“One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.” ~ Shannon L. Alder
Even if you’re not aware of it, there’s a good chance you’ve learned to measure your value based on outside factors like your educational, professional, or even financial achievements. But the truth of the matter is, your real value is defined by what YOU think, feel, and believe about yourself…not what degree you have, the title in your email signature, or whether your boss thinks you deserve that promotion.
It wasn’t until I became crystal clear about what I honestly thought, felt, and believed about myself that I got to a place of authenticity to see the great value I innately have. And the best part is that as long as you’re willing to do the inner work, the very same shift can happen for you.
So, please do me a solid (but more importantly, do it for yourself) and stop measuring your inner-worth based on external factors that only make you feel less worthy in the end. And then read on for 3 things you can start doing to make you feel more valuable and worthy instead.
Invest in yourself — whether you want to be a better leader or friend, take the time to address weaknesses and then do the work that needs to be done to improve the skill you’ve identified as needing to improve. For example, if you’re looking to grow as a leader, a significant way to invest in yourself could be signing up for the latest leadership conference in town, getting a related book, or listening to a related podcast about the same topic.
Find ways to add value to others — if there’s anything this pandemic has taught me, it’s that we are stronger together. That’s why it has never been more important to carve out time to add some value to others. From dropping off donations and volunteering at various outdoor events to helping someone update their resume after being laid off, there’s no shortage of ways you bring value to others.
Know your worth — no matter how tempting it might seem, remember the difference between what you’re getting and what you deserve. And if that means leaving a long-term relationship or job that makes you unhappy, trust me when I say that sometimes walking away is one of the best things you can do.
Now for the fun part…pick one of the three points above and take a small action step toward redefining your value today. Maybe there’s a business course you’ve been putting off, a PPE donation for a small business you keep meaning to drop off, or a job (wait for it) you’ve been riding out for way too long. Whatever it is, take action and then share how it made a difference for you.
“Judging someone does not define who they are; it defines who you are.” ~ Joyce Meyer
Whether you want to admit it or not, we live in a society that promotes individuality in a vacuum. The moment that someone thinks, speaks, or even dresses outside of “norm”, they get judged or even worse — pushed out of companies, communities, and circles that haven’t given them a real chance.
For example, let’s pretend there’s a new coworker that just started at your company. While she may seem nice, you quickly make assumptions about her based solely on her tattoos, and a different sense of style. Next thing you know, you’re excluding her from lunches, happy hours, and projects for which she’s more than qualified…all because you’ve chosen to ride the judgment train.
In other words, by judging a book by its cover, you not only miss out on someone’s story but also on valuable insights and lessons that can benefit you as an individual. And if you still need a little extra convincing on why you should get off the judgment train, here’s 3 more reasons why judging others only sets you back in the long run.
- It perpetuates negative stereotypes in society — whether it’s based on appearance, gender, race, or any other attribute, judging only perpetuates stereotypes that keep the vicious cycle of judgment going strong. And while it may seem harmless to poke fun at something small, I promise you that it no longer feels small or harmless when you’re the one being negatively stereotyped.
- It encourages you to be your own worst critic — if you’re judging others, there’s a good chance you’re judging yourself, too. Because at the end of the day, judging someone else has less to do with who they are, and more to do with who you are. Instead of beating yourself up for your weaknesses, take the time to figure out how you can strengthen them to help you unlock your most authentic self.
- It makes your company lose out on value — when you judge someone without giving them a real chance, not only do you miss out on benefits on a personal level, but your company misses out on the added value that diversity can bring into the workplace like better team performance, decision making, and innovation to name a few.
And if you’re one of the folks that are constantly feeling like you’re the one being judged for being different, remember that you have every right to be the first one that cuts ties with companies, communities or circles that aren’t willing to accept you for being the real you.
Sure, working from the comfort of your home in your comfiest sweats is a great work perk, but it all comes down to how valued an employee feels at work. From being trusted and empowered by their manager to getting recognition and rewards, it’s no surprise that feeling a sense of value is one of the key criteria of overall job satisfaction.
But don’t just take my word for it. According to a Gallup report, only one in three U.S. workers “strongly agreed” they received recognition for their work in the past seven days. Furthermore, employees who didn’t get the recognition for their work were twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year. Now, if that’s not a clear indication for where you should be focusing as a leader or organization, I don’t know what is.
Just think about it, your employees are your greatest asset. In other words, your business wouldn’t succeed without their passion, dedication, and hard work. Yet, far too often, I see the emphasis being placed on the shareholders or credit not given where credit is due.
So here are 5 things you can do to change that:
Go beyond what’s expected — reward employees outside of the yearly anniversaries and reviews by recognizing accomplishments and hard work on team calls/meetings and surprising employees with lunches, coffee gift cards, and even extra time off. Reward hard work with fun swag — showing employees some love with company swag they get to take part in creating for reaching milestones helps recognize individual achievements, but also gives the rest of the team something fun to work toward. Cover extra expenses — whether it’s a cellphone bill, internet, or WFH office expenses, covering additional costs for your employees is another great way to make your employees feel appreciated. Invest in medical expertise onsite — if your employees are back in the office, having medical knowledge is not only a great way to help them stay safer at work, but also show your employees that you not only care about them as an organization but as a person. Allow employees to work from anywhere, anytime — although working from home has become the new normal for so many companies in the short term, for some companies making this a long-term benefit for employees who want to not only work from home but from the road, as they travel the country by RV or hang out at a remote cabin will be a game changer.
