Valuing Yourself


Do you value yourself? Peter McGraw welcomes Sarah Stinson and Lawrence Williams back into the Solo Studio to discuss how they value themselves in a world that wants to domesticate them.

Listen to Episode #138 here

Valuing Yourself

Do you value yourself? How do you value yourself? In this episode, I welcome Sarah Stinson and Lawrence Williams back to discuss how they value themselves in a world that wants to domesticate them. Sarah grew up in Billings, Montana and attended The New School in New York, where she received a degree in Film and Media Studies. She’s a marketing professional, amateur comedian and semiprofessional smart-ass and is working on producing a cartoon called Eat at Ballers. You can learn more about her project at ImFakingAwesome.com.

Lawrence is a Behavioral Scientist and Associate Professor of Marketing at CU Boulder. His research examines how people use the marketplace to add meaning to their lives. His writing explores the way Black culture shapes the American marketplace. He offers seminars to organizations looking to compete in a global multicultural context via cultural exchange. I hope this episode inspires you. Let’s get started.

Welcome back, Lawrence.

Thanks, Peter.

Welcome back, Sarah.

Thank you, Peter. I’m happy to be here.

I can feel Sarah’s more excited but I’m equally excited about both of you. We’re here because of Lawrence. In a conversation that he and I had, he offhandedly mentioned, “I was practicing valuing myself more highly and I’ve been unable to get that idea out of my head.” Sarah, you and I have been having parallel conversations without using that phrase but there was something about valuing myself that stood out. I was like, “Let’s talk about it on the show.” Let’s start with the background on what brought you to that idea or phrase. What got this going? Why are we here?

I have been thinking about this for the better part of the year as I’m going through some life transitions. It would be unfortunate if those transitions didn’t prompt some meaningful thought and reflection. One of the things that I did before we had that conversation was this monthly check-in with myself, where I looked at various aspects of my life, whom I spent time with, how I was spending my time and tried to do a little assessment and built a spreadsheet.

By the end of it, I sat down and wrote some notes while doing some journaling. The thing that came out of that was I need to behave as if I matter and as if my time, energy and efforts have value. It was backing away from the idea that I often have where I’m focused on self-improvement. I have this idea that there’s this gap between where I am and where I want to be. I should do some things to be more valuable. This idea was a little bit inverting that thinking, “I am valuable. Therefore, I will do these things for myself.” It has a lot to do with establishing boundaries for myself and the people with whom I spend time and making sure that those things aligned with who I am.

That’s a little bit of foreshadowing. One of the things I asked Lawrence and Sarah to do is to tell me about ways that they value themselves. That’s why I asked you to prepare three points for it. Before we get to that, I asked you for some clarification in email, text or something. You said something in there that’s talking about, “To overcome a natural tendency to minimize me.” That’s an interesting phraseology, this idea of minimizing myself. We’re going to get into how you do that but why do you think you do that?

I live in Colorado in a life where I can either be very grandiose about who I am, what I’ve accomplished and what I’ve done in life or I can be somewhat humble about it and I tend to take the humble routes. Sometimes I do that to a fault. When I noticed that, it feels like I’m making myself small or I am behaving in this particular moment, what I want, care about and how I see things matters less than what other people are bringing to the table.

I’ve known Lawrence for many years. He’s become a good friend and we’ve collaborated. He sometimes speaks very softly. As someone who has never been accused of speaking softly, I notice it and he has a wonderful voice. When you said minimize yourself, even sometimes your volume almost comes out in that way.

A lot of it is subconscious or unconscious but trying to make my actions more intentional means bringing those things to light a bit.

Sarah, when I invited you, I wanted to get the band back together after our Game Of Life episode to give people a normal episode. You said in a message to me that this idea was apropos. Why?

You have planted the seed that you were talking about valuing yourself. In a lot of different ways, that’s the personal and professional work that I’m always doing. The example I think is thinking about dating, how I value myself with that and how I’m choosing people to be around. For me, if I think about the resources that are not renewable, that’s time. Who am I spending time with?

