I read this article recently about the inherent value of livelihood, charging for work and the storm the surrounds what, exactly, dictates one’s worth in their chosen field. The article Tl; dr is as follows: Don’t put a price tag on your value as a human. I agree and I don’t. I don’t agree because avoiding a truth doesn’t make it disappear (we yogi’s tend to try and avoid issues on money in general) and as a professional teacher or studio owner – money matters. I don’t agree because I think that worth and value exist as a spectrum and this spectrum is not black and white. It isn’t a “ you are what you earn “ or “ you should never bring money into the determination of value” thing, it is the soft spaces in between that make up what how we perceive our worth and the worth of others in the field of work.
I think about stuff like this a lot because I am that odd mix of cerebral and emotional. I want data to make decisions and at times lament the decisions I must make based on those facts because of how they affect others. Logical me has always wondered about the hierarchical system of worth associated with work, for example, those that work in the hard sciences tend to earn more than those who do similar work in the humanities. Similarly, those with less education are thought to be worth less than those with higher level degrees. I wonder to what standard is the value of education or the skill of worker determined in this situation and why? I wonder how the knowledge of a value scale helps or hinders those caught up in this situation. It seems that I shouldn’t worry too much because people continue to become mechanics and teachers and professors regardless of the value society assigns to these professions. The soft parts of me would like to believe that like myself, people engage in these careers because they love it and find it to be rewarding and this intrinsic reward paired with an external monetary reward is a motivating factor.
Conversely, working my “real job” in a state run education system, rife with bureaucracy and a set of rules that predicate forced equality (systemized pay raises, work based only on a predetermined outline) established by arbitrary ideals such as time spent in the system has been eye opening. Jobs like this emphasize what happens when worth and value are decoupled from work. It appears to me that those who are not asked to assign value to a job and are instead asked to provide the minimum amount of effort for a disproportionate return simply don’t perform. I find that the removal of value from what one spends upwards of 8 hours a day doing creates a vacuum of creativity, motivation, gratification with processor accomplishment and to be frank, love of what a person calls their “work”.
Unstack: Does compensation have something to do with our perception of personal value? In the society in which I live I can only say yes and I don’t say it reticently. I was born into a world where the “Horatio Horn blower” story still infuses our economic and social belief system. Personal accomplishment is a boon, the drive to accomplish one’s goals, to fulfill dreams and to experience success is rewarded. They are valued. In this society (America) capitalist ideas allow for the development and constant movement of a free market society, the ability to work is a right as well as a personal edict of power because it fulfills a deeply rooted drive to create. This drive is rewarded with monies and I would posit that it is the drive that is the important factor and in a way, this is where the grey area begins. The place where external motivation stops and internal motivation starts because money can only go so far and honestly – the fire of the self can only burn so hot without something from the outside fueling it…if it could then a reward system for work done wouldn’t exist.
In this world, at this point in time I have been gifted the ability to find something I love and work hard at it. As a woman, I can most definitely say that it would have been much harder for me to become educated, to work in the corporate world and to define the terms by which I find personal worth 50 years ago. As with many other things, who we are and what we do are only partially dictated by what we choose to buy in to. I agree with the article in its assessment that the price tag I affix to myself is a practical consideration, I ask for a specific amount of money for a number of reasons and one of those is because of my perceived value. I honestly hope that every single teacher out there sits down and assesses what they provide for others and what that translates to in terms of compensation. BUT – I would also note that placing value on my work also means that I place value on how I can improve what I offer with further education, more dedication to what I love, more creativity and passion. . Do I consider this money thing when I go in to teach a class? Fuck no. I think about the value and worth that I can give to others through my teaching and the value I get from being able to be a yoga teacher period. Teaching is my job and money is only a small subset of it. In fact, my job is a small subset of a larger wheel – that of the self and how I perceive who I am in total. I am not simply my job – it – along with the disparate parts of it are a fact of me. Just like how I look, how I’ve been educated, where I live, how I speak, how I choose to write, who I choose to love etc.
Value worth and yoga.
The world of Yoga is this weird “other” place where as teachers and studio owners we KNOW that finding the value of work is important but we tend to shirk the duty of knowing why it is important. I mention this because as of late I’ve been considering the business of yoga and how, even though it has become an Americanized practice, we teachers tend to eschew that it is a business and a small business at that. I find that this is the case because teachers are lovers of the craft first and become business owners and teachers to support the love. Previously I mentioned that I am a knowledge hound and my recent pursuits of information about yoga as a business tell me this: there is almost no firm data out there about the business of yoga. I posit that this is because yoga teachers haven’t been able to assimilate love for the practice and the monetization of said practice. If you are anything like me, no one really mentioned the cost analysis of teaching or studio ownership during your training. In effect the inattentiveness to the business aspects of yoga are passed down from student to trainer to student and will continue to work in this way unless we as teachers decide to allow for business and practice to find a space together in our lives as a part of the larger wheel of who we are. What if instead of stating that we shouldn’t assign a dollar amount to what we do we instead say that we must understand the necessity of it but there are other aspects to teaching that are equally valuable Like the interaction with students, other teachers and ourselves while on the mat? I find that this is a much better solution and a way to move into the fluid area of work and self-value. Cutting out the idea of payment for services rendered or even pride being able to be a functional teacher and/or studio owner that charges for said services can only help improve the community as a whole.
The end. True story.
- WeTeachMe: A New Way for Teachers to Share Knowledge (triplepundit.com)
- Yoga Teaching without Sight (elementaladvice.wordpress.com)
- The (Not-so-Glamorous) Reality of Being a Yoga Teacher. ~ Jen Mullholand (elephantjournal.com)
- Being The Teacher (bekahoutsidethebox.com)