The equally important thing to remember about ensuring your employees feel valued is recognizing that this work is ongoing. You don’t get to just turn it on or off whenever you feel like it. If your employees give their best, you can bet they’re expecting to see the same from you in return.
Let’s face it, when it comes to going back to work in the middle of a pandemic, one question still remains: should we even go back to business as usual? The short answer? We couldn’t even if we tried because what was once viewed as “business as usual” before the pandemic now poses a severe health threat. For example, open-floor plans, working near one another, buffet-style lunches, and meetings without masks are just a few of the business norms being reimagined given the current climate. While there is no going back to “business as usual,” there is a way to move forward. It starts with three ways to ensure your employees not only feel “physically safe,” but also “psychologically safe” as they transition back to work.
- Add more social distancing measures—surprise, surprise, right? With coronavirus cases back on the rise, social distancing isn’t going anywhere, and the truth is, your employees most likely won’t either unless you have a plan that allows them to safely distance. Depending on your company, it may be as simple as repurposing common areas so employees can spread out or turning that open-floor plan into a closed one with (wait for it) cubicles.
- Bring back employees in shifts—if social distancing isn’t an option at your company at the moment, having fewer people in one space is a great alternative to help your employees feel safer as they transition. In other words, trade-off when individual employees are in the office while others are working from home to lessen the chances of community spread.
- Stop neglecting the elephant in the room—encourage employees to talk about their personal life because whatever is going on their lives is most likely having an impact on their work-life, too. After all, feeling physically safe can only take you so far if you don’t feel “psychologically safe,” which is built on learning to trust the people with which you work. And nothing builds trust better than getting to know the people you collaborate with (like really know them). Activities can include anything from ice breakers to kick-off meetings or merely helping people think about the way their work and personal lives mesh together.
Of course, the best solution your company might be able to offer employees amid a pandemic is to normalize working from home, especially if employees don’t feel comfortable and/or safe. Naturally, normalizing new habits involves many things. For employees, it might mean having the option of more flexible hours if their kids are doing distance-learning again this fall. And for companies like yours, it might mean investing in new technologies, methodologies, and even home office equipment to make working from homework. Just make sure that you have a working agreement in place so that everyone’s on the same page about the values, norms, and expectations being set in place.
My dad is a Baptist minister and it is clear that much of the jargon that defines my life and the world around me is rooted in his and other powerful sermons. I was too young to even comprehend the depth of the Biblical text but I knew that this storytelling was impactful to our community.
There is a particular scripture that has played constantly in my mind as I struggle to find meaning in the trauma that is being visited upon my Black trans siblings. Corinthians 1:31 says “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
I think about me as a child. I was bright and bubbly yet I was constantly reminded that my life was in danger from so many angles. I was in danger from G-d if I did not comply with the Bible. I was in danger from white people who might consider me a threat. In reality, I was in most danger of never being allowed to be myself fully and unapologetically. In fact, I was robbed of the opportunity to just be a child, to speak as a child, and to think like a child because every Black person in America must grow up at an uncompromising accelerated pace in the hopes of just surviving in this country.
Being Black in America is already threatening. But as a child, I always felt different within my own Black community. I assumed this was because of my “fancy” whitewashed education that led to me speaking a bit more like Clair Huxtable than Hariette Winslow. As a college student, I finally let myself acknowledge that I loved differently than most of the people from home. I identified as a cisgender woman who only seemed to be moved by other women. The sheer terror of that acknowledgment and the othering that stemmed from that transformational moment seemed to be a sure-fire way to kick me right out of my family and my Black community. I remained stagnant for the next decade because it was as far as I was willing to go in my journey.
The cognitive dissonance of calling myself a woman when I really didn’t identify in that way was a weight around my neck. I tried to fit in as a “bro” in my lesbian community and rose to the highest level of influence in my community. In actuality, it was all a facade to make other folks feel comfortable. However, I am a trans nonbinary lesbian and I was only able to come to this conclusion through love. My life even with the vitriol, hate, and ignorance from strangers, friends, and family has been fundamentally moved and influenced by love of my trans siblings and more specifically my Black trans siblings. All of you drive me daily.
We often reference James Baldwin’s famous words when we talk about being Black in America “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” I would posit that if we had to boil down something similar for the Black trans community that it would be something along the lines of “To be a Black trans person in America is a study in courage and a fierce desire to not be forgotten.” I say this because Black trans folks are told that they belong neither in the Black, LGBTQ, or American community on a daily basis. It has become a rite of passage to make it to the age of 35, which I just hit a few weeks ago. We are beaten in the street when we are around our skin folk. We are constantly targeted by government institutions and told we are not worthy of the laws for which this country was founded. We are told by our LGBTQ+ community that we are somehow defective and mistaken in our assertion in the fundamental principle of who we are. Yet despite every sign that we are not wanted, we love harder. The first folks in line for Black people, LGBTQ+ people, women, and other marginalized people are Black trans folks. We must remember that trans folks have always been here and no matter how organized the assault against our humanity we will not be erased.
Today and every day I will say that I will lead with love and courage and I will not be forgotten. After hearing this message, I ask all of you to take up this mantle and not forget the courageous, beautiful, loving Black trans folks who fought and died for you because we’ve always deserved more than you were ever willing to give.