I had an epiphany on my run today: I have to convince myself that I am worthy, truly believe it, and only then will I have any success in the way I want it.
This conclusion came with the help of a couple of exercises I tried this week: 1. An excellent Yoga Nidra session led by my friend and fellow yoga teacher Danielle, and 2. The idea of dedicating my run to either a person or working through an idea/issue that I'm grappling with, which was suggested by my other friend and fellow runner, Kelly.
In the Yoga Nidra, Danielle led us through an exercise to distill our desire for something (for me it was career success) down to the essence of what we really want, which in my case was to feel worthy in general, specifically of the respect, money, and self-dependance that a successful career would bring.
And then I was left to wonder why I didn't already feel worthy...of any of it. How did I get here? When did this happen? How would I get myself out of it? These are the questions I confronted while running through the Hollywood Hills, eyes wide at the gigantic houses advertising their owners' success and wondering how they got there.
If I ever want this project of studying and living by the Yamas and Niyamas to be anything other than a private journal, I have to believe that it's worthy of telling people it exists. If I want it to turn into something more--and I do--like a book, workshop, teaching series, I have to believe that I'm worthy enough to represent these ancient precepts, and my work is worthy of recognition. It starts there.
It occurred to me that this is the essence of Ishvara Pranidhana, too, and maybe why I struggled with it and Svadyaya so much: In order to believe in the presence of the divine in me, I have to believe that I am worthy of it. And if I am in fact a piece of the divine, which is the same stuff that makes up other women who are kicking ass in their fields, could it be easier to believe that I'm capable of doing bigger things too?
I think so.
And then, as if God himself were listening to me labor to this conclusion, near the end of my run I got a text from a company I've worked with for over 5 years offering me a new class for very low pay.
So I asked for more.
A whopping $10 more.
I did this because if I am to believe I'm "worthy", I have to act like it, and expect it from others. This is not an easy transition to make midlife, after believing that I am mediocre at best for most of it.
I'm embarrassed to admit that this is only the 2nd time I've ever asked for higher pay. I'll save that sad history for a chapter in my book, but suffice to say that I have never made a lot of money and part of the reason is that I never ask for, expect, or demand it. In the case of the class being offered, the stakes were low: I was fine with walking away from it--and maybe my relationship with the company--if they weren't willing to meet my request. But the whole situation took up hours of my time and a day's worth of emotions, all for $10. I still haven't heard back from them, but I'm pretty sure they're exhausting their resources to find someone else to teach the class for the original rate offered, and I'm certain they will find her.
I say "her" because women routinely settle for less than their worth, be it salary, respect, treatment by men (and the government, corporations, the patriarchy, etc.). From Harvard Law School's Program On Negotiation, Katie Shonk writes:
Deeply ingrained societal gender roles lie at the root of the gender gap in negotiated outcomes, researchers have concluded. In many cultures, girls are encouraged and expected to be accommodating, concerned with the welfare of others, and relationship-oriented from an early age. Notably, these goals clash with the more assertive behaviors considered to be essential for negotiation success, which is more in line with societal expectations that boys and men be competitive, assertive, and profit oriented.
Men approach asking for what they think they deserve as almost a game, a challenge they expect to win. Women, especially those of us not in conventional professions, too often take what's offered, with little to no pushback or even question, and that comes down to self-worth. We've been conditioned to believe we are inferior and therefore accept behavior, treatment, pay, and working conditions that we should be rejecting.
Women need to know (and genuinely believe!) their worth, ask for it, and be willing to walk away if the other party doesn't agree with what her value is, be it monetary or intangible. But we have so many more hinderances to our walking away: since we still only earn about seventy cents on the dollar compared to men, we often can't afford to walk away from what's offered. Some women are left to raise children alone because the fathers walked away from their responsibilities. Some women can't walk away from their partners because they're financially dependent on them, perhaps having walked away from their own careers to raise children or to prioritize their partners' jobs. Some women can't walk away from a work or personal situation because they've been threatened with very real consequences and they are terrified. The list is woefully endless.
Times are tough for everyone right now, and many of us need work. But that's no excuse for companies to lowball employees. I know from experience that it sets a terribly low precedence that's hard to climb out of, both in regard to increasing salary over time and for the individual that accepts a lower value of her worth. It trickles down throughout her life. On the business side, it establishes a poor company culture of undervaluing the individuals that make that company possible. Oh, and prioritizes corporate (or private sector leadership) greed.
In the health and wellness industries especially, there is an expectation that we are doing this only because we care so much and we want to help people--all of which is true. We do work we love while sacrificing the stability, predictability, higher pay, clear paths to advancement, professional support systems, and other typical perks like medical insurance and paid time off that a more conventional career would offer. But we still have to cover the same expenses that everyone else has!
The experience of asking for and ultimately not getting $10 more to teach a class that the company is charging at least $300 for has me burning up right now. I know I'm late to the party of demanding my worth from clients and employers, but going forward, that will be a priority. I know the feeling of asking for what I want/need and actually getting it--it feels incredible. And powerful. And just. It feels like "right action", which is what the Yamas and Niyamas are about.