In 2011, my life felt like a disaster. I was a holistic practitioner, but I lost my award-winning wellness practice in the wake of the Great Recession. I was 55, with no prospects, no financial savings, no family members who would help, and friends who seemed to vanish into thin air. I found myself on my own with no hope in sight. But in the midst of this painful financial and emotional bankruptcy, I decided to change my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about my professional value and money.

First, I gained a brand new understanding of respect. You know the oft-spoken business mantra, “The customer is always right?” That’s a huge load of unempowering crap. If I act like a professional, I decided, I deserve respect from my client. Before my work as a dominatrix, I didn’t have solid boundaries and expectation for full respect in return for my dedication. Now, I demand it.

As a dominatrix, one of my favorite things to do when a client shows up late is to rope his cock and balls up towards his abdomen for full exposure. Once everything is secure, I duct tape him to the wall in an X position and leave the room. I return armed with a sturdy plastic bow and arrow set.

“Well, you know Mistress is athletic, so let’s see how well I aim,” I say. As I raise the bow and pull back the arrow, aiming at the sub’s cock and balls, I ask, “Are you going to be late again?”

“No, Mistress,” he says, and I shoot and hit his abdomen.

“This is fun,” I say. “Let me try again.” I pull back the arrow. “Are you going to be late again?” I ask.

“No Mistress,” he says. I hit his upper thigh…

This continues until I actually hit the target or get tired of picking up the arrows. After I release the sub, he must give me body worship that includes a foot and leg massage to show his sincere regret for his tardiness.

Mistress Vivian Foot Worship

I realize that it’s unacceptable in most real-world situations to duct tape and punish someone for being late, and I would of course never react that way outside of work. I do, however, see it as a waste of my time and feelings when other people act inconsiderately toward me. As a former ladder-climbing people pleaser, this was a difficult lesson to learn, but now, after someone shows me more than once who they are by disrespecting my time and feelings, I don’t go back for more. This now applies to every area of my life and is an incredible improvement from where I was—overly accommodating and self-sacrificing to a harmful degree—just a few years ago.

When I was running my wellness studio, there was a part of me that felt like I didn’t deserve the money that I was making. A pressure to give potential clients “a deal” no matter what, and I always answered, “yes” when asked whether my fees were negotiable because I believed that sticking to my fees would make me lose the business. Some money always seemed better than no money at all.

I realize now that this strategy is unfounded and harmful long-term. In essence, I was projecting to the world, “I am willing to work like a dog. And I am willing to work like a dog for very little money. I am willing to do this because I don’t deserve ‘real wealth,’ so I will settle for whatever I’m offered.”

When I started to take charge of my own life, one of the first steps I took was putting different energy out into the Universe regarding money. I decided there was no way I was going back to my old tired ways of thinking and stressing about money, so I started believing that money flows effortlessly to me and that my supply is continuously replaced according to my needs and desires.

This helped me change my mindset immensely, as did going to work in The Dungeon, surrounded by women who wouldn’t hesitate to spit in a client’s face and then tear apart his wallet if he disrespected their worth. I remember hearing the Head Mistress on the phone with a client discussing his appointment. Just before she hung up, she yelled into the phone, “And don’t forget to bring the money!” I loved it! It was so refreshing to be working with a group of women who wouldn’t take any shit from anyone, and who knew their self-worth without question.

These days, I only put positive thoughts about my acceptance and relationship with wealth and money. I don’t overwork myself because I realize money is continually replaced and that I don’t need to stress over income. I let go of my fears about wealth, and I gave up caring what other people think of me and my income. Most important of all, though, I no longer allow anyone to devalue me. If a potential client contacts me and asks if my expected fee is negotiable, I don’t hesitate to give them a firm, confident, unwavering “no,” because even no money is vastly preferable to money that comes with the heavy baggage of disrespect, overwork, and needless self-sacrifice. All of us deserve more than that, and asserting our worth is guaranteed to make us happier people with richer, more fulfilling lives in the long run.

Sandra LaMorgese Ph.D. is an expert in bridging the gap between a lifestyle that focuses on holistic health of the mind, body and spirit. Her professional specialties are life transformation, interpersonal communication, beauty, health, wellness, and sexual intimacy. She is an author, a featured Huffington Post blogger, podcast host, award winning motivational speaker, a sexpert, metaphysician, holistic practitioner, ordained Reverend and was listed as having the “Coolest Job in NYC” by Thrillist NYC

Sandra has been featured as an expert on The Howard Stern Show, Dr.Oz, New 12 To Your Health, Artrepreneur, Medical Daily, Forbes, FORTUNE Magazine, Thrillist NYC, Alternet, New Jersey Life Magazine, POSE Magazine, and The LYFE Magazine, among other media highlights, in addition to writing and publishing articles on the topics of life transformation, health, beauty, vitality, intimacy, and sexuality.