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“Stop being so greedy and asking for more money”, and other falsehoods women are told

I got this question in my ASK SHERRY inbox, but it deserves a post of its own.

Hi Sherry, I really admire your journey in leveLling up in your career.

As I’ve been job searching and sharing negotiation stories, I’ve run up against weird comments from friends and family members like “don’t be greedy” or “money doesn’t buy happiness.”

How do you handle people who have completely different money mindsets from you? Beyond the study “Experienced well-being rises with income, even above $75,000 per year,” we know that money can buy peace of mind. I know and have lived that scarcity mindset and am trying to rise above it.

These needling comments me question whether I deserve to ask for more from life.

MY ANSWER

You know these studies about how $75K is enough money and so on? I would like to point out that these are generalized studies and not necessarily pertinent to many things such as where you live (high cost of living is brutal), and what other responsibilities you may have with that money, as if you are single with $75K it is a different story from having 3 kids as a single mother making $75K.

I like and dislike these studies. I like them for their reading value, and making me reflect upon how much money one really needs, questioning if people actually need to be billionaires in this day and age, and on a personal level, what my own bare bones amounts would be, and so on.

I dislike these studies because it makes people anxious and makes them feel like they are doing something wrong that they want more money or need it (for whatever reason). Of course, we all know how above a basic subsistence poverty living level, now enters the territories of how comfortable your life becomes (do you live in a bachelor or a 2-bedroom apartment?), has a big part in how you spend your money, and how you think you should be spending that money which MAY generate discontent with how much you are making. If you think you should be living in a 2000-square foot home and not a bachelor’s apartment, OF COURSE you need more money. Do you NEED to, on a subsistence level? No. A home is a home, and not a makeshift shelter on the streets, but then we are getting into another topic.

Not only that, it depends on the pond you swim in. If you make $75K where your peers and colleagues pull in $200K, you’ll feel even worse about yourself, regardless of any study you read. You won’t feel great because you’re a small fish in a big ocean. Then you also read studies about how the happiest people are the poorest living in the slums, but it is all taken out of context, in the sense that.. basically everyone there is happy as maybe:

(A) They do not know there is more, nor need or desire for more as there is no example of it in their lives, or…

(B) they are all in the same boat, so to speak, and derive great comfort in having a huge community just like them, which increases their happiness. Now, if you offered them a chance to leave that life and be in the lap of luxury, would they say no? Or yes? My point is context and environment matters as well, so when you see “$75K” and you compare it to people earning $100 a year in a slum in a Third World country, it is not a fair comparison.

Ahem. Now onto your actual question.

I would question why you even care what they think to some extent. Their comments MAY be coming from a place of good, and of a caring nature like “omg don’t burn yourself out for $10K more“… or it may be coming from a place of jealousy that you are indeed, moving up and asking for more money which is what you are worth. I suspect the latter, but I do not want to be putting words in people’s mouths.

I am also assuming, based on the question, that you are a woman. I inferred this from just the way you wrote the experience out, but also that… women are the most likely ones to even care about what people think about them, and IN GENERAL (not always), are conditioned to not be selfish, along with carrying major guilt in everything you can imagine and a hint of Imposter Syndrome.

So let’s begin with that:

WOMEN ARE TOLD TO BE GRATEFUL FOR CRUMBS

This is something everyone (especially women) struggle with because we are told many things. Let’s go through a few, just off the top of my head:

Don’t ask for more than you “deserve”

What does “deserve” mean? The bar seems to be set pretty low, if they think you are asking for MORE than you deserve, ergo, are they saying you don’t deserve more than $75K? The bar for “deserve” is subjective.’ But if you are objectively searching and seeing for your work product, your results, your knowledge and self, you DO INDEED deserve more than $75K, what are they really saying about you when you are asking for more? We are going past just the $75K objective job mark right now. We are talking about judgements on your worth as a person. Or am I reading too much into this?

