I want you to know, YOU ARE ALLOWED TO NOT FIND JOY IN FREE WORK.
More on that…
My essay a few weeks ago,The Cost of Free definitely struck a chord. I am still receiving emails from readers and also, DMs and comments on IG in response to the idea of true receivership. Much of the response feels like a release. A letting go of the need to churn away in agitation. Permission to stop being part of what has come to be an expected endless cycle of free. A reevaluation of what true receivership means for each of you. I’m glad those points hit home. Along with those thoughts shared, were also comments about the joy that can be found in doing something for free. Some of these responses were genuine. Others, fear based. So I wanted to take a moment to contemplate on a fear based response to finding joy in free.
First, when I talk about free work, I am not referring to volunteer work. Volunteer work is scientifically proven to boost our mood, provide purpose and increase our sense of agency. Many of you, including myself, donate a portion of time, and/or profits to causes that are aligned with our values. And this is important. It is one of the beauties of being human. Volunteerism is a pleasure and also, really, really good for us! Science supports this.
But free work is distinctly different from volunteerism or pro bono work. Science does not support providing your services for free. Free in this case is a serious breach of boundaries and if we really want to parse it out, it actually gets in the way of being able to volunteer, donate and do pro bono work. If we give it all away for free, what’s left? Free work leads to burn out and an inability to actually spend our time and money in ways that are aligned with our deepest values. Further, if you are creative, an artist, or in a profession historically dominated by women - teaching, nursing, caretaking - the expectation is that your time can be stretched into free, because that is what kind, nurturing, people do.
That’s what women do. We give, until it destroys us.
We are meant to believe that offering free work, services, and ideas make us a lovely, kind and big hearted person. It is good to be selfless. Ok. But also, wanting to be fairly compensated for your expertise does not make you a selfish asshole. Here’s where the fear based piece comes in. Deep down we do not want anyone to think we are selfish or demanding. We fear that our contribution is not valuable. That we are not valuable. Our offer must be so good and such a good deal that no one can say no. That they are led by free and who we are is not even part of the equation. When really, who we are is like the entire equation. When you offer your services for free, the connection you make with another is rarely about you. The connection is because you are offering something for free and a lot of people like and want free information. And hiding behind a free offering is a really safe and comfortable place to hide out if you doubt your own worth.
The thing is, you are inherently valuable simply because you exist. You can never know the massive impact your existence has on another. Trust that your presence matters. A lot. Trust that whatever you bring is of value and deserves an equal exchange of energy for your expertise. Being compensated for your expertise is not about not caring. It’s about honoring exactly how much you do care. It's about holding space for another person in the deepest possible sense. Designating part of your precious and valuable energy to another. And this attention and precious energy is a privilege to give and also receive. And personally, I do not offer this deep holding and connection for free. I find no joy in offering it for free. And that’s okay. I am allowed, you are allowed to find less joy or zero joy in offering energy for free. Finding joy in being compensated for your expertise means you are still a human. Still a kind hearted person. People will still like you, I promise. It is okay to ask for an equal or even greater exchange of energy for your attention and expertise. It doesn’t make you greedy, tacky, self-centered, narcissistic, or grandiose. And if you would like that energy to be exchanged in the form of money, hoorah! That’s a good thing. Money is a widely accepted form of energetic exchange.
What I find so interesting is that we connect this potential for joy in free offerings to how much we love what we do. If we really truly love what we do, we would do it for free, right? Especially if we are creative or in a caretaking profession. The expectation is that if we love it we are paid enough already via not forcing ourselves through a miserable work day. Well, I’m going to go ahead and say that’s a hard no for me. I have been fortunate enough to always love what I do. When I don’t, I work really hard to change that and find or create work that I do love. But that doesn’t mean I would do any of the jobs I’ve had for free. I find tremendous joy in being compensated for my time, attention and expertise. I am reminded of the conversation between Dr. Sharon Fieldstone and Ted Lasso after Ted accuses her of not caring about her patients because she is compensated and compensated well for her time. If you are interested, here’s the link to the clip.
If you really truly find joy in offering your services for free, then more power to you. I am glad you have found a system of energetic exchange that is comfortable for you. But if you offer free services because you think that’s what nice people do, or being compensated makes you greedy or grandiose, or that you do not possess the skills worthy of payment, maybe you should try out what fair compensation feels like. If you hate it, great. Keep on keeping on for free.
But, then again, you just might like it.
This week I thought I would share a few of my favorite ideas from Human Design. As you know, I am a big believer that the mystical has a clinical application. When it comes to better understanding ourselves it is fun to try all the things. We have no sure way of knowing what combination of insights is going to lead us to our next level of awareness. Also, psychotherapy is hard work. I find it to be a tremendous amount of output, peppered with very meaningful moments of input by our therapist. But sometimes, especially during times of transition, it can be really helpful to also relax into true receivership. This could be in the form of somatic energy work, astrological reading, reiki, acupuncture, psychic readings and of course Human Design. Our journey of self-discovery doesn't have to be one of the other.
What I think Human Design does a great job of is creating a blueprint or a map of boundary experiments for those of us who tend to live almost entirely in our heads. At its core, I think Human Design is about boundaries. Oftentimes we are really skilled at creating boundaries between people, but not so great when it comes to creating boundaries within ourselves. A just because you can doesn’t mean you should sort of scenario. Humans Design offers a guide of specific sign posts we can reference when making decisions. There is such a release in this, even if it doesn't end up resonating. Just to have an actionable outline to try and experiment with can be so helpful. I find it very relaxing. I imagine that this is the kind of holding that can be felt via faith and religion. And it feels really good. Leaning on these tools during times of transition can be incredibly helpful.
Send your questions firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy to shed more light!
This song! I have faded memories of seeing The Black Crowes blow the roof off the old Maritime Music Hall with this one. One of those car windows all the way down sun in your face wind in your hair kind of songs. It makes me so happy in the present and reminds me of such incredible times in the past. It's been a few years since I've run into Chris Robinson out in West Marin. He looks just like the rest of the long haired bearded guys in chore coats, but becomes one in a million the moment he speaks. That voice. This song always puts me in a state of joy and leaves me happily exhausted from singing at the top of my lungs. I hope you enjoy it too. Hit listen to get a taste.
MY MORNING SONG
The Black Crowes
Dizzy found me last night
Saw some kind of new light
I woke up in a whirlwind
Just you watch my head spin
The spectacle that made you cry
It's a thrill a minute plane ride
It's over time at ring side, no lie
March me down to the seven seas
Bury me with a ruby ring
Kiss me baby on an Easter Sunday day
Make my haze blow awayI hide I seek and I find
Truth in a fable faith in a rhyme
So why you want to bad talk me
Are you surprised by what we see?
Like the tables and the tides turn
On my bed the emperor worn
Is that enough for me, could be
If music got to free your mind
Just let it go cause you never know, you never know
If your rhythm ever falls out of time
You can bring it to me and I will make it alright
And if your soul is let go
Oh you never know, no you never know
And if your heart is beating free
For the very first time it'll be alright