Knowing My Worth

I work in a career field that does not offer a steady paycheck or job security of any kind. Like many artists, I most of what I do in order to make a living is generated from self-motivation and hustle. Often, the hours of work I put in are not compensated, but rather considered a (necessary) accessory to a finished product. I can go for months pouring my heart and soul into a project not knowing when, or if, it may pay off. Sometimes, I see projects appear out of nowhere like magic, and more often, I see projects fizzle into nothing. Needless to say, it’s not a lucrative way to live, but I do it because I reached a point where I found my soul was too valuable to stick into a cubicle.

As someone in recovery from psychological abuse, I am learning to listen more to what my soul wants. I am also learning what my real limits are. I am capable of doing a lot of things, and in the past I often took on way too much in my job. When my employer downsized, I was the one who stayed on to do the work of the other half dozen people who were laid off. I agreed to do it because I was good at it, but I also did it because on some level, I wanted my boss to validate my worth. Also, I suppose there was some fear that if I did not deliver under these unrealistic expectations that I would be laid off, too. As someone who was abused as a child, I tended to think people in authority would blow up at me if I challenged them. And often they did. I’ve worked for some real pricks. Or perhaps I allowed them to be pricks because of my own aversion to flak for exposing them?

Nevertheless, I put my head down and built amazing things for my employer. I juggled plates. I wore hats. Of course, all it meant to my boss was that he could now get six people for the price of one. He took the credit for saving money. I allowed myself to be taken advantage of, and guess what? I worked myself into the ground. By the time I left, I felt utterly undervalued and unappreciated. Because I was.

Looking back over my career, I see a similar pattern played out in all of the arenas in which I’ve worked. The broken part of me that never got the validation she needed when she was younger tries to overachieve and people-please herself to death. At this point, I am anxious about working for anyone but myself. Even with myself, I am wary. At least with me, when I am taken advantage of, and not giving myself what I need, I can stop to regroup. I am learning to be a better boss to myself. I am trying to give myself more breaks.  And most of all, I am learning to give credit where credit is due.

Freelancing is not easy. I have had some great experiences, but I’ve also had some terrible ones. I once was up for a gig for a project where they wanted to pay me a fifth of my industry’s minimums, and were histrionic when I had my attorney counter their offer. They were livid, and called up my colleague to tell her I was the one insulting them. Abusers are everywhere, and even though I do my best to stay away from them, I can’t help but to slip on their shit sometimes.

Which brings me to the question, what do I want to do next? In my field, this is a constant concern. It pecks away at me, because like so many like me, I never know what new opportunity might present itself. I am always searching for it, whatever “it” is. The good news is that, finally, I think I might know my own worth. I think it’s about time to share that knowledge with others.

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