The Thing I Like About …

Agent Carter: when she says she knows her value.

Peggy Carter goes to a lot of effort, risking her job, her reputation, her freedom and even her life. She does this to defeat the forces of evil. She finds the bad guy, she stops the bad guy … and she stands by her desk and watches silently as all the men in the office get the credit.

After this sad turn of events, one of her male colleagues points out that it isn’t fair for her to have done all the work without even the slightest recognition. She shrugs.

“I know my value,” she explains.

She doesn’t explain that she “understands how the world works” or that she “knows what others think of her”; she doesn’t huff and puff and say sarcastically, “Well, I guess I know where I fit in!” She obviously does know how the world works. She obviously doesn’t expect any particular accolades for her contribution. She probably is a little irritated by that situation. But it doesn’t matter to her.

She knows her value – her actual value. The actual worth of her actions. The true outcome of all that she has done. She knows her value as an agent and as a person, and she doesn’t require anybody else’s validation. She never seeks it, but instead keeps her eyes on the prize (defeating evil, saving the world, typical stuff). She never worries about it, or mourns it. She doesn’t need others to see her as important, because she already knows that she is.

Fighting off evil and saving the world have obvious outcomes; it’s pretty easy, I suppose, to look at your evil-vanquishing activities and see your successes. Usually, though, we’re not fighting Nazis or Hydra, or doing anything so clearly important. Usually we’re just living our lives – making breakfast, raising kids, loving our friends … making mistakes, paying off debt, micro-analyzing our appearance. We spend oh-so-much time trying to craft ourselves into people who are beautiful (to others), who are needed (by others), who are acceptable (to others).

It isn’t that the men in Peggy’s office should not reconsider their method of giving and receiving accolades. It isn’t that we shouldn’t validate others’ efforts, or praise their successes, or tell them they’re important. It’s that “others” shouldn’t be any more important than we are – what are their credentials, after all, for deciding what is and isn’t a valuable contribution or person? Why should we give our assessment of our worth to people who might be swayed by, oh, I don’t know, “that’s just how the world works”?

We don’t need others to see us as important. We can already know that we are.

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