They say that the happiest people in the world are the people who can delay gratification. That is to say, when the child-like part of ourselves feels we need something and we need it now and we get this feeling that we will die if we don’t have it- more often than not, that is the wounded part of ourselves that is sabotaging us. The need for love or compassion that we never learned to have for ourselves and our present circumstances becomes addiction when left unmet and this addiction takes on many overt as well as subtle forms. For me, over my life, it has taken the form of over-spending and over-working. I never used to be able to pass up a shoe or great dress and for better or worse, I have invested a small fortune on teacher trainings that I’ve then over-worked to pay off.
While I don’t think debt makes you a bad person, I know that at the root of living beyond my means has been my story of lack. While I know the deeply entrenched story of ‘not-enough’ does not fade with the latest movement diploma or investment in the right jeans, for a few moments it can trick me into feeling I’m on track. Social media and the feed-back loops around having more and being more can trick me into feeling I’m living my ‘best’ life. And what is a best life except to live according to one’s own feeling of what is right and good in any given moment?
There is no judgement in any of this, just thinking out loud because I think a lot of us struggle with this. Recently, I was invited to be part of something that from the outside seemed so progressive, but from the inside felt more cult-like and undermining. The pay and the benefits did not add up to the heavy demands on my time and resources. I suppose part of the pay-off was the feeling of having ‘made it,’ to have been asked, but I feel some of that excitement about being ‘special’ has faded. I don’t care to be part of anything if it means I have to leave my self-respect and critical thinking at the front door.
While saying some of these things out loud may seem taboo, I think we do need to talk about them, particularly renumeration because for yoga teachers or those of us who are self-employed, money is tied to so many things – not least of all a feeling of agency in the world. Pretending that a behaviour or system is working when it is deeply broken only leads to more denial, harm, and ultimately a feeling of powerlessness.
Thankfully, I have carved a place for myself in my work (due in small or large part to privilege!) where I can earn enough to keep my head above the water. I make decent money for a yoga/movement teacher but that being said it is still REALLY hard to make ends meet in a city this expensive and I don’t know how single mothers earning minimum wage do it. I really don’t.
While I’ve been able to turn my ship around over the last few years by reigning in my spending and finding opportunities that feel like fair compensations for my time, I’m aware of what a privilege that is. I’ve been able to cut back on my work schedule because I’m being more savvy about where my money and energy goes, but also because, let’s be honest, I have a partner that is also helping (big time) to pay the bills.
I can make this all about how I have gotten clear about exactly what my time is worth, where I want to put my energy and the things that really matter to me, like spending time with my family, having time to take care of myself, and having a growth mindset which is about seeing beyond survival, but it’s deeper than that. I’m talking about doing that within a system that favours you if you look a certain way (white) and come from a certain background (educated or affluent), so though I’ve worked hard, I’ve been largely privileged.
Because I don’t have to bust my ass making just enough to scrape by, I can expound on things like the importance of the investment in children. I know that if we want to stop the cycle of addiction, we need to have the time and energy to be present to our kids, to really listen and empathize with them. But how do we do that when we feel like we’re barely getting by let alone thriving?
I think it starts with slowing down – at least for a few moments of your day to start to appreciate what you do have- even if you’re in a tight spot. It also has to do with finding the resources that remind you of what matters – community centres, yoga studios, therapy offices or movement sanctuaries where you can actually start to feel what’s been buried in your body. I think that can become the catalyst for unpacking some of that raw material in a loving way so that we are truly investing in the people and things that lift us up and remind us of our worth.
I am starting to understand that if I don’t see my own worth, not only will it be hard for others to do that, but I will likely attract people who will abuse my low self-esteem and feed off (consciously or unconsciously) my willingness to sell myself short and not stand up for myself. Part of turning that around is knowing my value, seeking fair compensation and having really healthy boundaries with regard to my time and energy.
Moving out of child-parent relationship dynamics and becoming the adult I wished I always had steering the ship, is the movement toward autonomy and freedom from cults, from co-dependence, from debt, from abusive relationships. It starts with the ability to say no to the dangling carrot that seems to contain all the answers and trust that deep down I know what’s really good for me and to stay firm in that. Though it may feel like all is lost in that moment of choosing what is truly wholesome and connected to my deepest values, I know all is gained: the doorway to my best life.