I recently read through the new national report on women called Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being. Among all the amazing facts about women’s progress was one piece of unfortunate data that hasn’t changed much: Women still earn 20 percent less than men. It makes me angry thinking of my hard-working female contemporaries under-earning.
My immediate reaction is to blame men, society and government for putting us women in this situation. But the self-help junkie in me knows better. Rather than blame others for my discomfort, I chose to turn inward, and asked myself why these statistics make me so angry. It wasn't long before I realized I was angry because I, too, was being undervalued; but not by others. I was undervaluing myself.
My anger was the result of not knowing my own worth.
This revelation caught me off guard. For nearly a decade I’d perceived myself as a kick-ass businesswoman. I’ve been an entrepreneur since the age of 21, I’ve started several businesses, closed tons of deals, managed my books, paid my taxes -- you name it. With this kind of track record, what gives? Why am I still undervaluing my worth?
I turned to the expert -- Amanda Steinberg, my dear friend and the founder of DailyWorth.com, a personal finance email newsletter for women.
“Women still make 20 percent less than men because we don’t understand our real market value,” Steinberg told me. “We often approach jobs and contracts with fear and insecurity, hoping they’ll want us, instead of thinking about the established market value of what we bring to the table.”
She continued, “It’s more common for a female job candidate to ask what the job pays, rather than walking in the door clear about her own bottom line.”
Recognizing this is the first step to realizing earning parity. The next move is to take action toward significant change. The change in my emotional perspective toward money could benefit other women, as well as myself. By shifting my own thoughts and energy around earning, I could become a powerful example for women throughout the world. So, I committed to taking the necessary steps towards earning more and loving it.
The first step toward knowing my worth was the willingness to feel uncomfortable. Most change comes with some growing pains. In order to move through them you must be willing to feel whatever comes up. In my case, thinking about negotiating, raising my rates, or spending less made me feel nauseous. I found that as I entered into these conversations, I’d defend my old patterns in an effort to stay safe. But playing small was no longer an option. I braved through the discomfort and committed to change by welcoming everything that came along with it. I shifted my inner dialogue from, “That doesn’t feel good. Run!” to “Bring it on!”
The only way to transform my old patterns was to create new ones. And thus I began phase two of my transition, which meant practicing being comfortable with the discomfort of negotiating. Regardless of how uncomfortable I felt, I practiced negotiating every chance I could -- even if I didn’t really want what I was negotiating for. I negotiated in areas ranging from retail purchases to sponsorship deals. Each time I practiced this new behavior I felt more worthy. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed my practice period. This step helped me change my fear of negotiating as I settled into a new perception of my worth.
Things were getting better, but I noticed something funky come up during my practice period. Each time I’d ask for what I wanted, I felt as though I needed to apologize for what I’d asked for by over-talking and justifying my requests. Though it was totally cool that I’d acquired the chutzpah to ask, I was still unable to close. And each time felt the need to justify my negotiating position, I’d sabotage the deal.
This brings me to the final step to knowing my worth: Closing the deal. This step is all about revving up your belief system. When you believe you’re worthy, others believe you’re worthy. With that in mind, I tapped into my visualization meditation. I began a daily 10-minute meditation where imagined myself signing the contract on a massive sponsorship deal. Then, I’d see myself cashing the check. Most importantly, I’d hold the vision long enough to feel worthy. The key to believing is feeling. By holding powerful visions through meditation, I was able to guide myself into a true feeling of worthiness.
With this new belief system in place, I was ready to close the deal. Now I was walking the walk, but had to learn to stop talking the talk. I cashed in some advice from my boyfriend -- a killer negotiator -- who told me that once you've asked for what you want, to shut up. If you truly know your worth and want to close the deal, you must learn to be silent. There’s no need for extra talk, backpedaling or further explanation when you know your worth.
I continue to practice these tools daily and have experienced miraculous such as securing a book deal with one of the largest publisher in the world, doubling my annual revenue, and successfully negotiating contracts for double the offered rate. I’ll negotiate with anyone, visualize and ask for more any chance I get. All for the sake of truly knowing my worth.
Featured in the New York Times Sunday Styles section as the next generation guru, motivational speaker, life coach and author Gabrielle Bernstein is making her mark. Expanding the lexicon for the next generation, Gabrielle is a #1 bestselling author of the book Add More ~ing to Your Life – A hip guide to happiness.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.) provides its members with access to tools, mentoring, community and educational resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth. Our organization promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment.