My Lesson in Tactical Manipulation and Self Worth

self worth

~by Debbie Vandenakker~

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He said the words. The ones designed to hit at the heart of my self-worth. “You aren’t worth what I’m paying you.” I felt like a cartoon character that had all of the oxygen sucked out of the room.

I left that discussion hurt, angry and ashamed. I spent two weeks hiding out with those words playing in a constant mocking loop … “You aren’t worth what I’m paying you. You aren’t worth…” It was the single biggest blow to my professional ego (and personal belief system) that I have experienced. And it taught me a priceless lesson that took me a while to really understand.

self worthAt the time, my logical brain knew the ploy for what it was. After all, I am a quick study and recognized it for the manipulative tactic that I had seen used to control groups for years. Yet I still questioned my efficiency, effectiveness and my very value. I had no quick pithy reply (which I regret to this day), but I was simply stunned. Isn’t this man my mentor, grooming me for partnership? Isn’t this the man that I have worked 14 hour days, 6 days a week for? Isn’t this the man that I have worked endlessly to impress?

The answer is yes to all of the above. He was also the man well-versed and talented at tactical manipulation. And for a while, I fell for it because I made it personal… and frankly, part of me believed him.

That conversation showed me that I had been wearing a confident mask for years. Not a truly confident, authentic face, but a well-built mask. It showed me in technicolor, that all it took was one nasty, manipulative conversation for me to question everything about myself. That conversation ripped off that tightly woven mask, and made me realize that I didn’t truly believe in my own value. Not when questioned. Not when it counted. Not when I needed to be able to pull the long list of valuable assets out of my steel-encased holder and get real about what I bring to the table.

The true lessons I learned were:

  • I had to dig deep and feel, know and believe that he was unequivocally, unquestionably and absolutely wrong.
  • I had to find a way to own that I was, and am, an extremely valuable asset to any organization.
  • I had to redefine my beliefs to shout, “I am smart, capable, creative and a rock star of a problem-solver.”
  • I had to understand, at a very personal level, that I am worth every single dollar I was paid.
  • I had to accept that if I don’t own my value, nobody else will respect it.

Stand firm in your power. When something feels personal – realize there is personal work to do around those feelings. Accept that until you resolutely believe that you are a powerhouse in your own right – you will be challenged. Know that when that happens, it is a gift, a sign-post pointing you straight to your next level of confidence and success. Don’t hide from it. Dig in and do the work so that you can feel as successful on the inside as you appear to others on the outside.

If those words are ever said to me again, my authentic response will be, “You’re right, I am worth at least double, so let’s talk numbers.”


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Meet the Author: Debbie Vandenakker

Debbie VandenakkerLoving Warrior Women Coaching empowers high-achieving women who suffer the exhausting symptoms of Imposter Syndrome to own their success and take it to the next level.

We are a partnership of certified Emotional Success Coaches that use our many years of corporate experience, in combination with our coaching and energy healing, to help professional women feel as successful on the inside as they appear to others on the outside.


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