Cayan Ashley Photography

Cayan Ashley Photography

I learned a difficult lesson recently, and I need to share it with you so you can avoid making the same mistakes I did.


Darlings, I undervalued myself, hardcore, and it bit me in the ass when I was least expecting it.


I was given an opportunity recently that seemed amazing. I was told it was the beginning of something fantastic, and that I was on track for promotions, which were discussed in detail. I'd been working with the company for years, but had just begun a relationship with them as an independent contractor. The company touted themselves as being progressive and intersectional, and I really loved everything I thought they stood for. 


I had to give up my old career after becoming physically disabled a few years ago, and my confidence had taken a major hit because of it. I have autism and a learning disability on top of my physical disability, so I'm not met with many professional opportunities. This new position gave me back confidence- someone saw value in me again! Someone wanted me on their team. For once, my disabilities weren't professional hinderances, and I was delighted. 


This was my first mistake: waiting on someone else to come along and value me


I should have realized my worth on my own. Undervaluing myself and my work made me a prime target for exploitation. 


I trusted my boss completely. She was seemingly a champion of intersectionality- her company gave voice to minorities and promoted feminism. We'd become friends, and I'd looked up to her. It never even occurred to me that she could be preying upon the concepts of intersectionality and feminism to benefit herself financially- a wolf in black sheep's clothing.


That was mistake #2- trusting someone who was looking to profit off of me


Just days before I was set to be promoted, I got a Facebook message from her while I was out at Olive Garden, in the middle of lunch with some friends. She and I had a video conference scheduled for that afternoon, and I'd spent the morning preparing for it. I was ready for the message to be something relating to that meeting, but what I read on the screen made me freeze, fork in hand. After my friends became concerned by the look on my face, I told them what was up: The message told me that I was out of the company, completely. My boss went on to assure me that it was through no fault of my own that I was being shoved out, but that it was effective immediately.


After years of working with them, after forming a personal relationship with my boss that hovered somewhere between friendship and idolization, after using my relationship with the company to build up my self-confidence and pride post-disability, and after being compensated with peanuts for hard and deeply personal work on the auspice that I would be given opportunities for growth- I was fired without warning over Facebook messenger in an Olive Garden. 


Mistake #3: Signing a contract I didn't like


As if all this isn't bad enough, I sold months of my work for an outrageously small price, meaning they own it and I'm not allowed to use it elsewhere, ever. They're free to keep using it in perpetuity, and will be profiting off it continuously long after I've moved on. I have a large personal following they've profited from, and will likely continue to profit from it through the perpetual reuse of my work.


In essence, I ended up selling my soul for pennies on the dollar with empty promises ringing in my over-trusting ears. I wish I would have never given the company a thing. I regret the entire relationship. I should have valued myself enough to not work for so little. I shouldn't have let them use my personal work for so long- years- in a "collaborative" way that left me financially uncompensated while they profited off it. I shouldn't have invested my self-confidence into my work with them, because it made me emotionally dependent on that relationship, blinding me to what was really going on. 


My advice to you is this, darlings: value yourselves. Know what you're worth and never settle. Don't fall for sweet nothings being whispered in your ears, don't let yourself be taken advantage of just because someone praises you, and don't let your self-confidence become dependent on any relationship with an employer or company; find confidence within yourself


After all, in the immortal words of Ace of Base, "No one's gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong." 


Be discerning AF when dealing with business relationships- no matter how trustworthy and amazing others may seem. If you don't like something detailed in a contract, speak up- don't just let it slide and agree to someone else's terms in order to seem agreeable. 


Please remember that, even if you happen to be disabled, you're valuable. You matter. You're a star, and you'll go further if you refuse to undervalue yourself in exchange for empty promises, no matter how wonderful they may sound.