I had met someone new and I’m trying to like put them through this lens of like, “Is this the person I would want to be with?” Relying on those values that I have gives me a lens to say, “I value myself and time. Do this person and interaction align with that? Am I shoehorning myself into something because I want to be with someone or do I want it to work? Is it based in reality?” The valuing thing helps me base things in reality and put it through a filter to almost check myself to be like, “Are you valuing yourself? Are you doing this for some other emotional need that won’t ever payoff?

You were tussling with this particular relationship when this came across your desk?

The word that came to my mind was dim because I have this thing where it’s like, “I dim to fit in.” For me, that might not track with how you know me but I feel like it’s letting myself be okay to be big.

I’m going to ask you this. You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want. You told me a story where you did not dim yourself in a set of interactions in which there was a love interest and it didn’t go well.

That is true. I dealt with that. I’m happy I didn’t dim myself.

Lawrence doesn’t know what we’re talking about.

I don’t know the story.

Do you want to know the story?

It’s worth it.

The new interest is I went out with him. He introduced to me all his friends and we were out. You know me, I’m very gregarious and open. I treat people like they’re old friends and I just meet them. That’s how I am. I’m flirty. I was trying some new pickup lines that I had watched on TikTok but as a joke and I’m with this guy that I’m dating. I could tell that he was starting to get jealous and I decided to change what I’m doing. I’m like, “That’s not about me. I’m not doing anything wrong.” I kept having fun. I had the best night.

The next day, I circled back with him and said, “What was going on last night? Something shifted.” He told me how he was feeling and he was like, “It was mostly about me,” which was great to have someone who could own that and not put it on me. I felt good that I called him out on it too because I knew what was happening. He doesn’t dim himself. This was the first circumstance where he saw me interacting with his friends where he was like, “I’m super flirty. She sees me do all this time. Now, she’s super flirty. How do I deal with that?” I was like, “This is who I am.” We navigated that together.

I wanted you to share that because having these concrete examples is helpful for people and can be inspirational. I talk a lot about this notion of socialization but I call it human domestication. I want to use this provocative label. I am feral in some ways and the world doesn’t want me to behave the way I want to behave and wants to domesticate me and you.

There are a lot of social norms out there that are enforced. They’re not written down but you know when you cross a line because of the way people treat you. It changes the way that they treat you. What’s often good for yourself may not agree with what these people believe. You have sometimes a choice which is, “Do I not behave in the way that is right for me to avoid this conflict, discomfort or being chastised in some way by violating some set of norms?” It can’t be the case that the rules apply in a way that’s for everyone’s best interest.

A lot of this stuff ends up being a matching process. “I want to be around people who share my values and beliefs. I want to be around people that even if I don’t, they’re not trying to change me.” As long as there’s no harm and consent, you should be able to do what you want, in that sense. When you notice yourself minimizing or dimming, some of that has to do with what the world thinks and says about you and you trying to keep peace and make other people happy. That has a consequence that will often make you unhappy.

Something that I noticed that I will do and then challenged myself is thinking about what I wear. If I’m picking out an outfit and the first place my head goes is, “What are people going to think about it,” I know that I am not choosing what I want. I’m choosing what will get either a minimized reaction or how can I walk into a room and be neutral.

When I’m not neutral, I use clothes as a form of art for me. I love that. For me, that’s an immediate call-out where I almost challenged myself to dress even more. I’m like, “Challenge yourself to feel uncomfortable,” and feel like you are going to either get attention or get noticed Not that it’s going for that but that ping of, “I’m trying to manage myself based on what I think people are going to think.” I’m like, “No. Erase that. Pick from your heart, then go.”

Sarah and I went to get dinner and then went to a comedy show the other night. She sent me a picture of her in this very red wig. She says, “I’m thinking of wearing this.” I wrote back, “Excellent.” I was disappointed that she didn’t. The other thing is when it comes to clothes, do you know when you get the most compliments? It’s when you live on your edge and you choose to wear something that feels a little bit uncomfortable. No one ever goes, “You look great,” when you’re wearing the uniform or what everyone else is wearing in town. It’s when you step outside. I’m happy to hear that.

