I just realized as I was driving home from the grocery store that I use the word value a lot. I had this sort of epiphany that I value the word value the most of any word in my vocabulary. Here is the definition from Webster’s Dictionary:
: the amount of money that something is worth : the price or cost of something
: something that can be bought for a low or fair price
: usefulness or importance
While not much gets me as excited as finding a great bargain on the clearance rack at Marshall’s, the definition that is of greater importance to me is the last one; usefulness or importance. And I think that the word value in that context has really entered into my vernacular only within the last year and a half because I had not been feeling like I was valued.
In an earlier post I wrote about quitting one of my two jobs. I loved the job for the first year and a half but after that I felt as though I wasn’t being asked to work on the “good” projects, I felt as though I wasn’t getting the attention or respect that I saw my peers receiving and when I would ask for feedback (maybe I wasn’t doing as great a job as I thought I was?) it was always positive in the sense that it wasn’t negative per se, but no one could give me a solid answer as to why I wasn’t being utilized. I have strong skills, I knew my stuff when it came to ingredients, efficacy, proper usage and protocol, I speak well, and I am always polished in my appearance. Why wouldn’t they use me? What kept me at the company for the remainder of my time there was the fact that when I would teach classes, the students were highly participatory, grateful, and complimentary during the lessons. I felt valued. I would walk out of the classroom feeling useful to those people but it was fleeting.
A friend of mine and I were talking one day about an anniversary dinner with her husband gone awry. Typically she is a very strong woman with an almost stoic affect, but this day she was very upset, more so than I had seen her in a very long time. She told me how they had gone to a beautiful restaurant to celebrate. Her husband had presented her with a sentimental card and when he realized that she didn’t have one for him, he was angry and disappointed at the lack of the gesture. She made the argument that she had worked a very long day, she had worked very hard the weekend before trying to get her son back to college out of state as well as babysit the grandchildren, and “When would I have had time to stop to get a card??”. The argument escalated into a back and forth “we don’t have enough sex” to “do you know how hard I work and I still come home and make you a meal every night”, the likes of which many of us can relate (can I get a “Hell yeah!”).
But here is my take on it; neither side feels valued by the other. On the one hand, she is feeling like he doesn’t recognize all that she does and how hard she works to balance it all, otherwise he wouldn’t be making such a big stinking deal about a $4.99 greeting card that will sit on the counter for a couple of days and then find its way to the recycle bin. But in his defense he’s probably saying “Yes, I realize that you’re busy with work and kids and home, but what about me? Am I not important enough that you couldn’t pick up a card while you were at the grocery store? You think about me that little? Do you value me so little that our intimacy is no longer important to you?”
Maybe it’s a fact, maybe it’s not, but I think that every last human being on earth wants to be valued. I think we are born with that innate need to feel like we bring value to the people around us. Isn’t that why when a child makes you laugh and they realize it they want to do it over and over again? They realized that you found value in that movement or noise or gesture. I know that the two times in my life (yes, exactly two and I’m not exaggerating) that my mother has told me she’s proud of me (in her Vietnamese accent “I veddy proud a you), I hold that sentiment up like a golden chalice and refer back to it time and again when I need a boost, because I know in those moments, she saw some value in me.
I do know that when I feel valued I want to work harder and love harder. When a client tells me “No one does nails as well as you do” I think “Well I can’t let her down now. I’ve got to make them look even better”. When Doug, my boyfriend, tells me that I am a great cook or that I’ve done a good job with my kids, he is recognizing my value and my heart swells. And then, almost magically, I find myself reciprocating the sentiment without any effort.
One of my new goals is to let the people around me know how they bring value to my life and how much I value them on a daily basis, even if it’s the cashier at the grocery store who was extra smiley when she was checking me out. I’m going to thank her for making me feel like she enjoyed our five minutes of interaction. I’m going to tell my mom that even though it absolutely sucked that she would never dig me out of a hole that I put myself into when I was growing up, I value her choices because it molded me into who I am today (which will surely be met with a “You lucky you have a good mudda”). I am going to shower Doug with affection and tell him that trying to navigate creating a blog would be next to impossible for me without his help (amongst the other million and one things that he does).
I used to thank my class participants for joining me and being open to new ideas and techniques because “If you’re not growing, you’re wilting.” Telling people how I value them is one of the ways that I hope to keep growing as an individual. And if right now you are in an unhappy place with your work or your personal life, I challenge you to start recognizing other people’s value and see how it comes back around. If you’re up for it, try it for a couple of weeks and come back and share your experiences. I really do value what you think.