Today I was struck by an old adage. It's not new to me but the way I understand it has changed.
Originally I came across this in a film where an older woman was schooling a younger woman in the art of courtship and feminine wiles - which was basically flutter your eyelashes, blush, giggle and make him feel like he's in control etc. BUT she did say something that stuck with me, "no one will want the cow if you give the milk away for free."
I understand the crux of this statement and the puritanical nature of her words and the "keep your legs together and remain a virgin or a man of standing won't want you" script she was preaching - be the good Eve - believe me, I get that. And while I also fully support and know that sexual experimentation and sexual behaviour when conducted with consciousness are beautiful things, I can't help but wonder if there's some truth to the statement but not in a sexual context.
I watched a video by Tanishka for the 11:11 portal and in it she pointed out that in the last financial year she managed a profit that was only 13% of her entire income and much of that was expenses she incurred because of the free content she provided on social media platforms. She also pointed out that the lesson for her has been in marrying the inner divine feminine that wants to provide all the wisdom and all the things for free with the divine masculine which provides for her security through income, in this case.
A common topic covered in many Spiritual circles and particularly for women in business is when to charge and how much. There is a lot of work that needs to be done on a collective level for women and money as it is one of the underlying issues that stops us finding independence. We still see, in many cases, women being underpaid, overlooked, or feeling uncomfortable seeking a raise or even setting prices for their skills - admittedly, it's an area that I need to work too.
And it takes me back to the milk for free statement. Women, traditionally, are expected to give ourselves away. Our authority, our desires, our dreams, our bodies, the list goes on and money is no exception. There is an underlying belief system that women don't earn as much as men, or that women have to help and help needs to be freely given.
But what if that's wrong? What if women don't need to help? Or at the very least, what if women don't need to help freely? There's the usual discussion around appropriate boundary setting that we can have; to make sure we aren't giving too much of ourselves away and depleting. We've had those and to what end? Boundaries are necessary. We all know this. What if we need to start talking about an exchange? And no, I'm not suggesting that we refuse to help if people can't 'afford' us but I am suggesting that to give repeatedly and constantly, receiving only gratitude in return is unbalanced, and it isn't fair and equitable. What invariably ends up happening is a sense of resentment in offering something of value that was given away. To truly appreciate and cherish something and even to fully work with it, there needs to be an exchange of equal value. And I'm going to say it, the person giving their expertise needs to be able to pay their bills. Does this mean that we exclude those who are deemed unfinancial or unable to afford the assistance or guidance they require - no, not one bit. Let me ask you this - would you be happy to create | develop | market | supply | organise | and deliver something you have gained, learned, or discovered constantly for free? If you are then you are a better person than me.
I've been faced with the question around dropping prices or providing services for free and I've examined if my reluctance is based in a fear of lack or scarcity and can honestly say that I don't feel it is. I've 'invested' in free courses and ebooks myself, and even cheap courses and ebooks that are on sale for $0.99 for 24 hours and you know what? I didn't read them. I didn't start them. And I didn't engage with it. Because I was not adequately invested in it. I've offered free tickets and people don't attend because there is nothing for them to lose. It is dead energy.
An energy exchange is a spiral and it reciprocates: The creator releases their vision to the world (energy out), the consumer is attracted to it (energy in), the consumer trades the creator for their work (energy out) the creator accepts the trade (energy in). The consumer engages with the product (energy out), the creator is inspired to continue creating (energy in) and so it goes. It is a continually evolving and revolving upward swirl and it is a beautiful dance.
Dead energy is where it cannot continue the spiral: The creator releases their vision (energy out), the creator gives their work out for free (energy out), the consumer receives the product (energy in). Done. There is nothing reciprocal here and there is no spiral. All it serves to do is to burn out the creator. There is no reciprocation here.
The creator gave their milk away for free and no one invested in the cow.
This doesn't only relate to those of us in business either, this relates to ALL people, men and women. I speak from a woman's perspective because that's how I identify myself and that is my journey but it doesn't not mean it is any less relevant to the person who runs a household or works in a corporate office.
Dare I say it? This lack of exchange is our daily lives is a microcosm of the macrocosm - we see this playing out in larger spheres of our world - businesses pushing their workers for more but paying less, governments cutting money to services but expecting the services to provide the same quality, people taking from natural resources expecting it never to deplete while giving nothing back. These are all themes we see in everyday life and they magnify and amplify as larger ripples.
Why am I writing about this? I am seeing around me lots of people burning out. Overgiving, no fair exchange, taking and no giving, or giving and no taking. It's rife and it is completely unbalanced. We need to come back to understand that everything we do must have an equal exchange, whether that be money, or goods for service through a barter agreement. Whether that's a massage for a home cooked meal or even something as simple as a cup of coffee in repayment for a sandwich.
We are constantly looking for the next thing to catch our attention but the first thing we look at is the price and we go, "oooooh, that's expensive" and we brush it off not daring to investigate and evaluate its value. Equally, how many of us get asked to do something for those around us and think, of it as "inconvenient" but expect that things are done for us?
This is the same when we interact with people, we take and we take and we take but how often do we stop to ask, what have I given in exchange? And equally we give, and we give, and we give but how many times do we stop and ask, how much of what I've given is returned in kind?
Boundaries and energy exchange are not pretty topics to cover but they are necessary to help address imbalance.
Evaluate where your precious energy is being sent.