The thing that story brought to mind for me is how so much of it is about what’s in our heads. Even though we have this representation of what the norms are and what the world is going to say, a lot of that is constructed within ourselves. In my experience, when I get out of that voice, I realized that this isn’t the way that the world that I’m in reacts. It’s a construction that comes from a place that is tethered to some of these norms and domesticating forces but a lot of the time, it is internalized. It’s your spin on those particular external forces.

I call it my Greek chorus of judgment and it depends on who is in that chorus at a certain time. It could be a teacher from high school or a girl from college. It’ll randomly be my external judges. I’m like, “This isn’t real.”

This is one of my favorite psych papers, the Tetlock stuff on the intuitive voices in your head and how you become accountable to these imaginary voices.

Sometimes the voice is the prosecutor, a scientist or a politician. It gets activated depending on the context and your natural tendency to think and behave in certain ways. Phil Tetlock was a mentor and a coauthor of mine early in my career. Before we get into your examples, which I hope will be inspirational for folks, I want to do a little PSA here. It takes a lot of work to turn this off or even to start to adjust and be able to correct it. You can do it cognitively and be like, “I don’t care what people think.”

People start thinking and you start caring because it can be so automatic. I’ve had to write about it, talk about it and do mushroom trips to start to make this tendency to not care and not be a concern but a more automatic response. Only the most challenging situations get it reactivated. If you’re reading this and you find this aspirational, know that it’s going to take work, practice, coaching yourself, maybe some accountability with friends, having conversations, a therapist, psilocybin or whatever way you go about reinventing yourself. It may take months or years even to get there.

Awareness is the key and you shouldn’t expect that it’s ever going to stop. It’s that you’ll have a different level of awareness and interaction with it. You can almost observe it and be like, “There it is. The volume is so low. I barely hear it.” For me, it’s the expectation that it probably won’t ever go away but my relationship with it will change. That’s the amazing and transformative part of it.

For me, one of the very habitual things was finding value from other people and how other people responded to me. It’s the love of your partner or admiration from various sources. Those were the little nuggets of value that I would collect. The work was figuring out, “I don’t need other people to validate me.” I need to have that as a starting point for myself and that was a very difficult habit to get into.

Speaking of ways that you have valued yourself, I’ve asked you to share three instances of them. What was interesting was both of you mentioned setting boundaries as a way. This is my interpretation of your ways. Lawrence, you’re the one who got us here so why don’t we kick it off with your examples or a way you do this?

I’m happy to talk about boundaries. I was doing this monthly check-in assessment. I went through some of the people that I met through online dating. Generally, when I’m meeting someone, it’s the most optimistic case people are interested and I’m curious about them.

Lawrence is new to online dating.

I haven’t had the optimism beaten out of me. Thinking about this idea of valuing myself will help me avoid some of those pitfalls because one of the things I realized is I can’t put myself in a position where I am spending more time on this encounter than on that encounter that’s worth it to me. It got to start feeling a little bit disrespectful of myself and my time. If someone lives an hour away and they’re not willing to travel halfway, that’s not a useful hour in my life, two hours round trip spent on the off chance of meeting an interesting person.

Much less someone that I’m attracted to or will be willing to spend time with. It’s a lot to ask upfront. I was in an approach mode and I liked to learn so I thought, “This is all part of learning,” but I realized that there’s still a cost to learning and what I’m willing to pay. I will travel a half hour to meet you and no more. I can draw on a map where I’m willing to go. If you happen to be in that area and are interested in meeting me, then fantastic. If you happen to be outside of that area, it’s just not going to be a match.

Is there a particular story that galvanizes this?

Yes. I learned the wrong way because I met someone who seemed very nice and interesting but they happened to live in Fort Collins. Fort Collins is about an hour or so away from Denver. I thought, “I don’t have anything pressing going on this night so I can drive up to Fort Collins to meet this person.” When I got there, they were both less interested and also, it’s less interesting to me. To drive an hour there, you put on some music then it’s fine but the drive back an hour after a bad date was incredibly painful and there was much learning to be had in that experience.

