's vain, confrontational, and/or aggressive.


No, I'm qualified, experienced and good at what I do. However, when in a position well beneath my capabilities, under incompetent leadership, and at a company that doesn't value me, it's much harder to downplay my greatness so that others don't feel "intimidated". News flash: no one at or above your level will be intimidated by you. That's a huge reflection of someone's own insecurities and weaknesses. I can't be expected to deliver at the level I'm capable of delivering at while also minimizing my skills and intellect.



Unwavering Self-Worth


A few years ago I decided I was done code-switching. Using a higher pitched voice and language that shows I'm well read to make white people feel "comfortable" around me and acknowledge me is out. I love how Jay-Z and Tabitha Brown say they show up as themselves in every room they step into. I am who I am. I've worked incredibly hard to become her and I'm extremely proud to be her. While I could brag about my four college degrees, high middle class income, CEO job title and jet setter lifestyle to those who may want to get to know me or ask, "What do you do?" I'd much rather talk about the self-love, peace, joy and freedom that keeps my mental health healthy and strong.


Years ago while I was living in Ghana I decided that my life would be full of peace and joy and anything and anyone that disrupted that had to be cut off. When I moved back to Los Angeles and had to tie up loose ends on something I'd been working on for 8 years, that's when my mental health was challenged. I've completed my tasks and now I'M BACK! Back being happy, back being me and back protecting my peace.


My self-worth comes from my sense of pride as a Black woman, my values, morals, love and appreciation for humanity, my passions, love for God and what I contribute to others and the world. Not what actions I do at work or my gross income. Due to this, there isn't anything that can change or negate the confidence and self-love that I have. Whether I get the job or not, I am who I am. Whether I'm living in a studio apartment or a five bedroom house, I am who I am. Single or married, I am who I am. Rich or struggling, I am who I am - PowHer House Raye! My sense of worth is based on fixed principles, not variable circumstances.

I encourage you, if you haven't already, to figure out where your sense of self-worth comes from. Fill in the blank:

Even if I were butt naked with no money in the middle of the street I am _______!


Personally, I am still intelligent, loved, loving, beautiful, brave hard-working, resilient and much more. You are so much more than your circumstances.


REFLECTION: 

I challenge you to think about the following questions and see if any changes need to be made in your life or career to ensure your mental health is protected and healthy. 

  • How is your current job serving you? 

  • What are you learning? 

  • How are you growing? 

  • How does this company, position or pay fit into your five-year plan or your retirement plan? If it doesn't, it may be time to reassess the situation and see if there's something better out there.

  • What are you doing to protect your mental health? Prayer, meditation, therapy, exercise, traveling, shopping, spending time with loved ones, etc. 

  • What is one thing you can add and one thing or person you can remove from your life that will increase your overall well-being?


Thank you for sharing this time with me. I hope this was insightful. 


 

Raquel Scott is a film producer, educator and cultural immerser whose mission is to Unite the African Diaspora through education and travel. She writes articles on Medium.com about topics related to her journey as an African-American woman connecting to Africa, living in Africa and exploring relationships of the African Diaspora.

You can check out more of Raquel's work at https://medium.com/@theepowherhouse

Follow her on IG and TikTok: @theepowherhouse

If you're interested in filmmaking subscribe to her YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/@theepowherhouse

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