Are You Giving Yourself Away For Free?

Written by Mandy Burstein

All my life, I've lived with a heart wide open. Loving, giving, beating, always for sake of others. Living this way caused me lots of joy, but also lots of pain and heartache. Secretly, I loved the pain. Craved the pain. Wore the pain like a badge of honor. Because, as I thought, “Who would want to live any other way?”

I was proud of the depth of my pain because it reflected how deeply I loved and cared. And one simply can't experience deep, deep pain without having deeply, deeply loved. So, in my mind, it all made sense. Love deep, hurt deeper. That’s all there was to it.

Prior to meeting my husband, the pain mostly revolved around boys. Adolescent boys who capitalized on my bottomless love and affection and cast it to the wind. That caused me immeasurable pain. The type of wild teenage pain that makes you feel like you're going absolutely bat-shit crazy.

Now that my man situation is happily on lockdown and pain free, my new source of pain seems to stem predominantly from business affairs. I thrust my heart into new projects in the same way I used to thrust my heart into the negligent hands of those boys a decade ago. With each new business dealing, I trust that my partner has my best interests in mind, just as I did in those youth-filled love dealings.

But, burn after burn, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: No one should have your back more than you.

Even in the yoga and healing world, I come across people who are Takers. Plain and simple. They take as much of your time, energy and resources as you were willing to give, and then take a little bit more. And boy, was I willing to give. A LOT.

When you're forging a new career for yourself, the tendency is to work really hard and expect little in return, at least for the first few years. But I’ve come to find out that this way of thinking is extremely flawed. By presenting yourself to the world as someone who will work hard for little, people view you in that way and get used to treating you accordingly. In the exact same way that young relationships can be severely imbalanced in regards to who gives and who takes, these exact same patterns can reappear, 10 years later, as an adult navigating the big, bad world of business.

Now, a few years into my yoga career, I find myself giving this same bit of advice to every new teacher-training graduate I mentor or come across: KNOW YOUR VALUE. From day one. Even when teaching your very first yoga class to a group of friends in a park, know your value. Even if you only charge them $5 each for your hour-long class, charge them those whole five dollars and make sure they pay it. Give nothing away for free. Your time, energy and education is so valuable. What if yoga teacher trainings were given away for free? That would start to diminish their value and the public would view them differently. It’s as simple as that. By placing a tangible value on your time and energy, you establish your value to your students and, on a bigger scale, to the universe.

I find that, as women, we have a tough time establishing our worth to the world. We give a lot away for free. And we enjoy it. But over time, the “takers” of the world will keep on taking and taking until you can’t take it anymore. Trust me. The day will come when you’ve had enough. And believe me, it's a super-frustrating and not-so-loving placing to be. So, do yourself a favor and establish your value now. Know what you’re worth and hold yourself to it.

When I envision the type of woman I strive to become, this mantra comes to mind: “Strong Spine, Open Heart.” Through all the years of heart-break, both personally and professionally, I stay committed to living life with a wide-open heart. But, that doesn't mean that I’m OK with being taken advantage of. That’s where the “strong spine” comes into play. Start first with a strong spine -- meaning a strong sense of knowing who you are, what you are worth and what you will tolerate. Once that is established, the heart can be as wide-open as you please. Let your love flow bountifully and unconditionally. Because now that you’ve established your strength, nothing can get in the way of your loving heart.

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