If you’re anything like me you’ve probably had to learn at least a few things ‘the hard way’. The most recent lesson for me has been about knowing my value, and knowing my worth. Though I have considered these things before, the importance of understanding them has become very apparent in terms of seeking return on investment – specifically, the return I get on investing myself into various aspects of my life.
Though they sound the same, there is a subtle difference between your value and your worth. I think of it in terms for what you offer, versus what you receive.
Know Your Value
Your value is what you bring to the table. It includes your knowledge, experience, skill set, level of expertise, as well as things like your attitude, disposition and approach to things. It is both a quantitative and qualitative measure – not just what you can do, but how you do it and how well you can do it. It can be both objective and subjective as well. For example, my value as a physical therapist can be measured against other physical therapists by looking at objective measures, such as my knowledge and proficiency of a treatment technique, as well as subjective measures, such as my rapport with patients and co-workers.
We all have different levels of value in different areas of our lives. My value as a physical therapist is far greater than that of my value as a carpenter; my value as a Tai Chi instructor greater than that of my value as a marathon coach. Knowing your value requires a great deal of critical self-reflection. It requires us to self-evaluate our strengths and weaknesses, a process which requires us to be very honest with ourselves. Not always an easy thing.
Knowing your value has a number of benefits. First, it serves as a point of reference for making decisions that are going to be favourable to you. Using my above example, I know that I’m going to be much more successful seeking and retaining employment as a physical therapist than I will as a carpenter. I could further say that as a physical therapist, I have much more experience working in the home health setting than I do in intensive care, so when it comes to looking for work, I probably have a much higher chance at success in the home care setting than a specialised hospital setting.
It also helps you identify opportunities for growth and improvement. More than that, it can help you prioritise and focus your efforts towards growth and improvement. For example, I know that my value as a carpenter is probably comparable to my value as an artist – that is, relatively low. While I would like to improve in both these areas, improving my ability to draw represents much more of a personal challenge to me than carpentry, so at this point in life I’m more inclined to focus on improving my artistic ability than my wood working skills.
Knowing your value also enables you to understand your worth: to an employer, to your relationships, and to society in general.
Know Your Worth
Your worth is what your value entitles you to; it’s your reward for what you bring to the table. Worth is also objective and subjective, though I would argue far more of the latter. For example, your salary is an objective measure, however, exactly what that salary should be will differ between you, your employer, and the marketplace.
Knowing your worth is important for two main reasons. First, it enables you to determine what you feel is fair compensation for your efforts. Again, in terms of salary, you would probably expect it fair to be paid at a higher rate if you have specialised skills and years of experience than you would if you were new to the position and still learning on-the-job. You would also expect to be paid at a rate that is similar to what others are getting in the same position, particularly if their knowledge and experience is similar to yours.
This leads to understanding what degree of leverage you have in a given situation, which enables you to be able to negotiate more effectively. This further empowers you to make decisions about what is and isn’t acceptable to you. Using salary as the example again, knowing your worth could equally help you negotiate a higher rate of pay, as it could help you determine whether other benefits (better work-life balance, less stress, etc.) in lieu of a higher rate is just as favourable.
My three tips for discovering your worth are:
- Be realistic: there’s no point in me expecting to be hired as a master builder because I can assemble flat-pack furniture. This is where knowing your value is important, and will save you a lot of frustration and embarrassment.
- Be self-critical: understand your limitations, but also give yourself credit where it’s due. No one is great at everything, but all of us are good at something. Also identify those things about you that are static versus those that are dynamic. Being willing to change and grow can increase your worth, but it’s also important to understand what aspects of yourself you’re not willing to change lest you lose the essence of you.
- Do your research: what you think you are worth can be different to what someone else thinks you are worth. The more you understand someone’s needs, the more you can determine your level of worth to them, and what they are worth to you.
If you want to experience more positive interactions in your work, your relationships, your community, and even your self-image, knowing your value and your worth is a great place to start.