The Problem with Settling for Less than You Deserve

The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.
Maureen Dowd

These seventeen words speak to the multi-layered reality we deal with everyday: our value. At work, it’s about money, recognition, respect, substantial assignments, and your time. At home, it’s about money, respect, tasks, the right to make decisions, and your time.

When you settle for less than you deserve, you are reinforcing old negative messages:

  • You are not enough.
  • You don’t measure up.
  • You should be doing more, giving more, and being more than you are.

Why Do You Go Along With It?self-worth

There are several reasons why you undervalue yourself and settle for less than your worth. These reasons include:

  • Negative self-talk
  • Addiction to perfectionism
  • Inability to receive compliments or praise
  • Imposter syndrome: feeling like a fraud and undeserving of your success

The Problem with Deserving

Deserve is a problematic word. Deserve suggests merit, of having done something well enough to reap a reward.

You expect your value in the marketplace to be based on your contribution, skills, and experience. Deserve speaks to being judged by external forces.

However, those forces often wear cultural blinders. It is not uncommon if a seemingly objective evaluation of your value, such as a performance review, is contaminated by explicit and implicit biases, such as sexism, racism and other cultural prejudices. The result is that you are undervalued and underpaid.

More significantly, deserve overrides the intrinsic value that you have as a person.

Maybe worth is more appropriate for speaking about our value as human beings. Everyone is worthy of dignity, respect, recognition and freedom. It’s our birthright.

What happens if you confuse value and worth? What if you equate your worth as a person with the value you have at your job? Do you apply “performance review” thinking to your intrinsic dignity?

Know Your Worth

When you settle for less than you deserve, you set off a domino effect that reinforces any beliefs you have about being “less than” you truly are, a sense of hopelessness that you will ever be good enough, and most importantly you cut away at your dignity ~ your intrinsic worth.

If you are struggling with standing up for yourself, start listening to your self-talk. Are you critical and judgmental? When you notice that you are being harsh with yourself, stop and offer yourself words of kindness and caring.


Maureen Dowd, winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary, became a columnist on The New York Times Op-Ed page in 1995 after having served as a correspondent in the paper’s Washington bureau since 1986. She has covered four presidential campaigns and served as White House correspondent. Dowd has published two books, 2004’s Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk and 2005’s Are Men Necessary?: When Sexes Collide.

In honor of Women’s History Month, I will be sharing inspired quotes from inspiring women, to acknowledge the collective wisdom that has often been ignored or hidden.



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