My clients who underearn always tell me, “But it doesn’t matter. I work with really nice people.”

And I ask them, “Do you drag yourself out of bed at five a.m. to go see the nice people at work, or do you do it for the money?”

It’s always about the money. So saying it doesn’t matter “because the people at work are so nice” is a lie we tell ourselves, and it’s a very damaging one. The obvious damage is the hit to our current incomes. The more insidious damage is the fear the lie creates.

If you tell yourself that underearning “doesn’t matter because the people at work are so nice,” you’re sending your brain a message that people elsewhere aren’t so nice. That message creates fear of leaving, which makes you feel dependent on a situation that’s paying you less than you’re worth.

If you’re under-earning (and by the way, underearning occurs at all levels. Some under-earners make $10 when they could get $20, and some make $100k when they could get $200k), ask yourself this: Would I be willing to write a check to these nice people for the amount I’m underpaid for the privilege of working among them? If the answer is yes, then by all means, carry on right as you were. But if the answer is no, allow me to suggest that it’s time to ask for more or move on. And it’s not scary. Nice people are everywhere. You just don’t know them yet. And the really nice people will pay you what you’re worth.

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