We have lots of conflicting emotions about money. We think it is good, bad, evil and everything in between. We feel guilty for having too much or angry for having so little. We let money define our worth, so we start living beyond our means to remain competitive with our neighbors, friends, family and co-workers. Until one day we wake up and realize we are in trouble. Even worse, the blame rests solely at our feet. Now we succumb to another popular myth and believe ourselves to be a “bad person” for allowing this to happen. Does this sound familiar?
I have seen countless people fall prey to the belief that they are a “bad person” because they have debt or made money mistakes. Whether they realize it or not, they have stamped themselves with a “bad” label and walk around in shame. This affects their ability to take action and get out of debt because they are so busy beating themselves up. Their energy goes towards punishing themselves, rather than taking positive action. Debt is a serious issue, but it does not represent who you are. Don’t give it that much power.
Of course, the easy answer is you lived beyond your means. But why? Did you lack the funds when an emergency occurred? Or were you trying to keep up with the Joneses? Or buying things to cope with your emotions? Understanding the “why” is critical to changing your behaviors. So let’s more closely examine the two most common myths people believe that lead to debt.
This is one of the biggest myths that get so many people into trouble. We believe debt is normal. In fact, some believe it’s more abnormal to not have debt, than it is to have debt. Is this something you believe? Or did a friend, co-worker or family member say something that made you think debt was okay? Or were you teased for declining to do something because you couldn’t afford it or it wasn’t in your budget? Many people end up in credit card debt because they blindly followed what others told them.
The Reality: Lots of people do have debt but that does not make it good or bad. Debt is debt and all debt has risk. Sometimes the risk is worth it. Other times it’s not. Most credit card debt is not worth the risk. At the same time, I don’t want you to irrationally fear debt either. Once again, you are giving your money and emotions all your power. You need to be in control. This means truly understanding debt and how it impacts your goals, so you know when it makes sense to leverage it and when it doesn’t.
Money has become a barometer to our self-worth. We feel if we have to say “no” to ourselves, our spouses, our children, our friends that we have somehow failed. Feeling as though we have failed loved ones is a powerful emotion, and it can cause even the most rational person to pull out their credit card. This particularly affects parents. The look of disappointment in our children’s faces can be devastating and conjure up our own bad memories of feeling deprived (even if we truly weren’t).
The Reality: You may feel as though you have failed in the moment but you haven’t. In fact, you have done just the opposite. You protected your family’s financial security by making smart choices with how you used your family money. You need to embrace this and make sure your kids do as well by always including the “why” when you tell your kids “no”. It doesn’t mean they will be happy that you can’t/won’t buy them the toy they want, but they will understand your money has another intended purpose. And if you can tie the reason “why” to something you are working together as a family to achieve, then you may be able to avoid any unhappiness or complaints from them.
We need to own-up to our mistakes and learn from them, but we are not our mistakes. I see so many people carry around immense guilt and shame over their past money mistakes. It’s understandable that you may not be proud of some of your past decisions, but you also need to recognize and celebrate the fact that you no longer make the same mistakes today. You now make money decisions that support your goals and financial well-being. Don’t hide your mistakes, but instead use them as a cautionary tale to prevent your kids from repeating your mistakes. Most importantly, let them know that money mistakes do not make you a bad person or define who you are.
Also I really really really like the redesign! Looks great!
Your money does not define you, as you said above. We all make choices throughout our lives and we all do some things that we may regret. But as you said, if you use all of your energy to dwell on your mistakes, financial, or otherwise, you will never move forward. And, honestly, moving forward feels so much better than sitting on the sofa crying about how much money you owe.
I love how you said money mistakes do not define us. I sometimes feel ashamed of the money mistakes that I've made. But now that my kids are young adults I need to celebrate the hurdles we've jumped and not focus on those mistakes.
It's sad that nowadays we're judged by how much we have in our accounts when I think it's what we have under our roof is what truly matters.
Thanks for such a feel-good post!
Have a great new week!
It's normal to feel regret or even ashamed of your past money mistakes, but I'm glad you are focusing less on your mistakes and more on how far you have come. I really commend you for sharing your past mistakes with your kids, so they can learn from them as well, rather than hiding them. It sounds like they have been having the impact you wanted from some of your previous comments, which is great news! It is sad we are judged by how big our bank accounts are. I couldn't say it better - "what we have under our roof is what truly matters". Amen.
I agree, I think understanding 'Why' is an important part of reversing debt, changing behavior and not succumbing to it again. I hate to see when friends have debt with unmanageable credit card interest rates.
1. Taking complete ownership of my own debt - which actually gives me the power to do something about it.
2. Not giving the debt itself too much power - because it drains my ability to work it down.
I've never thought about this before, but you're right. And I think I do tend to give too much power to our debt. Thanks for the heads-up! I'll try to shift towards taking complete ownership without giving power to the debt itself.
Feeling like a failure for being in debt does absolutely nothing to change the situation. Only action does. I like how you say to "own your mistakes, but don't become them." That's advice that works for almost anyone in any situation.
I see people all the time that have to think about the next $20 bill they spend. Some only have that for a week. If they were not paying interest, they could have $100 per week.
Love, love, love this post Shannon!!
I'm so glad you shared this post at the I'm Every Woman Weekly Linky blog party. I truly enjoyed reading it and I know those who made money mistakes they'd like to forget will take that first step after reading this :).
Happy Wednesday hon!
It's unfortunate that we let our past behaviour dictate how we should feel in the present. It's what we do NOW that matters most. Experiencing shame and guilt over past decisions is a:
1. Waste of energy because you can't undo the past.
2. Barrier to finding the personal empowerment that can help you create a much brighter future.
3. Ticket to continuing the vicious cycle. If you relive the bad decisions over and over, you are more likely to perpetuate the behaviour by letting your emotional self make the decisions.
We are what we do today. Period. Onward and upward people!