I was having lunch with a friend the other day and she told me a story about her job. She told me how she had thrown herself into the opening of this new restaurant with gusto. She committed herself to the owner and the business. She worked long hours and dealt with the drama of the kitchen and wait-staff. She literally threw herself into this job.
In only a few short months, the long hours ate away at her energy and free time. The relationship with her fiance felt strained. She never saw her friends and she knew that she was letting people down by not being present at special events. Unbelievably, she postponed her own wedding because she had to cover for a few people at work. Finally, in the end, a blowup by the owner crossed the line and my friend left the job.
As she sat across the table telling me this story, she expressed a sense of failure at having invested so much of herself in this job, and walking away with nothing. I was shocked.
As we talked I realized something. There is a huge difference between investment and sacrifice. By definition, an investment has a return. You receive more than you put in. In the sense of a job, that return may be the money, it may be a sense of accomplishment, or it may be that you are truly helping those in need of you and your work. A sacrifice on the other hand, is when you give and give and get nothing in return. That is what my friend had done.
When we find ourselves in a situation where we are making a sacrifice, we have to ask ourselves if it is worthy of our energy. Surely in life there are things that warrant a sacrifice; children, partnerships, and every once in a while a business. But when you are managing a restaurant for someone else’s gain, what is that worth? Is it in your best interest to continue sweating and bleeding yourself dry when you are only taking home a meager paycheck? You have no ownership in this venture, you may build a reputation for being hard worker, but you are gaining little, if any, meaningful wealth…monetary or energetic.
Each of us must ask ourselves, perhaps many times in our life, if we are investing ourselves or sacrificing ourselves. We must constantly remind ourselves of our worth. Our worth is not governed by our job or our relationships, but by our love for ourselves. We need to build a foundation of self-love and inner peace on which to build a successful life. We must remind ourselves that without something that fills our energetic cup, we end up wasting away inside. When we are unable to care for ourselves, we cannot effectively care for others in our life. We are never failing if we stand up for our own needs. We are never failing if we acknowledge that we are putting in far more than we get out. We are not failing by walking away from a losing battle.
I told this to my friend. It was clear to her then how justified she was in leaving her position. It was her moment of grace. She let go of the guilt she felt and the sense of failure. She was able to see that her worth was not based on success in these jobs, but on what she provided the world…her world. Her fiance, her friends, all loved her simply for being her. That was where her love for herself could grow, from deep inside her being. She saw that truly investing in herself meant making a commitment to her own meaningful life, not just her job.
In today’s accomplishment-driven world, it is easy to get distracted from our truth by money, degrees, titles, resumes and external expectations. We must take responsibility for our own value, our own worth, and in so doing, tell the world loudly and clearly how we intend to be a good person. Treat yourself with Loving Kindness, treat others the same way, and just see what happens to the trajectory of your life.