At any rate, I find a lot of women are told to not ask for more than they ‘deserve’, and it bothers me because I am the only one who can determine what I deserve or not. Do not try and gaslight me to tell me I deserve only X amount of money, when I feel in my gut and see salaries back me up that I do “deserve” more.

Women are supposed to make themselves smaller, not bigger

Hoo boy. We are going past “don’t cause trouble” scenarios that I replay out with my little boy on a regular basis. We are talking about gendered expectations here. Women, at least, in my own personal anecdotal experience, are taught to not make trouble. How many times have you heard people fondly say “boys will be boys”, when they cause a ruckus and start trouble, but when girls do the exact same thing, people are horrified at how unladylike they are acting.

Let that sink in. Let’s get a real example – a guy goes out, parties until 3 a.m., comes home drunk and misses his test the next morning because of his hangover. A girl does the same thing. Which one do you immediately judge? It should be both of them really, but we are as a society, more likely to forgive the boy for his transgressions and think that the girl was morally in the wrong for even being out past some prescribed curfew to begin with, let alone DRINK and COME HOME LATE.

As a result, any act you take to make yourself known, heard, seen, and acknowledged, is seen as making yourself BIGGER AND PEOPLE FIND THIS UNCOMFORTABLE.

By asking for more money you’re being ‘bigger’ and are more “out there”. You are asking them to acknowledge you as a great worker who deserves more money because damn it, you asked for it and you should damn well get it.

Speaking up during meetings, asserting yourself – these are all “big” actions that say – Hey. Don’t ignore me. I am a contributing hardworking colleague as well. Do NOT dismiss me. … are all actions that make many people uncomfortable because women are standing up for themselves when there has been no precedent of this. We are meant to be quiet, and stay in the background, working like busy bees.

Women are supposed to ALWAYS “think of others”

Oh this one. Le sigh. This one, is definitely something I was conditioned to think as I grew up. “Think about others, why are you taking another slice of pie? Don’t you see you’re smaller and should therefore not eat as much as your bigger siblings? Let them have the second slice” … Hogwash, I was hungrier! I WANTED that second slice, and yet, we are supposed to always give up what we want, to let others have what they want.

In terms of negotiation, it is because they somehow erroneously think the salary pie is limited, and furthermore, limited for women. So if you take $10K more, you’re taking $10K from another woman. This is obviously nonsense.

There is no separate HIRING budgetS for women or men.

There are budgets for workers, and if they don’t want to pay you more money for the job BECAUSE YOU ARE A WOMAN, leave and find a company who will. You aren’t stealing any pies from anyone else. There is no set pie, there is only work that has to get done, and people to compensate for said work.

Women are supposed to to be nice

This one is super negotiations-relevant. By nice, they mean that we don’t talk about money because money is not a nice topic. Ever hear “we don’t discuss money, it isn’t polite?” I have. We aren’t supposed to talk about salaries, money, negotiating, and anything pertaining to “greed” because it is not virtuous to not be nice, but ESPECIALLY FOR WOMEN, of whom we have some sort of Madonna complex as an ideal. (insert gagging sound here)

So in negotiations, nice women don’t negotiate because negotiations express dissatisfaction and discontent, therefore, you aren’t being “nice” when you argue with your future or current employers. When you ask for more money, you are going against this Madonna ideal of a woman (a total myth), and you are showing yourself as a person, and it bothers people. It bothers a lot of people, to the point where even recruiters feel distaste when women ask for more money because it doesn’t fit in their heads of what a woman acts like.

Newsflash: Women can act the way they want to act, and they are still women, and acting like women. Not acting, or acting in certain ways does not make you more or less of a woman. It is all valid because you, as a woman, are doing it, ergo, it’s acting like a woman.

