“What is wrong with me?” I asked my brilliant, Oxford-educated, globally-recognized friend, expecting her to chastise me. Instead, she nodded understandingly. “I do it too,” she said. “I did so much work for this company and when they asked me my fee, I told them they could pay me what they thought was fair.” After weeks of work, my girlfriend was paid for her time with a Starbucks gift card.
“There is nothing wrong with us; it’s the way we’ve been socialised,” says business psychologist Dr. Nicole Lipkin. “Women are taught to nurture and help others, and we think in terms of relational emotion—how is this going to impact my relationship? If you’re asking your boss for a raise, that should be it—black and white. Relational emotion takes us to a grey area of ‘What is my boss going to think about me? Do I look greedy? How will this affect my coworker’s bonus?’ The women that are strong negotiators are able to think about what they are worth and what they deserve and logically ask for it. They separate out the emotion.” Even money guru Suze Orman has a catchphrase for this: “Women need to stop putting themselves on sale.”
Knowing I’m hardly the only woman who freezes in the face of asking for what I deserve is comforting, but I was ready to change this self-defeating behaviour, so I made an appointment with Betsy Rosenfeld Vargas. Word on the Tinseltown streets is that Rosenfeld Vargas, a former producer turned life coach, arms you with tools to take control of your life and to be released from whatever is holding you back. Supposedly, her life coaching works faster than therapy (which is good considering my pay-what-you-can problem).
The following week I was in Rosenfeld Vargas’s Beverly Hills office, writing all my innate talents and accomplishments down on giant sticky notes. We spoke about times I had been at the top of my game, times I had taken risks that paid off. One of the things I’m most proud of about myself is that I’m a charitable person. I give a lot of my time and most of my money to people, and especially animals, in need. Rosenfeld Vargas said to me, “You have to charge money! Look at this wall. Look at all of your accomplishments. You are a warrior for good! You don’t demand your value because you don’t see your value.” After she said this, I felt a lump in my throat and then I started to cry. I was so embarrassed, but I just let it all out. It was so difficult for me to even hear that I was a great, talented person, but it felt like my come to Jesus moment.
Here’s the most helpful, behavior-and-mindset-changing advice I took away from my sessions.
#1. Identify your strengths and successes.
Speak your accomplishments and goals out loud as you write them down on poster board, then put that somewhere where you will be reminded of them every day. You need to look and see how talented you are. “Doing this exercise interrupts the self-deprecating instinct with some hard facts on your success,” says Rosenfeld Vargas. When getting ready for your negotiation, take a good hard look at that list and remind yourself you are not your fears, but the sum of your successes.
#2. Write your new script.
From the practice above, you need to come up with a script to simply describe what you do in a powerful way. “You use it when you start feeling like a loser. Instead of clamoring to think of something to say, you have a quick and easy sentence that you have practiced and feel comfortable with,” says Rosenfeld Vargas. Mine is “I’m a warrior for good”—I’ve been saying it aloud and while the people in front of me in the checkout line at Whole Foods think I’ve lost my mind, it’s working well for me.
#3. Practice speaking with clarity.
“Always create a clear statement of work—what is included in your contract and what is not. As caretakers, women go above and beyond whether they are compensated for it or not.” When Rosenfeld Vargas told me this, it really hit home. I’ve had clients of mine stay in my apartment because I though it would be more comfortable for them than being in a hotel with their children. But then I ended up displaced for the week, paying out-of-pocket for a hotel room for myself and a dogsitter for my pets. A man would likely not do this. “If you’re not being paid to manage X, don’t start and expect they are going to recognize your efforts and compensate you. Most likely they won’t,” my life coach reminded me. Interrupt your on-sale instinct by using the above statement of work. “Include your compensation proposal with the number you would want your best friend to get if she/he were up for the job—you wouldn’t stiff her would you?”
#4. Do your homework.
Assign yourself a variety of money-related homework assignments, from taking an inventory of your expenses and creating a budget to writing affirmations and self-acknowledgements. It sounds cheesy but you won’t fight for yourself if you don’t value yourself.
#5. Enlist a sponsor.
Like most life changes, it is essential to set up a support system. Bring a friend on board and send them your goals and accomplishments list so that they can remind you of your value and call you out when you cut yourself down.
I’m getting stronger and better everyday. Women are conditioned to be caretakers. We struggle to see our contribution as something to be compensated for rather than just appreciated. We have to take the personal out of the equation and see our work for what it is: business. Since I usually write beauty, it only seems appropriate to steal my closing line and new motto from L’Oréal Paris: Because You’re Worth It.