Wow, what an uncomfortable question! It can sound crass, and make people feel ill-at-ease, as if they might sound conceited if say that they are worth more than other people. Yet it is important to ask it of ourselves, to assess our own self-worth as well as to understand how others may assess us.
An actor friend of mine had no representation and had to negotiate his own contracts when he got cast in shows. He was so happy to be cast and so eager to please that he frequently would accept low pay and sometimes uncomfortable living arrangements offered by some theaters. Still, he used to privately complain that although he was working as an actor, he was not making enough money doing it, and he hated having to share living quarters.
He gradually learned that he could ask them if they could arrange for a private room, and if they could pay him a higher salary, based on his rapidly expanding experience. Sometimes he would hear "No," but then he could decide whether he wanted to work at that theater under those particular conditions. Sometimes he would hear "Yes," and his sense of self-worth would grow. When we stand up for ourselves, we are affirming our worth, both to ourselves and to others.
Another friend of mine went on a job interview, and was embarrassed when she was asked how much she thought she should get paid. She simply told the interviewer what her salary was at her last job, and she got hired at the new job…at the SAME salary as she had before! Ironically, the reason she was interviewing for a new job was that she was unhappy at her old job and felt they didn't treat her well enough!
If she had said she was worth more than that and if she had told the interviewer that her experience made her more valuable at the new job, perhaps she would have received a higher salary. Perhaps, the interviewer would have said that he could not afford to pay such a high salary, but at least the option to get more money would have been explored, and negotiations could have begun. Instead, my friend ended up short-changing herself, all because she had low self-esteem and was too embarrassed to claim she was worth more than her last job paid her.
What is your value? Do you settle for what others are willing to give you? It is worth asking yourself. Do you accurately assess the skills and experience you may bring to a job? Learn to value yourself, and stand up for yourself if you have been short-changed when getting paid. Ask for what you think you are worth.
Robert Curtiss always dreamed of becoming an actor and singer, and was in all of the plays and musicals throughout his school years in Massachusetts. He attended college at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and at the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Connecticut.
Bob moved to New York City after college to pursue an acting career, and after many years of struggle and very little momentum or measurable success, he decided to go back to school to become a psychotherapist. Bob received his MSW in 2000 from Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University, and worked as a psychotherapist in private practice in New York for the better part of a decade. Many of his clients were actors and others in the creative fields.
While attending graduate school, Bob met his husband, entertainment manager John Essay. Together they decided to write a book to help actors navigate the confusing paths of show business, with information provided by John about the business, and information from Bob about maintaining a healthy mental equilibrium while pursuing the acting business. Over the next ten years, the “book” became a website – www.TheActorsGuideToEverything.com – and their dreams of working together were realized. Bob gave up his psychotherapy practice and started working for John full time.