It takes negative things to spur change. It is those kinds of painful moments that can get you to do that. We’re told, “Love conquers all.” You’re supposed to be finding your person, walk-through fire for this person and all these kinds of things. You’re supposed to give yourself fully. First of all, no one deserves that on a first date. Even still, you can’t be a good partner in whatever way, being the person who’s giving everything. You have to have something in your tank.

We’re all creative people in this room. We worked together. What I have to say about how I think about things is that matters. It was a little bit expensive. If you were my employer, listening to me talk for a few hours every week in class is an expensive thing.

Lawrence does talks and consulting with companies. His time is incredibly valuable.

To spend that on the first date and then also to have the travel costs is a little bit of reframing of what my time is worth.

You’ve said that before to meet Peter too. I remember when we first met, you quantified your time in that way and it helped you do time management with what you were doing. I haven’t thought of it in a relationship aspect, which is such a valuable thing to do when it comes to time. You think, “This is what I get paid professionally.” Not that you’re a call boy but if you were, you’d be a high-dollar one. I’d never thought about it in that regard. That puts a different spin on it where you can easily diminish yourself because you’re like, “I want this so bad so I will do what I can to accommodate and make it work.”

Especially sexual motivation can sometimes crowd out more rational things. Putting a dollar amount on your time is not my idea. I stole that idea from this guy Naval. He’s an entrepreneur. He’s an Angel investor and stuff. When he was a young man, he put a ridiculous dollar amount into his time. He did that to gain clarity as to, “Is this worth my time?”

I find myself often doing that to figure out, “Is this worthwhile?” I’ll give you my quick example. Let’s suppose I meet someone on an app and they’re attractive and interesting. I try to make plans with them and they want to meet for dinner. I will not meet you for dinner the first time I meet you. It’s time and money because frankly, chances are I’m paying for the dinner. The person who asks for dinner is not offering to pay for dinner, most of the time. I will suggest something else and if they say, “No, it’s got to be a meal.” I say, “This is not the right match. Good luck to you.” Sarah, boundaries.

For me, boundaries are a way to hold myself accountable for my values and how I want to feel. It’s easy to have those in isolation when you’re not dating anyone and you can flow and do everything you want and your life goes as it is. Boundaries are all about me. It’s not that I would put any boundaries and it’s not other people’s responsibility to hold my boundaries.

You’ve said this before Peter too. Women tend to put themselves in orbit around men. In an effort to not lose myself or not do that, how do I make sure I don’t have leaky boundaries when it comes to relationships, work or anything where I’m saying yes too much? When I say I don’t want to drink or eat a certain thing and then immediately someone offers it to me, I’m like, “Sure.”

For me, it’s where the rubber meets the road on the values of my actions. I know I want to feel and the way in which I produce those feelings. It’s about boundaries and holding those for myself. It’s difficult because it’s easier to say yes or, “I want to have another drink,” even though, I know tomorrow, I’m not going to feel good. It’s finding that gray area and not being absent or going buck wild. Boundaries helped me live in that gray. The middle way for me is the sweet spot but it’s about saying no. It’s hard and challenging.

It’s so funny. There’s something counterintuitive about this. You were talking about directly Lawrence and Sarah you were alluding to it. Let’s say in a dating situation, it could be a new friend, a coworker or any number of social interactions. You like this person and you want to impress them. You want them to like you. The tendency and what you’ve been taught to do is to say, “Yes.”

Parents don’t like it when their kids start saying no. Particularly, when you ask for something, you want yeses. You think, “I want this person to like me and impress them. I’m going to say yes,” but when you say yes to something that you want to say no to, you’re dimming or minimizing yourself. You’re not being honest with that person and building a good foundation with that person.

High value or high integrity people will respect you for saying no. They’ll go, “I know now that Sarah’s not a big drinker. If I asked her to do something last minute, she’s not going to drop everything for me.” The people you want around you are going to appreciate the boundaries. I love it when someone goes, “Thank you for setting that boundary.” You’re like, “That’s the person I want to keep close,” in that sense. That’s super counterintuitive.

