Have you ever had someone say something to you that shook your world and made you feel totally worthless?  I have and here’s what I did about it.

One year out of college I was working in business at an international company. It was January, the dreaded “Personnel Management Performance Review” time. I walked into my boss, Pete’s office, and sat at the round table where we usually did work. He got up from behind his desk, walked over to the table and sat directly across from me. He seemed hesitant as he handed me the written review. As I read the review, my jaw dropped, my eyes kept getting bigger and I sat up a bit straighter.

I had excelled in every possible category. I was ecstatic. I knew I worked really hard that year and was so pleased to see that someone recognized me for my work, especially someone whose opinion I highly respected. I was really seen. I was valued.

I was excited and ready to continue doing my excellent work.

Photo Bull and Fearless Girl on Wall Street

But then there was a very uncomfortable silence.  Pete looked at me and just said, “Unfortunately, the range of raises this year are lower than last year.”

I knew this was not going to be good.

“You’ll be getting a 2% raise.”

I was stunned. This raise was nowhere close to what I thought equaled the amount of effort I had put into my work. It didn’t come close to compensating me for the process changes I made that saved the company money; for the many recommendations I made that were put into place; or for the many extra hours I put into my work.

I looked at him and felt my throat tighten, my body stiffen, and the tears welling up. We just stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. I took a very deep breath, felt my body pulling together and a tiny little voice came out of me and said, “I can’t talk about this right now.” I got up and walked out of the room.

I immediately went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet and let the tears roll.  

I couldn’t get my head around it. I was raised to believe that all you needed to do to get recognized was to keep your head down, work hard, and wait for the inevitable recognition.

But, I had just seen first-hand that this wasn’t necessarily true.

I sat there and thought, “I am worth more than this.”

I sat there a little longer and thought, “I am worth more than this.”

Then, drying my tears, I stood up and said out loud, in that bathroom, “I am worth more than this!”

I left the stall, walked over to the sink and looked at myself in the mirror. I was surprised to see a strong, confidant and, well, gutsy woman gazing right back at me.  Here was a woman willing to claim her place and her immense value in the world. And that woman was me.

I went back to my office, sat down and I started to write. I am worth more, I am worth more, I am worth more. This led to me writing why I thought so.

I left the pad of paper in my desk drawer, went home, and came back the next day clearly prepared with what I was going to say to Pete. I was fully prepared psychologically to leave my job if I didn’t get what I thought I was worth. This was that important to me.

First thing that morning, I went into Pete’s office and boldly said, “We need to talk.”

We talked and at the end of the conversation Pete looked at me and said, “Pat, this was gutsy of you.”

‘You got that right,” I proclaimed.

So…what did I learn throughout all this?   Sitting there in that bathroom was a turning point for me.  It was right then that I had a choice: to cave in or to claim the power to claim my life.  I realized that no one, absolutely no one, had the power to make me feel worthless unless I gave it to them.  It was at that moment I realized that “getting gutsy” was the only way to make my world rather than allowing it to make me.

And, by the way, I got exactly the raise I wanted.