When I was a real estate agent there was always “the talk” that was necessary to have with clients about value and perception. Property – a house, an apartment, land, whatever it is – is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. In that respect, value can sometimes seem completely arbitrary… The notion that one house in a neighborhood might sell quickly and for a [perceived] high price, while a similar house in the same neighborhood with a lower price sits unwanted. Sometimes it makes sense and is logical and sometimes it can feel like the value from one house to the next is completely random.

In my town, there’s a big beautiful estate for sale for just under $30 million. You might look at that and think WOW that house is worth $30 million… but if no one is willing to pay that price, is that really its value? Chances are a real estate agent (or several) went to that house, met with the owner and looked at all kind of facts and data points. Comparing and contrasting it to the other houses and estates in the area and the various attributes of each to determine its worth, how it should be priced and what they believe someone would/ should pay for it. That’s the price, but until someone pays it, there isn’t an actual value… just some historical information of how transactions occurred in the past, and an understanding of how things should be in the present. Value is dictated by the outside world. Don’t worry, this is all just a metaphor – I’m not about to give you a lesson in real estate 😉

This is obviously an over simplification of a rather complicated transaction, but the point I’m making is pretty straight forward – value is derived by someone else’s willingness to pay.

We take this same approach with most tangibles, seeing things as being worthless if others don’t find value. A shirt with a $150 price tag that sits on the rack of a store, unsold for months, is NOT worth $150 because others aren’t willing to pay that.

All of these material things, these tangible possessions gain their value from external opinions and validation. The world around us dictates their value, and it can be tempting to impart that same system on the non-tangibles in life. This thought about value – where it comes from and who dictates it – plays out in my head often as I wonder about my own value and what I “bring to the table” on a daily basis. The most important parts of my day are often the ones where I’m not paid, and in fact they can seem invisible and unnoticed except maybe to others in this same role. If we applied the same standard of value that we place on material items, my days could be seen as entirely lacking.

The good new is… YOU, my friend, are not real estate (and neither am I)! You are not the unsold shirt sitting on a sale rack. There’s no metric that needs to be applied for you to know your value, no competitive market analysis necessary… we come with no price tag and we need no buyer!

We seek external validation because it’s clear and it’s simple. You ask a friend, “Do you like my shirt?” wanting to be assured that you’ve spent your money well on that article of clothing and that others find value and worthiness in your appearance. When the exchange is visible and value assigned, there’s no need for further contemplation. The transaction is clear, your value is known.

For the most part, that’s not how it works in life…

There is so much I could say about this, so much about how we value ourselves, those around us and the world we live in. I’ll try to keep it concise and start with the plain and simple fact that we all just want to feel appreciated and valuable. Feel like you matter, like the things you think, say, do actually mean something. Well, in the most simple of terms – THEY DO! If you’ve done or are doing the work to live an authentic life and to follow your path, whatever that may be, then the things you’re doing hold value in the story YOU are writing. They hold value in shaping your future self, paving the way for what’s to come and following your gut each and every day. You need no external validation, you don’t have to ask the question “Am I doing it right?” because you’ll know… and if you don’t believe it with every fiber of your being, no answer will ever be enough.

When you are clear on what you’re doing and you believe in your choices, you don’t need someone else to impart value. You don’t need a buyer because you’re not selling it to anyone else!

YOU have to know what you want and where you’re going… and when I say that I don’t mean some profound future success, spiritual enlightenment or redesigned new version of yourself. If you are loving your life, loving where you are and what you’re doing and you aren’t looking to change things up, then your path is making the most of every great day. Forward movement doesn’t always have to be drastic change or radical new discoveries – it can be recognizing that you love where you are, and waking up with a grateful heart. Whatever it is, wherever you’re headed, YOU are the person to validate it. You can’t look around, you can’t do the equivalent of a comparative market analysis, as if you’re selling your home. It doesn’t matter that the woman down the street has an alphabetized pantry that would make Martha Stewart swoon or that her kids look like they shower EVERY SINGLE DAY, or that she packs those perfectly insta-worthy bento boxes for lunch. That’s not what you want and that’s not what you’re selling. You’ll feel inferior every single day if you’re trying to prove your value in the wrong currency!

The value you place on your life and your actions and your decisions has to come from somewhere, if you don’t impart it on yourself, you’ll spend your days searching for it from somewhere or someone else. In the absence of strong belief and clarity from within, we look for someone or something else to assign our value… and in that search we can feel lost. Not the lost where you fumble around the city looking for a familiar landmark and then adjust course… that’s not lost, that’s wandering; looking for clues and signs to help you decide where to go next. Wandering is engagement with the world around you as you determine your next move. But lost is something different, and it can be paralyzing.

Not all who wander are lost…
Lost is standing in the middle of the woods and not only do you not know which direction to go towards, but you’re not sure how you got there, the path and tools you used to land in this spot. You can’t retrace your steps and try a different path. You can’t tell which way is forward. You end up circling the entrance to a whole lot of options, clueless as to where to take your first step. You don’t trust yourself enough to know that it doesn’t matter… You don’t realize you have everything you need because no one else is telling you that it’s so. The path isn’t made up of affirmations from others, cheers from a crowd or signs of encouragement that you can read. You have to trust that you’re moving in the right direction, trust that you’ll be able to adjust if you’re not and know that the journey you’re on is valuable… maybe not to someone else, maybe not to a spectator or to someone on a different path. This is where you separate yourself from the tangibles. Success is obvious when your social media stats, bank account or job title provide proof of accomplishment. Those things seem real, you can see them and you can show them… But what’s actually real is closing your eyes and feeling grateful, waking up each morning and feeling purposeful. Feeling like you’re giving this life your best, feeling like you’re showing up each day as the person you aspire to be, and knowing that you’re worthy of this and so much more… whether or not others agree is completely irrelevant. But you have to do this! YOU have to value yourself and shut the world around you out. Those opinions aren’t real unless you allow them to be. Buyers not needed!

The other part of this is, what if you ARE actually selling something? What if you’re selling a product that you made or a service that you offer? What if you make it and offer it and no one wants it?? Yeah, I’ve got some thoughts on that too… more to come 😉