This guest post is from Kate Northrup. Kate is the author of the new book, Money: A Love Story. She's leading a live online event called A Course in Having Enough with guest teachers Marianne Williamson, Barbara Stanny, and Amanda Steinberg. This course is free when you purchase Money: A Love Story. Get details at www.moneyalovestory.com.
It's no mystery that the road to wealth can come with some emotional turmoil. Anyone who tells you that you should leave your emotions out of the picture entirely when it comes to money is misguided. Money is a deeply emotional issue. It's a stand-in for what we value. Our values are inherently personal and emotional. What we think is important has a lot to do with how we feel. Therefore, how we feel plays a big part in our financial picture.
Our emotions can have a significant impact on our behavior when it comes to money. And since our behavior creates our results, it's a good idea to clean up the emotional detritus surrounding our money so we get better results. One of the most common emotions associated with money is shame. We compare ourselves to someone else and feel ashamed when we fall short. We recall the past financial decisions we made and cringe at how off track we got. We think about our current financial pickle that we're trying so hard to sweep under the rug and we squirm, hoping no one will find out about it before we're able to clean it up.
But when it comes to our money, shame doesn't help us make more, invest well, increase our savings, or become more generous. In fact, it just keeps us stuck. So how do we heal our money shame so we can enjoy a healthy financial life?
Here are 3 simple steps to heal your money shame that, when practiced regularly, will create ease, flow, and abundance in your financial life.
Step 1: Tell the truth.
In my early twenties, I got myself into over $20K in credit card debt. I was a chronic financial avoider. I thought that if I just put my bills in a drawer and ignored the whole situation my debt would magically disappear.
Obviously this strategy didn't work. But what did work was sitting down and getting super clear on what I earned, what I spent, who I owed, how much, by when, and what the interest rates were. Writing it all down and telling the truth about my financial situation made the shame I felt feel lighter immediately. Soon after I got clear on everything I began to get traction paying it off and, in a few short years, my credit card balances were all at zero!
Most often we're lying to ourselves about the reality of our situation. Getting 100% clear on your numbers is a powerful step to lightening the load of shame. Once the truth comes to the light it feels, well, lighter! And, like when you're using a GPS to get directions, you can't get where you're going unless you know where you're starting from.
Step 2: Forgive yourself.
Chances are good that you made a few financial steps in the past that you wouldn't have made if you were faced with the same choices today. But holding yourself hostage to past mistakes that you can't do anything to fix today will just ensure that you stay stuck.
Instead, practice releasing yourself from the past by letting go and moving on. No amount of beating yourself up or spending time and energy on regret will change the past. But deciding to let go and move forward will at least create a new financial future.
Also, when you forgive yourself for past mistakes (and others, as well) you free up your emotional energy to make smarter financial decisions today and moving forward.
Step 3: Get into gratitude.
I don't remember where I heard this, but I love the idea of renaming bills “Invoices for Blessings Already Received.” Any time we have debt, we're simply repaying someone for something of value that we have already received. So instead of looking at your credit card or loan statements with dread, why not get into gratitude? Go through and list out all of the blessings that you're still paying for. Perhaps it was a wonderful family vacation that, though you couldn't pay for it in cash at the time, you're still enjoying the memories from. Maybe it was your college education, medical procedures, or furniture that you're using and enjoying today.
Switching your perspective and focusing on the blessings you've received that you're simply still giving value in exchange for is powerful. This type of gratitude practice is a great way to train your attention on what's good and abundant in your life. And what we put our attention on grows. So, focusing on our abundance will create more of it!
The next time you're feeling shame around your financial situation, remember to bring the truth to the light, find a little forgiveness in your heart, and focus on gratitude. These three simple steps can create an immediate and powerful shift that will lead to lasting change in your financial life.