Knowing Your Worth

I often say I’m “too nice for my own good.” But what does that mean? I’ve touched briefly on what it means for my martial arts, but it also affects me in my day-to-day life. For me, it means that I tend to put other people’s concerns and needs well above my own, no matter how much it might inconvenience me or cause me to miss an opportunity. I’ll make sure someone else is happy before even considering my own needs. And while part of being a productive member of society is maintaining harmony, there is such thing as too much of a good thing.

Case in point: I recently had a friend call me with some computer troubleshooting issues. Now, being fairly tech-savvy and having worked in IT and A/V support, I have a pretty good working knowledge of computers. I couldn’t make sense of his problem over the phone, so I offered to make a house call. My friend was thankful of course, and we managed to fix the problem. But while in the car I started thinking: if I did this sort of thing for a living, would I be giving my skills away for free? And if not, does it make sense to do so?

One thing I learned going to school to study design (architecture in my case, but it holds for any creative field) is that the skill and talent it takes to “be creative” often goes unappreciated. You hear horror stories of young freelancers who are asked for samples or to do “spec work” without pay or any sort of contract. These people often end up sinking hours into projects that never end up paying. So one of the things our professors stressed to us is to never give our skills away for free. This has several purposes: it gets you paid for your expertise, and it makes sure your clients value your contribution.

So in that light, why was I on my way over to a friend’s house, taking time out of my schedule, to do something that didn’t really benefit me that much? Why wasn’t I charging even a nominal fee to do what other people do professionally? Is it because I think I’m worthless? That last question may seem a bit hyperbolic, but it really is the central issue. If I don’t value myself and my own fields of expertise, how can I expect anyone else to?

All these thoughts went through my head, at a time when I’m finally feeling ready to consider looking for a better job. Since architecture doesn’t seem to be panning out, I need to look at other skills I possess, other ways I could make a market for myself, rather than trying to break into one that seems to be out of my reach. And the idea of freelance IT service is one I’ve toyed with in the past; even if people with my skills seem to be a dime a dozed from my point of view, clearly not everyone feels that way. Otherwise we’d all be solving our own computer problems.

So yeah. I guess improving my sense of self-worth is something to work on for the coming year. Maybe if I can value myself enough I can get other people to do the same. With money, even!