Thank you so much to all the lovely people who sent me messages after last my post. It’s a very strange thing to find yourself telling the world about stuff that you don’t even like to acknowledge yourself. But the messages showed that I’m not the only one who feels sick, scared, panicked and like a bad person when it comes to money.
The weird thing with this money business is that it’s just so big – it affects everything and is in our heads every day – and yet few of us talk about it properly. We might talk about wanting more of it, or ‘not being able to afford’ things, but we don’t talk about how it makes us feel or the messy situations we get into with it.
I had two messages last night from friends who admitted to periods of big debt – but I had no idea. If they were having problems with their jobs or their relationships, I would have known about it, but we don’t talk about mucky money. It’s taboo.
So what’s going on? Why are so many clever, capable women (and men) getting themselves into such messes with money?
Kate Northrup believes that our relationship to money is a direct reflection of how much we value ourselves.
She says that when we spend more than we earn, or keep ourselves in the dark about our money – we’re not having fun or living for the moment (as we might say to ourselves), it’s actually self-sabotage, a way of ‘throwing ourselves under the bus’ or ‘keeping ourselves small’.
In other words we don’t value ourselves enough to sort out our finances.
This might all seem like therapy speak, but I think it makes a lot of sense to me. When mismanaging your finances makes you unhappy (as it does me) but you keep doing it, of course there’s something going on – the same as if you keep overeating, drinking too much etc.
At the root of it can be two beliefs – I don’t deserve to be happy and financially solvent and/or I don’t think I’m capable of sorting out my money (I want someone else to do it). Both are true in my case.
Here are a few more things I’m realising about the way I am with money:
I DIDN’T VALUE MYSELF AT WORK
For years, as a journalist, I didn’t think I was good at my job. I would look around the room at people who were infinitely more talented and capable and less panicked than me and felt like I shouldn’t be there. I never looked at my pay slip and felt proud, like I deserved it or earned it – and that affected how I spent it.
NOTHING IS EVER ENOUGH
No matter what money I had, it was never enough – because (and sorry if this is too much naval gazing) I never felt enough. Not pretty enough, clever enough, slim enough, fun enough… anything enough. A lot of my money has been spent on trying to feel good enough – especially with my appearance. But shock horror, while a new top is really nice, it doesn’t magically fix your self-esteem. Especially if you go into a guilt-spiral after buying it.
I DON’T SPEND ON THINGS I REALLY WANT
I blow money on rubbish but then if it comes to planning nice things like holidays, I’ll say ‘I can’t afford it.’ But, of course, if you were to tot up my wine bill and coffee bill and tax bill over a few months, I’d be able to buy a round the world ticket. I don’t think I deserve the really nice things.
I SPEND BECAUSE I’M BORED & UNHAPPY
I look back at a lot of the dinners and the bottles of wine and realise I was just killing time. I didn’t know what else to do. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of if was great fun, but a lot of it wasn’t. I also drank because I was unhappy and stressed. And then I’d get a taxi home.
I SPEND BECAUSE I’M LAZY
Oh my God I’m so lazy. Taxis, ready-prepared vegetables, the bloody, sodding, blow dries – if there’s a way for me to not have to lift my fingers, I’ll pay handsomely for it. When I was working hard I could justify it on the grounds I didn’t have time. Now I really can’t.
MY SPENDING IS ANOTHER WAY TO BEAT MYSELF UP
I remember a friend once buying a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes and showing them to me. I saw the price tag and asked how on earth she could justify it. I’ll always remember her reply. ‘I can afford them and I like them so I bought them.’ No guilt, no drama. I, on the other hand, feel guilty and anxious as soon as I buy things. I’ll make excuses to people – they were on sale, or even say, ‘I know, I know, I shouldn’t have… I’m a terrible person.’
I DON’T WANT TO BE A RICH BITCH
This one keeps coming up. I really think I have a belief from my childhood that makes me think that if I have money people will not like me. I would rather play poor me, look I’m broke, than to be secure and have money and risk people feeling jealous of me. I am very good at the poor me stuff. A master, in fact.
Here are a couple of other interesting things that Kate says:
LEARN TO TAKE A COMPLIMENT
If you want money in your life, you have to learn to learn to receive as well as to give – if you refuse things like compliments, or letting your friend buy you coffee then you are ‘blocking the flow of abundance’. I find it hard not to raise an eyebrow with talk of ‘abundance’ and ‘flow’ but I imagine there’s something in it. While I’m very good at giving compliments, I find them hard to take. Likewise, while I like buying other people coffee or drinks – I find it hard to tell them return the favour. It’s partly because I don’t feel like I deserve other people’s kindness but there’s also something else at play too. I like to be the generous one because there is a power, status and superiority in being the one who says ‘I’ll get this’ – and there’s a certain martyr like satisfaction in telling the rest of the world how lovely they are but then refusing to take a compliment yourself.
DON’T BE SCARED TO SPEAK YOUR MIND
Another thing Kate says is that if you don’t speak your mind, and constantly put other people’s needs before yours, it’s probably a sign that you don’t value yourself – and are therefore likely to have issues around money. This is so interesting. Anyone who read my Feel the Fear month will know that some of my grittiest fears are around confrontation, saying what I think or feel. I feel like if I do nobody will like me or they’ll stop being my friend.
SO WHAT TO DO? HOW DO YOU VALUE YOURSELF MORE?
Kate suggests we WRITE 3 THINGS YOU VALUE ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE DIARY EVERY DAY.
They can be nice things you’ve done for people, something you like about yourself, something great you did at work – anything, just as long as you’re acknowledging good stuff about yourself.
My three things today:
I am brave, I am honest, I am kind.
KEEP A PRAISE FILE
Kate says that the aim is not to rely on other people to praise you (I’m always waiting for this, then I don’t believe whatever they say) but that when you’re starting off with the whole ‘value yourself’ business, it can help to keep a folder with thank you notes, notes of praise, testimonials…
So I’m off to look through emails to find nice things people have said.
One final point.
Kate says that if you’re living your life in financial chaos – constantly worried about how to pay rent or with no idea what’s left in your bank account – that takes up a lot of ‘bandwidth’ in your brain, which stops you from being as ‘creative, powerful and present’ as you could be in your life.
If you get it together with your money, you’ll have a mental freedom that will mean anything is possible. Again, this makes sense to me. My worrying about money wakes me up at 2am and is a niggle in my tummy all the time – of course that stops me from being as happy as I might be, erodes my concentration at work, and ruins moments with friends and family.
It would be very nice to not have that in my life anymore.
PS – these are now my daily companions – I’m checking my balance every day…
And look! The Post-its are back!
Money, a Love Story: Untangle Your Financial Woes and Create the Life You Really Want