Despite many vocal doubters, the gender pay gap is real. Women make less money than their male counterparts for the same work.
There are decades and centuries of social conventions and constructions, sexist legislation and policies, self doubt, and oppression wrapped up in that truth—too many emotions, too much pain to attempt to fairly and wholly characterize it here.
So I’m looking at it from my own two shoes. Fittingly, they are sensible, scuffed-up black flats from Target that I bought about two years ago, right around the time I started working at my current job. If nothing else, they’re an apt metaphor for my predicament: I need a raise.
I need a raise because I live in Orange County and spend a good chunk of my income on rent.
I need a raise because my current salary doesn’t reflect my worth.
Gasp—am I allowed to say that?
The men in the room are nodding and muffling their laughter at my naïveté. The women are fidgeting with the buttons of their shirts, avoiding eye contact.
Because this is the fundamental truth I’ve battled (and so many women battle):
I am worthy.
From the moment we’re born female, we’re told we’re not worthy. We’ll never measure up. We’re not thin enough, curvy enough, fun enough, blonde enough, smart enough, stupid enough.
A never-ending barrage, a humorless carnival hall of mirrors where everything is topsy-turvy and every effort is belittled by glamorous magazines, cutting peers, straight-up sexist pigs, hyperbolic social media, and on and on and on.
Right around when I started high school, the CD of my interior monologue got dropped and scratched until it skipped and skipped and the only snippets that remained—the only chorus I could hear, the only lyrics clear enough to understand—were the repeating dirges of self-doubt and incessant criticism.
Every chance I had, I degraded and ridiculed myself. I jumped on every mistake, obsessed over every stumble. I made my own mind a living hell devoid of any hope or grace.
I hated myself.
Peace came, over many long years, when I learned to turn away vicious lies and listen instead to truth.
The truth that I am loved, I am worthy, I am enough.
Enough, enough, enough.
I am not perfect. Not perfect, never perfect. I am simply and exquisitely enough.
For the most part, women are not taught confidence. It’s not the default. In this world, it’s a hard-earned skill, the ability to push back against years of learned behavior and declare one’s inherent, unimaginable worth.
So tomorrow morning, I will wake up and put on the clothes I laid out the night before. I’ll examine myself in the mirror, pluck any stray eyebrow hairs, and debate if I should wear makeup. (I’ll decide against it, as it’s likely I will cry and smear my mascara.)
I will drive to work, watch the clock, and mete out the minutes until the appointed hour.
And with stumbling words, tears in my eyes, too many thoughts in my head, and absolutely no negotiating skills whatsoever, I will ask for a raise.
And I will remember my worth.