Women aren’t supposed to be greedy, they should be selfless martyrs

Same deal with the Madonna thing I mentioned above. One need not look farther than in their own family dynamic to see that women even today, take on the bulk of housework, childrearing AND work a full-time job, despite having partners at home, because … you should STFU and take it because that’s your lot in life, having been born with a vagina. Sorry for your bad genetic luck, but you can definitely blame your father for this genetic flaw /sarcasm …even though for centuries, mothers have been unfairly blamed for not being able to produce sons, the preferred gender in many societies.. *insert vomit emoji face here*

Women are glamourized for being selfless (MADONNA), to the point where they lose all sense of their own self, and it gets worse being a mother, while being told to shut up and accept it. It is not a feminine trait to ask for more. You should be happy with the crumbs you are thrown. /sarcasm

You should accept that life SUCKS FOR WOMEN because your great-great-great-great-grandmothers, all the way down to your mother, accepted this crappy lot in life, and did not complain because they loved being martyred (did they really?), and showed how “real women” did it, by accepting things that absolutely they should not have accepted if they had been respected in the same way men were, and this toxic femininity leads them to then berate younger women for not being “real women”.

What. A. Load. Of. Hogwash. They did it all, they sacrificed EVERYTHING even themselves, and were proud to do it because that’s what they have been conditioned to believe was what women did. Can you even believe this? Now, re-read that and replace it when “men”, and tell me if anyone would accept that fathers and sons would accept the same crap and be happy being treated like a doormat. No takers?

I AM NEARING THE END, I PROMISE

I could go on, but you get my drift. Women are generally told to tamp down on these things because it shows that we are expecting, and asking to be treated fairly, equally, and with respect. SHOCK HORROR GASP.

This is the wrong thing to think, frankly speaking.

Ask yourself if they would say such things to a successful man.

Ask yourself if they really believe money doesn’t buy happiness, because it sure seems like if you’ve got a truckload of it, you can throw money at any issue – childcare, cleaning, food increases, inflation, debt, etc – whereas if you don’t have enough, or you are struggling, is that better?

Why is it noble to be seen as someone who took LESS MONEY for the same amount of work?

Why is it a good thing to ask for less than what you are worth? You’re just hamstringing yourself, but what’s the end result? You’re the one forced to (quietly without noise, mind you), suffer the consequences of being unable to have more than enough money to live and be generous with your excess.

Oh wait, is it because you’re a woman and therefore have different rules applying to you now? This is making more sense.

If their comments are coming from a – Hey, please watch your mental health and make sure you don’t kill yourself for more money – then I am completely in the wrong with what I said above. Ignore me. But it sounds to me like a toxic, and/or jealous commentary that you should simply ignore and smile as you climb your way up the salary ladder, crush it, and feel secure financially without having to rely on anyone else but yourself.

Ultimately, you’re the one in charge here. You are the one who is making that money. You’re the one who will be in a strong financial position and you can say things like – YEAH. I MAKE THAT MONEY. I EARNED IT.

I have been told in the past I too, was “greedy” for asking for so much money, but this was coming from a guy who earned the same amount, but could not, in his little narrow mind, imagine a woman would make as much as him. It was inconceivable.

TIME TO TELL YOURSELF YOU DESERVE IT

Ultimately, the only opinion and commentary you should be acknowledging, is the one you are telling and giving yourself. If you deserve more money, because you are indeed, supposed to be making $130K and not $75K, then ask for it. Only you should be the one loving yourself enough to ignore these petty, shady comments, because you are true to who you are.

Personally, the more money I make, the better off everyone around me is because after a certain point, the excess goes to family, friends, charity and being generous with spending such as leaving big tips even just for takeout, or simply not quibbling over prices at a small business because they deserve that income for the work being produced.

Whenever people tell me I am being greedy, I ignore them. I know what I am worth, I know what I should earn and if I don’t get it, I will find a company that values me, because they will get the best work output as a result.

Do you believe this as well, for yourself? That’s the real question here. Otherwise, no one else’s opinions will matter to you because they don’t pay your bills.

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