It’s as if being agreeable becomes the only personality characteristic that matters when you’re first getting to know someone or if you’re having social interaction but then by being agreeable, you’re not presenting the full spectrum of your personality or you’re not being accountable to yourself.

The way that this was illustrated to me and I realized that it’s as easy as saying it is I was dating someone who was a vegetarian and I would never be like, “I’m going to force you to eat meat.” It was so nonchalant. “I’m a vegetarian.” You respect that immediately but a lot of other things, people don’t respect immediately, which to your point, that’s whom you want to be around high-value people who will respect your boundaries.

It’s as simple as that. It’s almost as if I’m saying that, for some reason, that’s easier for people to swallow than, “I don’t drink,” because that’s like, “Why don’t you drink? Are you this or that?” To your point about surrounding people, people will also show you who they are by how they respond to your boundaries. Do they respect it? Do they feel like it’s a conflict or weird? Another thing too that I love to do is see how people respond to the boundaries that I set because that says so much about them. They’re giving you information. You need to watch and see. You can understand who they are from that.

I have a lot of sayings. Anybody who reads this show knows. I’m going to share one of my sayings. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this one. I can’t even remember where I picked it up. It’s, “Enjoy saying no.” It’s enjoyable to say yes but it can feel shameful to say no. My saying, “Enjoy saying no,” is my reminder that whether it’s a yes or a no, it’s a good thing. You need to say no to get to a world where you’re excited to say yes to things. Sarah, you had one that was related to people and time, which I liked.

SOLO 138 Sarah | Valuing Yourself
The Magic of Thinking Big

I’ve been trying to pay attention to whom I surround myself with. I feel like I’m so busy that every moment is super valuable to me and I want to not maximize every moment but if I want free time or to hang out with someone, I want to make sure that I’m not wasting time. To your point about going to Fort Collins and all of that, is it worth your time? I thought about that saying, “You’re the average of the five people that you hang out with.” People have debunked that and all of that but if you naturally think about you will become the product of what you surround yourself with, it’s inevitable.

For me, valuing myself, there had to be this alignment to where I am worthy of being around smart, amazing people because that’s whom I want to be. Why don’t I hang around those people? I mentioned in my email as well that in valuing it seemed that self-worth is the feeling and self-valuing are the actions that execute internal feeling and bring alignment to that. There isn’t a cognitive dissonance of, “I feel one way but I act another way.” I mentioned a lot too, when my actions aligned with my intentions, my life flows. It’s time and surrounds yourself with people who are smarter and are the people that you want to be. That automatically elevates you in a way.

I do like that idea regardless of the data. Everyone should have a team but solos, especially because the world is not quite built for them. There’s something very exciting about making a new friend or creating a new connection and saying yes to that. There is a flip side to this. I’m going to put you on the spot and ask you a question about this, Sarah. This means you may need to cool people from your life or sunset some relationships and distance yourself if you want to raise that average. This is something that’s been on the top of your mind. You’re undergoing your transformation or reinvention. Sarah, is there an example of approach or avoidance or both that you redistribute your team?

I have a lot of friendships that I’ve had for my whole life. For me, the evolution of those relationships has been very different. We’ve evolved in the same way and that’s been good. In other ways, we haven’t. For me, I wanted the relationship to be realistic about what it was and then understand that it was going to have to live in a different context.

If I can set realistic expectations and know what that is with the relationship, then I’m good with it and do not expect anything different than what it is. I’ve had girlfriends that I’ve had to shift the way in which we hang out. A lot with romantic relationships too. When I would sit back and do my little internal spreadsheet, I’m like, “I’m spending a lot of time with this person and we do not align on so many things.” I will become what I surround myself with and consume. It’s inevitable. It’s just a matter of ending that relationship.

I don’t know if you’re being humble or it’s so obvious that you’re overlooking this but Sarah has ended two profound relationships, a marriage and a business partnership. Maybe those are the easy ones in part because they’re so obvious they’re here but you’re not afraid to do this big and small.

