Maybe you have heard this ‘under-earning’ term thrown around. Maybe you identify as an ‘under-earner*’ (see some signs below). Or maybe you have never heard it before now?!
When I heard it I winced to see myself so clearly defined - then I felt a wave of relief (I am not alone!) only to crash into an unknown landscape - what do I do with it now? It felt like a mark on my forehead (which it is NOT). I wanted to hide from that label - deny that there was this giant piece to earning that I would need to address.
It is a journey of many steps from that definition to the profound healing on the other side.
In college I cleaned houses as an efficient and flexible way to earn money. My name spread around, and I was hired for 2-3hrs to deep clean a new woman’s kitchen. My rate at the time was $12/hour, and I had already discussed it with her.
I cleaned her kitchen from top to bottom - including the fridge: the inside + the greasy top, the floors, the cabinets. It was a deep, deep clean. I was sweaty, but satisfied - having completed a tall order in the time I was hired for. The woman saw the transformation in the kitchen, and asked, ‘Do you have a few more hours? I would love for you to clean the living room, and bathroom too!’ I was free - I had more time than money, so I happily agreed to continue.
I don’t remember exactly how long I stayed - but I remember it was a long day - at least 6 hours.
To settle up, she calculated my rate x the number of hours I had been there. Fairly straightforward, I thought… I had already done that calculation in my head while on my hands and knees.
When I was little I didn’t learn how to be in conflict skillfully - instead I learned to absorb. To swallow, minimize, or hide my own needs - quickly - in favor of surviving a fight in one piece. This strategy became my patterned response, becoming a deep and unconscious habit. A nervous system override. A way to be in the world. Absorb. Shrink. Your needs are secondary.
“If I pay you $72 that is almost as much as I pay my assistant - and she does much higher level work for me than cleaning. I am going to pay you $50 because that is more reasonable”.
[There are many places I could dive in here - her discomfort with spending money (in general, on herself, on ‘help’), her value system, the injustice, maybe she too was an under-earner and paid herself less than either of us, making $72 feel excruciating in other ways - but I want to focus on my story instead. Because it has taken me a long time to get here. There is a lot of internal healing that I celebrate.]
I quietly accepted the money, was polite and pleasant and probably ‘really nice’ in one way or another. I got in my car and drove away. My heart pounding. A fire raging inside.. Confusion. Anger. And probably righteousness. I was NEVER going to work for HER again!
As I write this I can feel a knot in my solar plexus, and a channel that moves from that place to my throat. My throat feels taught, with a dull ache in it. There is also sadness - my eyes are filled with tears as I type. Healing - it is a loving, yet continuing process. I let the tears fall.
That old, barnacle-like tightness is familiar - and is because my young self didn’t get to speak her truth. In that moment, she responded to conflict - and the discomfort of conflict - in the only way she knew - by absorbing. By swallowing hard and hoping it would pass. But it got stuck. It lodged in her throat.
These are the words I would say freely now “I realize it is more than you anticipated spending, that seeing the two side by side doesn’t seem fair. But we had an agreement that I would be paid x for x hours. You asked me to extend my time cleaning, and it is only fair I be compensated for all the time that I have worked, which is $72.”
The fear of retribution is real - our nervous system kicks into high gear when we sense danger. It takes healing, patience, conscious awareness, and practice to overcome. To respond rather than react.
Being taken advantage of is painful. Maybe your patterned response is different than mine. Maybe this isn't your struggle with money. Or maybe it is similar.
Recognizing where we have abandoned ourselves is filled with a deep, and lonely form of grief. It is much easier to choose resentment, blame, and anger towards another.
When we allow the uncomfortable realization that we played a role in a drama, it is crucial that we recognize that role isn’t "our fault". In fact, our system worked just as it needed: in my case, it chose survival in the only way it knew how, throwing justice overboard as a necessary sacrifice.
We can be filled with gratitude for its’ service. We can allow ourselves to be present to the waves of emotion that need to be felt, clearing the way for new options. These new options allow us to operate more skillfully the next time around, and then the next.
Since I began this work - personally / professionally - I have directly observed my pattern of under-earning, with all its nuances. I have embraced a practice of sitting with - and through - the waves of uncomfortable feelings that arise. Witnessing the sensations in my body - in meditation, yoga, and in my daily life. Learning how to speak my truth - to honor the agreements I have made with myself, first and foremost. With the help and support of many, I have learned new ways of engaging in conflict so my nervous system isn’t hijacked.
Today I celebrate that I am paid what I need to be paid. That I feel compensated for the service that I provide my clients. And most importantly, that I am comfortable receiving and allowing more money - and all forms of prosperity - into my life than I ever could have conceived at 20, 30, or even 40. I have EXPANDED my CAPACITY to receive.
Under-earning is not about how much you make, or don’t make. It isn't about not working (you probably work harder than most). To me it is about one’s comfort receiving - the money you NEED, the compensation you deserve, and reciprocity for the full gift you have given.
I have reframed the term, for myself, to Under-
In this work I am a keeper of stories - many of my clients share similar stories, with different characters, different triggers. We work towards healing in the form of new actions - and we celebrate often.
What is common about every one of them is some form of protection. Protection from rejection. Humiliation. Abandonment. Ridicule. Conflict. And the many other things we have learned to fear.
If what I have shared resonates with you, and you feel ready to transcend your patterned response, I have written some questions that can allow you to begin your exploration… (see below)
If you know you are ready for direct support, register for the Yoga + Prosperity Retreat that Tanya Woods and I will be leading this November at Breitenbush Hot Springs. Registration is now OPEN! It will be a powerful place to accelerate your own transformation.
This retreat is a powerful opportunity for deeper layers to peel away. For clarity to emerge on what has been protecting you from the life you are ready to live - from the prosperity, and yes, MONEY, you desire. It is also about ACTION. What you will put into place after the retreat to materialize what you have envisioned.
When we allow ourselves the time and space to understand, to heal, and then to develop new beliefs, thoughts, and actions - the world opens up. More is possible. More feels inevitable. And that is the most powerful and abundant way to lead your life. It is liberation.
My mission is to support your journey to financial wellness - earning and receiving are a huge piece of the puzzle. I would be honored to support you - from near, or afar.
*These are some signs of under-earning. They are not 'one-time' events, they will likely resonate as a pattern...
Photo by Kira auf der Heide
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