A common philosophical question about life is: If you could go back in time and give the teen version of yourself some advice, what would it be? People often respond, oh I want to make the same mistakes as I make now or I’d tell myself don’t sweat the small stuff. At least, this is the most common answer I have heard. Both valid, but I will admit, that there is one piece of advice I could have benefited from. Maybe my mother gave me this advice casually, but it seems to have slipped, much like it did for some characters in one of my favorite movies. A piece of advice that I now pound into my head daily in every situation, until it becomes automatic.
Many years ago (maybe 15?), I watched a movie with my daughter, and she, as a child, reminded me about this concept of knowing your worth, implying that I was not good at this. She was right. I rewatched this movie with her and the rest of my family over the holidays, and realized that she was right but I need to adjust my behavior. I need to live into this daily in every situation….it needs to become automatic daily behavior. What has been automatic so far in my life is always being concerned about other people’s needs and fixing their problems. You can reconcile knowing your worth and being a compassionate nurturing person; they are not mutually exclusive behaviors. So yes, I wish I lived this principle much earlier in my life.
The movie is The Joy Luck Club, a great movie about Chinese mothers, their American born daughters, and men in their lives; has a lot of lessons. It is one of those movies that you can watch at different times in your life, and learn something new. These types of movies are my favorite. Thought provoking, interesting and revealing. I have watched The Joy Luck Club multiple times, in my life and this last one really resonated with respect to how I have lived my life. No, I’m not Chinese, but I feel closer to the Chinese way of being raised (achieve, achieve, achieve) and have some ‘old world ways’ – even if European – about the expectations and hopes your mother has for you. You are supposed to achieve more than her and be more and not repeat her mistakes and not make the same sacrifices that hinder your progress as a woman. Yet, like the quote below, you do end up doing similar things sometimes. This fallacy that if you know your worth, and live your life according, you are a selfish person seems to be some subconscious mess in your head, at least in mine and it’s across all cultures.
Here is the exact quote although to better understand, I highly recommend the movie. It’s available on Amazon (unfortunately not free on Netflix, but the lessons were worth the few dollars).
I tell you the story because I was raised the Chinese way. I was taught to desire nothing, to swallow other people’s misery, and to eat my own bitterness. And even though I taught my daughter the opposite, still she came out the same way. Maybe it is because she was born to me and she was born a girl, and I was born to my mother and I was born a girl, all of us like stairs, one step after another, going up, going down, but always going the same way. No, this cannot be, this not knowing what you’re worth, this not begin with you. My mother not know her worth until too late – too late for her, but not for me. Now we will see if not too late for you, hmm?The Joy Luck Club
This dialogue takes place when one of the characters is about to meet her future ex husband to discuss details of the divorce. This character lost her identity in the marriage and just catered to her husband, not really because he required it, he didn’t. But seemingly, again, like her grandmother, she just didn’t know her worth. There are many great scenes and lessons in this movie. I would say that this not knowing your worth is not as widespread among American women, but I do see it here as well.
So as I look forward to how I live my life, I will remind myself daily of this ‘knowing your worth’ concept And I will remind myself that this doesn’t mean I’m selfish, etc., no I will be who I am, but I cannot compromise my worth away anymore.
I see many other women struggle with this. Being caring, nurturing, compassionate and empathic, doesn’t mean you have to sell out who you are and settle and be treated less than you should. Some may say, oh but Mr. Right has his own issues, and I have to be there and help. Yes, in a loving relationship you will be there and help, but it doesn’t mean that you become a non factor. Mr Right should also know your worth, if he’s Mr. Wrong, he won’t. So reminding one’s self of this daily will minimize the time wasted with Mr. Wrong.
I will also apply this in my career more. Yes, with my career and education I do know my worth more than I do in personal aspects of my life. But if the personal aspects overshadow progress there because not understanding your total worth, the career can stagnate.
Know yourself. Know your worth.Drake
Mom taught him well
Also, I don’t think this now knowing your worth is limited to women, although probably more common among women. I have seen men who also don’t know their worth.
So while it may be late, it’s never too late to wake up and know your worth and live into that every day.