Underpaid? – Check Your Self-Esteem

happiness first(1)

Imagine someone with low self-esteem walking barefoot along a gravel path, being careful where he puts his feet, so he does not bruise them on the small and sometimes sharp rocks that form the path. Increasing self-esteem is equivalent to putting on a pair of shoes, and the more self-esteem one develops, the better the padding separating his feet from his rocky path. The same person walking on the same path after self-esteem is increased walks with more confidence because he now has a pair of sturdy shoes or hiking boots between his feet and the gravel. It’s a lot easier to move toward your destination when each step does not require caution.

It is important to think well of yourself.

[bctt tweet=”No one else will think well of you when you see yourself as insignificant. ” username=”bizmastersglobal”]

Low self-esteem has a negative impact on your life experience all day, every day. People usually treat others with low self-esteem worse than they treat equally situated individuals who have healthier self-esteem.

de Araujo and Lagos looked at wages and found that “similar individuals receive quite different earnings: a person’s age, years of schooling, years of labor market experience, parents’ level of schooling, occupation, and income tell us surprisingly little about the individual’ earnings. In standard earnings equations for individuals of the same race and sex in the United States, between two-thirds and four-fifths of the variance of earnings is unexplained” (de Araujo and Lagos 120).

In real dollars, that difference translates into the difference between an annual income of $50,000 vs. $90,000 for an equally qualified person. I saw the magic of self-esteem work in my own life as my income increased as my self-esteem improved. The change in self-esteem preceded the increases in income—they were not dependent on the increased income. The increased income was/is dependent on the higher sense of self-worth. The most significant self-esteem shift I made resulted in a 64% salary increase over the next year. If you think you’re underpaid for your contributions stop blaming others for your level of pay. That gives all your power to change it away to others. No one is going to care more than you do about your income. Increase your self-esteem and watch what happens.

If you don’t know how to increase your self-esteem, the best book I’ve written on the subject is the one designed to teach parents and teachers to do it so they know what they need to know to help the children in their lives.

Author’s Note: This article is an excerpt from my upcoming book: Empowered Employees are Engaged Employees

Works Cited

de Araujo, P., & Lagos, S. (2013). Self-esteem, education, and wages revisited. Journal of Economic Psychology, 34, 120-132.


Jeanine Joy, Ph.D.
Jeanine Joy, Ph.D.
WORLD CHANGER, International Speaker, and Trainer – Dr. Joy stepped up to do everything she could to help humanity thrive more after she discovered that she could help to improve societal problems by empowering people to manage their mindset, develop psychological flexibility, and use their innate emotional guidance. She began studying the genesis of human thriving in 1995 and as her knowledge grew she became a thought leader and educator. The evidence-based techniques she teaches and writes about create improvements in physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health. Her approach has a direct, positive effect on crime, violence, relationships, racism, educational outcomes, suicide prevention, employee engagement, happiness, career success, and more. She focuses on solutions that are both affordable and scalable because she wants to help everyone have a greater opportunity to achieve their dreams and goals. As the owner of Happiness 1st Institute, a Thrive More Now Company, Jeanine speaks internationally and provides training to organizations through her empowering, practical, and usable techniques that target the root causes of human thriving. She is recognized as a bridge builder who creates bridges by translating jargon-laden research into usable information with practical examples that help individuals fulfill more of their potential.

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  1. I think whether a person is paid what they are worth is a very subjective issue. Certainly one’s self esteem is a factor, as you note. One of the problems of course is there is not an exact measure. Market conditions, size and age of company, company culture, and many other factors that a given individual can not manage, or have any great influence over. come into play.

    Much also depends on who you ask. If you ask me, my supervisor, the company CEO (who probably never heard of me), a recruiter, a union rep., my spouse, or my mother, you are likely to get totally different opinions…the operative word here is “opinion”.

    • Thank you for joining the discussion. Yes, different people will have different opinions about what your worth is–that’s a given. What the research found was that two individuals in like circumstances (age, gender, race/ethnic status, experience) could have the same qualifications and responsibilities and make amounts that are very different and the factor that accounted for the difference is self-esteem. Someone could apply for a job at a smaller company and be offered the lower paying position and the individual with higher self-esteem will turn it down whereas the individual with the lower self-esteem will accept it. The market determines what a particular job is worth, but if an employer can hire someone willing to work for less than market, they’ll take that deal (all else being equal).

  2. I shared your article with my best friend. She has every reason to have good self-esteem and now that I read this, I wonder if maybe the reason she has not made the money and gotten the promotions through her career is because of low self-esteem. We just had this chat on Sunday and she’s frustrated because she is talented, super conscientious, and honest to a fault – yet has never gotten a promotion in 17 years while people around her who do just enough to get by and have low ethics have been promoted.

    • Hi Jane,

      Thank you for commenting and for sharing.

      Self-esteem isn’t so much about your worth as it is what we think about our own worth. If someone convinced us early in our lives that we weren’t good enough in some way (even if it was unintentional and simply our interpretation) we develop inner beliefs that create low self-esteem. Often people who work hard and become very good don’t believe they are because of the early belief. The belief can be changed, but it requires understanding how to change habits of thought and persistence. Like any habit, well, habits of thought have a tendency to be our default.

      Neurons that fire together wire together and the key to changing beliefs is to begin reinforcing beliefs one wants to have instead of the one’s that don’t serve us. Significant progress can be made in 3 months and a little progress can be made each day.

      Other people pick up on our self-esteem and treat us accordingly, which reinforces the level we have.

      I hope she is able to change this aspect of her life. If she does, I’d love to hear the outcome as I’m sure it will be an upbeat ending.

    • Thank you so much for this response. I’m going to share it with my friend. I want her to see this word for word.

    • Thank you for letting me know. I hope my words are able to help her see her true self with more clarity.