Recently I was invited to speak to women about money. This meant I had to negotiate my speaking fee. Said another way, this meant I had to talk about money. How much I thought my talk was worth, which quickly translated to how much I thought I was worth, which ended with my mother’s voice asking, “Who do you think you are?”
Whenever she asked me that, I never seemed to know.
I called my friend Nick, I thought he could advise me because he works in the financial field. He listened as I laid out every detail of who was hiring me, my audience, time involved, over explaining that I didn’t want to offend them by asking for too much, but I didn’t want to ask for too little. I summariezed by saying I needed to know what they wanted to pay me before I could possibly know what I wanted. After all, I didn’t want to be “too big for my britches,” another of mom’s favorites, but I didn’t want to be underpaid either. I didn’t take a breath until I thought he knew everything he needed to know to guide me to the answer.
There was a momentary silence on the phone. Then he asked, ”Patricia, what amount would make you happy?”
I burst out laughing. “Make me happy?” I repeated. “I never even considered that!”
This reminded me of the many conversations I have had with my female clients. She will be telling me about her new love interest. How they met. What they do together. Where they go for dates. What they talk about. I have had this conversation enough times, with enough women, that I can predict where her story will end? I also know because I suffer from the same infirmity. Inevitably, my client wonders aloud, does he like me; are they having fun on the dates?
I usually pause, then ask gently and with very real interest, “Do you like them? Are you having fun?”
Nicks question returned me to me. What would make me happy? I thought about the time I would invest in preparing, presenting, and marketing my speech. I determined what that amount of work was worth to me. Suddenly I knew more about me and what I wanted. This felt like a good place to negotiate from. I knew I might not get what I wanted, but I now understood the importance of asking for what I wanted.
Talking about money often evokes issues of self-worth. It might be that making a boat load of money makes you feel invincible. Or not making what you want causes feelings of inadequacy. Either way, money is impacting your self-worth, for the good or the bad.
So slow down to notice when your money influences “who you think you are.” Take time to deepen your awareness of this and then compassionately disentangle the two. Money and self-worth do not need to be connected.
And the next time my mom’s voice asks, “Who do you think you are?” I will respond, “I think I am a woman who knows what she wants.”
Most of the time…