Sh*t To Help You Show Up July 23, 2021
Self-worth & Fixed Prices
Do you know where the whole notion of fixed prices came from? It was actually Quakers in the American colonies who originated the notion. Before that and still today, in many places around the world, it’s all about the haggle.
Someone from one of those cultures could illuminate the nuances of the social contract that dictate the debate of value and obligation with every purchase, but I am unqualified. What I do know is that colonial Quakers approached commerce thusly:
I know what this product costs me. I know what sort of profit I need to make on this product in order to support my family and business moderately well. Therefore, I know what a “fair” and “honest” price is for this product. I also know that everyone who comes to purchase this product from me is equally valuable in God’s sight and deserves my fairness and honesty, so should be charged the same price.
We are so habituated to the reality of fixed prices in this culture that we probably have never thought about how radical such an unprecedented idea might be. Also, the voracious nature of modern corporate capitalism has deprived the simple elegance of the idea of its weight.
Still, imagine. You are a colonial consumer. You can trust that anyone from your household, no matter their age or social position, going into a Quaker-owned store will be treated with the same respect and charged the same fair and honest price. There is freedom in that and freedom is worth more than any single product. Freedom is priceless.
There’s a joke amongst Quakers. Many Quakers in and around Philadelphia, the seat of colonial Quakerism, became quite rich. This flies in the face of the traditional notion of Quakers as living “simply”. The joke is that Quakers came to the New World to do good and did well. But, hey, freedom may be priceless; trust is worth a ton of money.
Why are we talking about fixed prices and colonial Quakers? Because I’ve been ruminating of late on self-worth, and the related valuing of talents and resources. I struggle with this, but what am I actually struggling with, really?
Popular culture puts forth this idea that if our relationships, particularly our intimate partnerships, fall apart that the answer to why is lack of self-worth. If we just valued ourselves more then other people would value us as well and all of our relationship problems would be solved.
I think this is a crock.
To be fair, yes. If you don’t think you’re worth shit, then you will tend to gravitate towards people who will verify that story. But to assume that all relationship troubles boil down to lack of self-worth ignores the systems of valuation that we’re all living in.
Inherent self-worth is separate from talents and resources. They are related but different. I believe (and let’s assume we all do because, otherwise, how did you end up here?) that everyone is born worthy and valuable. Period. We are all born with potential talents, as well. But what we make of those potentials, as well as the emotional, psychological, and spiritual resources that we accumulate over our lives also have value.
If a relationship falls apart, it may not be because of anyone questioning anyone’s inherent human value, but that both people may not be bringing the same level of emotional, psychological, and spiritual resources to the table. Those internal resources may not be equally valued, either, or both people may not be equally required to accumulate them.
That sort of resource inequity creates a lack of structural integrity to the relationship that will not magically fix itself. Unless both parties can acknowledge, value, and work on developing internal resources the whole thing will eventually fall apart.
I have not struggled with a lack of inherent self-worth in years and years. Surviving my marriage, and particularly my divorce, cured me of that affliction by necessity. I lost so much of who I thought I was and would become. In order to reclaim my life, I had to learn to love what was left, the bones of myself, when the surface got stripped away. Only then could I rebuild a life that showcased the truth and value of what I had become.
The trouble that has persisted for me in my intimate partnerships is not an inability to know my value, but an inability to insist on my value with other people. To insist, I have been taught through some mish-mosh of patriarchy and mainline Protestantism, that other people treat me as if they agree with my sense of my value is unseemly. Arrogant. Selfish.
Who are you to set a fixed, fair, non-negotiable price for access to you? Who are you to refuse to haggle with folks who do not have (or do not want to pay) adequate emotional, psychological, and spiritual resources to participate in an equal exchange?
Don’t you understand that love is not just precious, but rare and finite? If you get an offer of a measly dollar’s worth of love, you better take it and be grateful.
You get what you get, and you don’t pitch a fit.
And, to be clear, your real value is in what you do for other people, how you serve them, not in who you are and have worked hard to become. You don’t get to require that loving you means being able to, at the very least, meet you where you are. Your job is to meet them where they are— to nurture, make excuses, be faithful, and shrink yourself smaller, and smaller, and smaller. Then maybe, just maybe, someday you can be big again, together.
That, right there, is the enabler’s handbook. Subtitled, How To Help Keep Everybody Sick (While Telling Yourself It’s Love) FOREVER.
To be blunt, I’m done. Done with haggling for love. Done negotiating with folks who come without even the ante to play at the big kid’s table. Done operating under an assumption of lack. Done. Done. Done.
Are you done? Can we be done together? Can we stop submitting to the cognitive dissonance and gaslighting of systems and relationships that presume to dictate our value? That tell us we don’t get to decide, without shame or apology, how much what we’ve made of ourselves is worth?
Can we insist that everyone step up their game? That our relationships have structural integrity? That they are built on commitments to equity, personal responsibility, authenticity, and wholeness?
I’m gonna be over here, playing for high stakes at that game. Ante up?
Please share this edition of the newsletter with someone you think would benefit, or browse the archive and find another that moves you. This is a grassroots, crowd-disbursed, art and love effort over here and I am grateful for your help getting the word out.
Thanks for reading, dear ones! If you’re already a subscriber, my gratitude currently lays at your feet. If you’re not, I’ve always got more thanks to spread around. You can subscribe below. XO, Asha