Claiming Our Worth

"I got this." I grab the bill, slide my card inside the envelope, and hand it to the waitress.

That's my modus operandi. I pay for the table, or at minimum offer to pay my half, especially when I go out with a man.

A few weeks ago, I went out with a guy -- sort of a date, not really a date, but a date. The bill came and he let me pay, and that, ladies and gentlemen is how my dating life has been over the past few years.

We teach people how to treat us. This is the reason I've ended up in relationships with men who didn't value me, because I didn't value myself. I didn't even think I was worth a meal.

The day after the "kinda" date, I didn't feel good and it was because of my decision to pay. It didn't represent how I really feel about myself now, yet I fell back into an old habit -- a self-deprecating, soul-crushing one.

All of the laps in the pool, the hours in my therapist's office and the days of solitude have led me to the reason why I do the things I do and suffer because of them: I haven't felt worthy of any of it, none of it, not even to be taken out for dinner and treated to a nice meal by a friend or a romantic interest.

For the past four years, I've also carried a burden of guilt for receiving child support and alimony from my divorce settlement. Finally, the rational side in me has started to speak up and scream out:

"Really? Really? You birthed and raised your children, stood by your husband from teenage years to 20-somethings when neither of you had any money, and were scraping by. You've built a home, a life and you don't deserve money to help support that? Ludicrous, crazy talk."

Money and I have had a strained relationship for the past 20 years. I'll leave the psychobabble alone -- I know the cause and that's what matters, but the symptom is unworthiness.

I even founded and own a business based on the principle of my discomfort with monetary exchange. I opened a donation based yoga studio (for charitable reasons as well), because I wasn't comfortable claiming my worth, harnessing the confidence to charge for the hard work and expertise I've built over the years. I'm a damn good teacher and I deserve to be compensated for it. Not only that, I chose yoga to be my business--operative word, business--I'm doing it to make money, even though it is something I love.

A few years ago, I wrote an article called" I Work for Love." The article was about my love of yoga and writing, and my proclamation; I would do it for free even if no one ever paid me. I've changed my mind. I won't teach for free anymore, because there's no value in that, even on a spiritual level. There needs to be an exchange, any time something is given, something needs to be received. This is my personal belief.

In the "spiritual/yoga" community, it is faux pas to speak about money, the exchange of money, to want money, or even to admit we need money. I hear new teachers say it all of the time, "I'm not doing this for the money." Bullsh*t! We all have to survive and live, and if you choose yoga as your job, you should and want to get paid for it.

You are allowed to love what you do, get paid for it, demand you are paid for it and paid well.

I am a yoga teacher and writer living in the real world, with real responsibilities. I need the money. I'm paying my way through graduate school, running a studio, and raising a family. I pay a mortgage and bills every month, and I want to live well. I used to feel ashamed for saying so, but I don't anymore. I want to take my kids to travel the world, and have the ability to enroll them in piano and ice-skating lessons.

I realize there is nothing wrong with that, and in order to do so, I have to claim my worth and then, charge my worth, in every realm, from relationships to business.

I wish I could go back in time, to the moment the check arrived a few weeks ago, but I can't. What I can do going forward is act differently.

This week, I had two different clients ask me for private yoga sessions.

When I told them my rate, they asked if I would offer a discount. I've always chickened out and slashed 10 to 15 percent off, just because they asked, but this time I said, "No. I'm worth every penny for my expertise and my time."

Do you know what they said? "We'll pay your rate and we are looking forward to it."

Just like that, I declared my worth and it was accepted.

I recognize no one will honor me, not a man or a yoga student, if I don't value myself first. I must claim my worth in every aspect of my life, because in the end, in the beginning, in all of it, it comes down to one thing, loving myself.

If I do that, everyone else will follow my lead.

First published on elephant journal