“What’s in it for me?”

“What’s in it for me?”

I am almost afraid to post this because I know far too many people who want something for nothing, but will risk it for the sake of those out there breaking their back without getting what is due them.

Recently I had someone in my business world ask me for a favor, a friend of a friend. Someone I had not known but for minutes except through an introduction by a dear friend of mine. The stranger and I talked for a bit on the phone and he asked for a favor, he wanted something of mine that was quite dear to me, something that I had fought hard to get, and something I had grown to cherish. I investigated further by email after our chat into what exactly he was wanting with it, would it be good for my treasure, and then suddenly these words came out of my keyboard as I typed a reply, “Lastly, what is in it for me?”

I literally stopped typing as my hands froze hovering they keyboard as the words began to seep further into my mind. I could not believe what I just wrote. I actually said the words, “What’s in it for me?” This probably sounds absurd to anyone born in the 2000s. However, it resonated with me all day. It was like putting on a type of foreign, tribal, clothing I had never worn before. It was quite literally the first time I had ever said that. It is so fundamental yet unfamiliar.

I don’t know if it was because I was raised in the south, or perhaps an expectation due to  a conservative religious upbringing where one was raised to give without expectations (it was subtextual mostly but quite prevalent even today), or being the daughter of a workhorse of a woman who gave enormously and sacrificially, actually beyond what was healthy. Though the role of women varies greatly from house to house, across the country, and across the world, the idea that women should be all-giving without question still exists. Albeit in America, women are far more privileged than other parts of the world, the women here in this situation need to realize without asking, “What’s in it for me?” they may land themselves in a place of being so depleted they have nothing to give anyone anymore.

In any case, this realization was phenomenal. I suddenly became increasingly appreciative that one of my mate’s primary tenants rests on his disdain for the abuse of power. I began to look back and see that, as an adult, I allowed myself to get taken advantage of and abused personally and professionally for as long as I could remember. Maybe the extent to the reasons why I allowed this are not covered here in this article, but the point is the same. It is ok to watch out for yourself… in fact, it is good to. Historically and even now, men are expected to ask that question. Traditionally, what sort of man who be able to provider without asking that.

Younger girls may not understand the hubbub. It sort of goes back to the idea that “if women ask they are bossy, if men ask they are bosses” type mentality. Mind you, I am more of a 3rd wave of feminism type girl and have a tough time swallowing radical, fiery, hate fueled feminism soapboxing at all. This is just an observation not designed to start some sort of sexist argument. In fact, these days, I know a lot of men who subconsciously allow themselves to get rolled over. The same self preservation question applies to those hard working, unselfish guys.

In the end I realized something rather mind boggling. It is downright amazing that I am still even here. I would like to see where I would have gotten in life if I had started asking this earlier because I know my innate self sacrificing nature would have been able to balance it. Today I stand here grateful, not to those who abused their power over me, but to all those who were kind to me when they could have easily taken advantage. I built a company built on respect and kindness which has allowed me to be surrounded by loving, giving, and talented men and women. Thank goodness I was born in a country where the women in the generation before me paved the way so that I could make an agency on my own and live by standards I value and where I aim to provide a safe haven for all of us to grow.


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