Parents, media, and culture at large socialize girls, and some boys, to believe that if they work hard, are good, kind, pleasing, and play by the rules that they will achieve their goals and get what they want out of life.
The reality is that bosses, colleagues, friends and romantic partners will, oftentimes, take advantage of commendable, dogged persistence. And with passing time, blind persistence can lead to a weakening of the spirit and a lack of feeling your worth.
Persistence is a valuable trait and without persistence, it becomes hard to move ahead and achieve goals. It is also the case that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.
Many women in particular work hard at their jobs and hope that others will see and value this with an eventual promotion. Many women support their family or friends hoping that they will receive the same emotional support in return. Many women hope their romantic partners will eventually realize that they are taking on the lion’s share of household responsibility and need help.
These kinds of hopes or fantasies rarely deliver and women end up continuing to work and strive without the payout they deserve.
Blind persistence without direct communication of your needs and emotions results in a long game of patience. Patience and hard work alone do not typically deliver the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Here are five ways to balance persistence with self-worth.
1. Communicate what you need to others around you: Stop assuming that others are going to magically intuit your distress, needs, and preferences. Hoping your partner is going to notice that you need help with the laundry after working a 12-hour day or that you are exhausted and need to be taken care of is make-believe.
If you feel taken advantage of and want help, stop continuing to do these tasks and communicate your feelings to your partner. Otherwise it may look like you just enjoy all of that laundry and carpooling. Then when you finally blow up, everyone around you feels blindsided because they don’t fully get it or understand you.
Be true to who you are. Maybe some won’t like you this way, but it’s worth losing a few relationships to gain authentic connection and to experience your value.
2. Stop beating your head against the wall: Working hard and sticking to a task will help you reach your goals—some of the time. But if you are working and working and not being appropriately rewarded, consider if you need to call in the supports. If you work hard (and smart) at your job and you have not been promoted to the level you believe you deserve, consider some executive coaching. If you are working at something and rarely feel a reward, maybe broaden what you do or take on a new task or learn a new aspect of your job.
If you feel undervalued in any area of your life, take a time out. Consider if there is another way, besides persisting without payout, to get yourself to the next level. For work endeavors consider professional coaching, and for inequitable relationships consider individual psychotherapy.
3. Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean that’s all you can or want to do: Women in particular are often categorized as being good at a particular task and are not considered for other jobs/hobbies/events that they very well may enjoy and do well. And it is often broadly the case that when we don’t fully feel our value, we become afraid to take on the risk of new challenges and endeavors. Don’t let yourself be typecast into a role that you know you can do well but that no longer challenges and fulfills you on a deeper level.
Chances are there are many other aspects of your abilities and capacities that you have yet to tap into. Tapping into more facets of yourself brings joy and self-esteem, and it'll help you actualize your value.
4. Conduct a cost-benefit analysis: Every now and again, it is important to sit down and write out the amount and type of effort you are investing in your life and what rewards you receive in turn. Make a list: romantic, friendship, parenting, family, professional, school, creative, and whatever other categories are relevant to your life.
Next to each category consider how much energy (whether this is time/intelligence/money/physical/mental/emotional reserves) you put into each of these endeavors. Then consider what rewards you receive as a result of your efforts. Rewards can include money, promotions, love, care, emotionally reciprocal relationships, shared romantic partnership, etc.
Do the rewards you receive match what you think is equitable or in line with the efforts you put into these domains?
5. Work less toward perfect and more toward inspired: If all you do is make sure you’re doing things thoroughly, perfectly, correctly, and conscientiously, then you may be spending your precious energy and resources in vain. Sure, doing things well is important but even more important is considering your future self. How do you want to feel a year from now? Five years from now? Consider what you want to be doing and what you would like your future self to feel. What inspires you from deep within?
Take a longer visionary approach and less of an in the weeds approach where you labor over details. Perfecting details can consume us and take all of our time, even when these details offer little in the way of deeper personal fulfillment. For more tools on increasing self-worth check out my book, Building Self-Esteem.
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