Why Do we Tie Salary to Worth?

I’ve been a runner for over 15 years. It’s something I picked up in my mid-20s.  I dabbled in the beginning years.  Over the last couple of years, it’s MY THING.  I love to run.  I run on vacation.  I run a couple times a week.  I love competing against myself.  I am always asking myself, “Can I beat my time on this hill run or that route today?”  Running is where I compete against myself.  There are no other variables than me.  Did I take care of myself to get enough sleep, water, or food?  My running wins and failures are all on me. 

person wearing orange and gray Nike shoes walking on gray concrete stairs

Running is where I clear my head. I have to focus on my breathing, not the stress of life or how some idiot said some stupid thing in yet another pointless meeting. If I lose focus on my breathing, I get intense cramps in my sides and I won’t beat my time on this hill run. Funny how cramps motivate me to clear my mind and focus on breathing. If I lose focus my heart will start to race and my breathing will go to shit. My body knows how to run. Running is natural for our bodies. If it wasn’t, how else would we have survived as cave people? It’s left foot then right foot and repeat.

I don’t run with a group or other people. I’m an introvert. I need my space. I am the runner that gives a wave hello or yells a quick “good morning” but that’s my max for interaction during my run. Also, I don’t keep a runner only circle of friends. Diversity is the spice of life. When I show up to races, it’s different. I don’t know many local runners. But I start chatting with other running by asking about their day and where their favorite race is to run. I’m always up for adventures despite my closet introverted self.

Within seconds the other runner always asks about my race pace. I respond by saying, “My goal is to finish and feel strong today.” Throwing numbers out just isn’t my thing. Inevitably my fellow runner will announce they are planning to make this race their PR (personal record). I smile and wish them the best. In my head, I think to myself “now to beat this person.” Usually, I do beat my fellow PR pre-racing announcing runner in the end. Why? Because I’m pretty sure they overestimated their ability and underestimated the effort and training needed to achieve that goal.

This brings me to the point of today’s post. Why do runners overestimated their ability and underestimated the effort to declare a pre-race PR number? Gloating doesn’t get you to the finish line. Taking a step back from running, why do so many people tie their worth to their salary? Often people assume that the higher the salary the more impressive the job. Looking at the shelves in the grocery store, people also assume that higher prices equate to better quality. Today I want to tear down that misconception.

In 2020, the world declared grocery store employees, first responders, delivery drivers, hospital cleaning staff, and similar jobs as ESSENTIAL. What’s interesting about this group of ESSENTIAL employees is that they likely do not have a base 6-figure salary. In my lower-cost area, these jobs pay between $8 and $35 per hour. That translates to $16,640 to $72,800 per year. Yet so often high salary people tie their WORTH to their salary.

people sitting on chair near glass window during daytime

After reading David Graeber’s article titled “Check out On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant,” I started looking at my job and the jobs around me. Questioning why we tie our WORTH to our salaries. Does anyone really think that a surgery could be performed safely without the operating room cleaning staff and the staff that disinfects all of the instruments used during surgery? Let me answer that question. NO. There is no way that (1) hospitals would be able to perform as many surgeries without this support and (2) higher-paid staff would likely not care do this work. There are always exceptions. There are those magical manager unicorns that work front line right next to their staff when their help is in need. But that does not happen often.

“For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.”

David Graeber’s article titled “Check out On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant,” I

I have to agree with David’s article.  Historically most of my work is complete bullshit and meaningless.  The world is not better or worse if I do or do not do this bullshit, meaningless work.  Maybe that’s why I have been having this internal struggle lately to find meaning.  Maybe that’s why I’m set on working towards and achieving financial independence. 

In the end, I still don’t know why some runners boast a pre-race PR time or others tie their salary to their worth.  It’s not a problem that I could fix.  Rather it’s a problem that I could recognize and possibly avoid the pitfall of the psychological impacts of pointless, meaningless, bullshit work. 


Just Wear the Fancy Dress

Recently I wrote about chipping my Nanny’s (aka my grandmother’s) fine china platter after deciding that I’d put it in the dishwasher, use it, risking damage rather than saving it in the cabinet for a special day.  Today I’m writing about one of two fancy dresses that I typically save for weddings, funerals, and those … Continue reading Just Wear the Fancy Dress

5 Reasons Why Minimalism Is NOT a CULT

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, which is probably how everyone starts their sentence when they realized they may have accidentally joined a cult, but I found the Common Cult Podcast and started to binge listen a couple weeks ago.  Eryn and Heather previously hosted The Practical Minimalists Podcast which I also binged and LOVED.  When I … Continue reading 5 Reasons Why Minimalism Is NOT a CULT


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4 thoughts on “Why Do we Tie Salary to Worth?

  1. This is so true Bonnie. Like the runners, many people tie their self-worth to the numbers on their paycheque. It’s why many end up stuck in jobs they hate. It’s too hard to make the leap when you need the money to fund the lifestyle you’ve convinced yourself you deserve.

    Early in the pandemic, there was a lot of focus on essential workers. Here in Canada some businesses, like the major grocery chains, did the right thing and gave their workers extra “pandemic pay”. Others, like the well-known fast food restaurant my daughter works at, did nothing for their workers, leaving it up to their franchisees, who did nothing. Sadly, although these workers were essential and were putting themselves at risk every day, customers still felt it was okay to treat them like dirt. It’s just wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree with you! If I didn’t have student loan debt I would certainly take more job risks.

      Sad about how your daughter was treated. Food is essential!!! And those that make, prepare, and/or serve food are ESSENTIAL!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. She once said “I hate that people think I’m stupid because I work at McDonald’s”. She’s a high school student with a 90+ average. Many of the young people she works with are working their way through school. Far from stupid in my opinion. The perception needs to change.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I completely agree. Everyone associated me as a hair stylist as dumb too. I think essential workers are smarter than most people in suits.

        Liked by 1 person

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