No. It came to a point in my life where I could stay, be dim and feel like I was going to die or I could realize that we didn’t align and it was never going to work. In the instance of the business partner, that was a situation where she’s gone from my sphere. With my ex-husband, we will have occasionally text conversations and that’s the way in which we’re still friends and operate but it was not serving me. It was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done but it enabled me to be the person I am, which is closer to my authentic self than I feel I’ve ever been in my life.

Lawrence, yours was around money.

Yes. In thinking about what I’m worth. A lot of that thought had been censored around time and time use but it also gets reflected in the way that I think about money, what I spend money on and what I consume. It’s very similar to the idea of whom you surround yourself with is a reflection of who you are or at least whom you aspire to be. With me, I try to think about any category of thing that I like, have to use or make a purchase. I’d like to get the thing that I both want. It may not necessarily be the best thing.

It’s not about being fancy or luxurious. It’s thinking through, “What are my preferences?” I gave you this example of this car that I bought. It’s not the fanciest car in the world. One of the things that I mentioned is I don’t love the color of my car because I got sold on the idea, “You can have this car and color now. If you want the color that you asked for, it might be a few months.”

What colors is it? What color do you want?

On their website, they called this color Thunder. It looked like a very nice deep rich metallic gray. When the car was delivered, it was a little bit more of an opaque pale gray-blue color. I was so angry when I looked at the website image and then looked at the actual car. It’s like they had the most tremendous lighting on this car and take photos.

It’s like a dating app.

They had the filters on like crazy.

That should set you up for success in dating. That’s the biggest disappointment. Harness that feeling and remember it.

Anytime that someone has a filtered image posted or anything with an adjustment like eye adjustment, if I look at the image and it looks all computer generated, I’m out 100%. They would have to be the deepest of fakes. It’s not a cute look.

Did you want a gray car?

I wanted a moon beige color. I got sold on this gray color and then the gray color turned out to be what I wanted.

I picked this saying up from a book called The Magic of Thinking Big. This is a book by David Schwartz. It was written probably in the ’60s. It’s a little dated, I’ll be honest. It feels a little Dale Carnegie. In 2008, when I was going through my solo reinvention, I came to this realization, “I’m probably not getting married. I’m almost certainly not having children.” I decided, “I have this open field ahead of me. What can I do with it?” With the time, energy and money that would have gone into building a family, I can build something else.

That’s when I started doing humor research, public academic work and so on. I read this book. If you want to get pumped up, you should read this book. It’s right there in the title. Raise your expectations. Start thinking bigger and if you start thinking bigger, it’s going to be the first step into doing bigger things. Schwartz tells all these anecdotes and stories and has all these sayings. One of his is, “Go first-class.”

He doesn’t mean go into debt so you’re flying private or something like that but you’re going to be tempted to cut corners, scrimp and do all these things but you’re better off doing fewer things better in a sense. That had always been very difficult for me. I grew up poor. For example, instead of buying 3 cheap suits, buy 1 good suit. What ends up happening is I’m still tempted to take the bargain option. What you often get with a bargain is a disappointing experience. I’m like, “I should have gone first class.”

I will think of this every time I get into my car.

This is not just big purchases, even little purchases. What’s an example of a little purchase?

I mentioned this to you and Sarah. You’ll appreciate this. I don’t always eat the healthiest things but when I do eat something unhealthy, I want it to be the thing that I want. If I’m going to have a donut, I want it to be the donut that is my favorite.

Which is?

It depends on what part of the country. I am very partial to these coconut cream cronuts things that have popped up in Denver. If I’m in Seattle, there are two places I’m going to get donuts from and if we’re not at either of those places, I’m not having donuts.

That’s a big idea. There are donuts on the table and it’s so easy to be like, “I’m going to have a donut,” but you’re like, “If I’m going to have a donut, I’m going to have the best dang donut.”

I’m going to get them hand-delivered.

