It’s hard knowing how to value yourself. Some people with great self-esteem and perfect parents know that they shouldn’t settle for what they get in life. Some other people, with an overly-inflated sense of self who watched too much reality television think they deserve the world. Most people, however, find it hard to know their self-worth and how to demand the respect they’re due.

One common time most people struggle with this is when asking for a raise. I don’t know anyone that can just waltz into the boss’ office and casually negotiate a dollar amount that equates to their time and energy. Then again, I try to avoid dudes in finance, and I’m pretty sure that kind of guys can get a raise in their sleep. For the most part, though, we all go over it in our heads a hundred times and talk it out with a friend or partner.

We psych ourselves up. We go over how the conversation might go and try to anticipate the other party’s counter mover. We already have a list of reasons why we came to a certain dollar amount we deserve. We have to pump up our self-esteem to ask for what we are owed.

If you’re like me, even after this ritual, you put off the conversation for weeks or even months. Why? We know what we’re due yet we don’t want to verbalize it. Sure, part of it is that it’s never fun to discuss money. I think the main issue though is that it’s hard for people to talk themselves up, especially to someone who has authority over you.

When looking for a raise, I usually have to say the number over and over again out loud. Otherwise, I’ll crumble and ask for less. Recently in an interview, I was thrown by the question: “What is the lowest amount you would accept for this position?” I panicked and said $5,000 less than what I would have accepted. I had my range of what I was asking for, but when she worded the question differently, my low bottomed out because I over analyzed a look the interviewer gave me.

These situations are especially difficult for women. The first thing I wanted to do was yell: “I’m sorry!” when I thought I asked for too much money for the position. There is something literally engrained in our brains that tell women to be respectful and appreciative, even when we are on the receiving end of the opposite.

I know a lot of my guy friends have said to me: “Oh we don’t have to worry about you, you can take care of yourself.” Which, for the most part, is true. I’m not a defenseless woman. I’m independent, and my friends know I don’t usually need an escort to my car or someone to save me if a guy is overly flirtatious.

They don’t exactly understand though how easy it is for a woman to slink back to the role of a 50’s housewife when she’s uncomfortable. Even the woman who always seems to have something to say can go silent when someone talks to her or touches her in a way that is inappropriate.

This is also why it’s all too often you see a dominant and capable woman who picks a manipulative, controlling, loser of a man. It’s a pattern that competent women sometimes fall into–one I remember all too well. It’s usually the woman who is the most confident in her professional decisions who ends up making the poorest choices in her personal ones.

Asking for a raise and demanding your partner treat you with respect might not seem like they’re in the same category but they both require you knowing what you’re worth. Sometimes you can’t see how great you are and what you merit. Sometimes it takes a friend or loved one to see the good in you and remind you of your amazing qualities.

Whether it’s in a relationship or the board room, it’s important to stand up for what you deserve.   Sometimes it’s just picking your battle of when to fight over how someone is treating you in certain instances. Other times it has to get out of an unhealthy relationship or environment altogether. It’s hard to know your worth, but sometimes you have to do a cost-benefit analysis on what you’re getting versus what you’re giving.

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