I have this barbell metaphor for the year where it’s like, “I want to walk or sprint. I want to be fully present working or fully present playing.” The donuts in the break room are jogging donuts. They’re the in-between thing but the coconut cream cronut is the sprinting of donuts. It’s the full 100% donut.

I have another one. When I first started dating after my divorce, a friend said to me an amazing thing. She said, “During your marriage, you were so starved and hungry. When you’re super hungry, anything will look good but that’s the time when you need to be the most discerning. If you could marry this, you’re going to go first class with this. Even when you’re so hungry, a Hot Pocket looks good. You don’t want to date Hot Pockets. You deserve to date a Filet Mignon.” You don’t want to eat grocery store donuts, although sometimes they’re good. For the most part, if you had the choice, you would be like, “Give me the doughnut I want.” Rather than, you have this need and it’s like you could go for the Hot Pocket but you’re going to get what you get when you eat a Hot Pocket.

This is exactly how I talked about it with Peter, the idea that the world presents options and you can let the world decide what you have or you can make choices based on your internal compass. I talk about my wants and preferences. There’s something special and particular to me that determines what my outcomes are.

It is counterintuitive. You pass on the free donuts and pay an obscene amount of money for the perfect donut but it works. It’s reflecting this idea of, “If you value yourself highly, you deserve this thing,” as long as you’re not doing it every day. I once ate 300 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches 1 summer. I calculated it more or less.

How old were you?

I was twenty. I did that because I needed to do that. At some point, you should move on from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, if you want to live healthily. Sarah, you previewed your third one when your actions aligned with your intentions and it creates this notion of flow and how careful you are about what you do and don’t do. What’s an example of something like that?

You and I have had conversations about this before, how I came up with the values and what my intentions are for my life. It goes back to how I want to feel and the themes that I have. For me, it’s authentic and strong. I want to be proud of myself and feel peaceful. These are the feelings I want to have. I can only evoke those feelings through my actions.

It’s the atomic habits thing. Every little action adds up to ultimately everything. It’s on a moment-to-moment basis. How do I make sure that what I am doing is going to give me that result? Every single action like if am I going to eat a Hot Pocket, what is that going to result in? It’s paying attention to those little moments because your minutes become your hours, days and then life.

Bringing awareness to that and understanding that there are consequences for each of my actions, which was not something I was taught when I grew up, was something that I had to teach myself, the importance of every little thing that you do, how it supports or undermines how I want to feel and then what I want for my life.

Do you think a lot about compounding?


Can you do a quick lesson about what compounding is?

I got very aware of how I was spending every single moment and that also includes what I was thinking about, what I was consuming and whom I was with. Understanding that if I positively change those things, at the smallest level it aligned with what I wanted, then all of those things started to align. If this minute aligned, I had a whole day that aligned with how I want my life to be. I had a week, a month and look how much I’ve accomplished.

It makes me realize how important every minute is. Not to be strict as a perfectionist and hold myself to these unrealistic expectations but to understand how vital that is. There’s this stoic anecdote story where it’s like, “Live as if you have a sword hanging above your head by a thread.” At any moment, that sword could come down and kill you. What are you doing? The whole world would know what you’re doing. That’s a little dramatic but it makes me pay attention to what I do and how important that is.

One of the things I like about you is you have a lot happening but you find time to dance and do it regularly.

I dance pretty much every day in some capacity but formally, at least four times a week.

There’s another way to think about compounding, which is these non-linear effects that happen over time. What happens is there has to be this frequency. If you dance for 20 hours in 3 days, it’s not the same effect as dancing for 1 hour a day for 20 days. That habitual thing has this long-term positive effect.

To me, dancing is the best part of my day and it’s something I couldn’t live without but I reap the benefits of that.

Lawrence, your last one is about a different set of investments.

I talked about investing in myself and it goes back to this idea of reframing the way that I tend to think about my behaviors for a long time in trying to improve myself. If I do these things, then I will become more valuable. What I’ve been thinking about is because I’m valuable, I’m going to make these investments in myself. I’m worth it.

If I do X, Y and Z, I will become more valuable as a person, as a partner, as a date and as a friend but instead, you think I am valuable and as a reflection of that value, I will do X, Y and Z. That is a big idea that most people don’t think about.

That is huge. You’re operating from the place where you inherently already have value. You’re not trying to increase it. I feel like that shape shifts your mind about how you think about things.

That’s what it’s felt like for sure. Sarah, you have dancing and I’ve been roller skating a lot. I’ve been trying to build a habit around it. Largely because I enjoy doing it and it has these other benefits. I get sweaty and get some exercise. I get to see people at the park. It gets me up early. It helps set the tone for the day but it’s like a treat for myself. I am worth this bit of time. “I’m going to get up at 6:30, go to the park, skate around a little bit and enjoy myself more or less.” It’s nice to go around the park with the old people early in the morning and be oblivious to their existence or concerns. I don’t think that I look very usual for the Wash Park early morning exercise.

I’m often on that route and you’re not but I can’t wait until the day I see you skate by me.

Do you have another example besides roller skating?

There are several things that I talked about. Some of it is taking chores off my plate. I walked my daughter’s dog because I care for my daughter and her dog but it’s a little bit tedious. Sometimes it interferes with starting my day off the way that I want to start it off. I’d like to be roller skating, not walking the dog. Finding another dog walker, for example, and taking the time to do that was an investment in myself.

I am going to a Black-owned barber shop in town to work on my facial hair. I don’t have hair on the top of my head but I do have facial hair. That’s typically something that I grew and maintain myself. I thought, “I can make this little investment of time and energy, go to a place and have someone do it for me.” That was an example of me expressing my value to myself.

I have two sayings. Neither of us is perfect here but I’m going to share them. One is a familiar one to any reader and that’s, “Ask for what you want.” In this case, you’re asking yourself for something, whether it be dance, roller skating or something. People are scared to ask for what they want because other people are going to judge them for it. It’s not just they may get a no because a yes or a no is a good thing. It’s that they’re going to get a new one.

The other one is, “What are you waiting for?” I ask this all the time to people. “What are you waiting for? Is somebody going to give you permission and wait for the day that you’re not busy?” Stop. This is maybe an appropriate place to end when you think about this idea of valuing yourself in a world that doesn’t want you to. Let’s be honest. The world doesn’t want you being feral and doing what you want to do, how you want to do it and when you want to do it. It’s inconvenient to the world to behave that way. It’s not possible to be happy and please the world.

I’m going to close by saying thank you, Sarah and Lawrence, for spending some time preparing this and sharing these victories and struggles. I’m going to ask my readers, what are you waiting for? When are you going to start doing the kinds of things, whatever that is like setting boundaries, investing in yourself and spending money in a way that optimizes your happiness? Maybe even exerting a little bit of control and creating some habits that are going to pay off not tomorrow and maybe even not next week but in the months and years to come. With that, thank you and cheers.

Thanks, Peter.


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About Sarah Stinson

SOLO 138 Sarah | Valuing YourselfStinson grew up in Billings, MT and attended The New School in New York, where she received a degree in film and media studies. Stinson went on to work for HDNet, Montana PBS, DiMarzio Pickups, was the co-founder of Total BS Media, a full-service content marketing and PR firm, and Divvi, an online divorvce platform. She is currently the Director of Content Marketing at Kajabi, the leading platform for Knowledge Creators to monetize their content. She is an amateur comedian, semi-professional smartass and is currently working on producing a cartoon called “Eat at Ballers.” Stay up to date on the current hijinx at www.imfakingawesome.com.


About Lawrence Williams

SOLO 138 Sarah | Valuing YourselfLawrence Williams is a behavioral scientist and associate professor of marketing at the University of Colorado Boulder. His recent research examines how people use the marketplace to add meaning to their lives. He has also published work on how conscious thinking matters less for decision-making than assumed, how psychological distance reduces feelings of threat, and how features of environment shape people’s choices. His recent writing explores the ways Black culture shapes the American marketplace, and he offers seminars to help organizations compete in global, multicultural contexts via cultural interchange.