It just ain't true!
For a long time, I believed an untrue story about myself. It wasn't my story actually, meaning, it didn't originate with me. Still, I kept telling and living it. Until one day, after living it for nearly twelve years, I had enough of that story, and I stood up to it. The story—which I bought into hook, line, and sinker—was that I am bad with money.
I understand why the person who originally assigned that label to me believed it was true. She met me when I was struggling to keep a house together for myself and my two teenage girls. This was back in the day when you could cash a check at the grocery store three days before payday and then use that money to keep your lights on (literally). Nothing was automated or electronic so the grocery store took my check to their bank, who then took it to my bank. It was a three-day, $30 loan if I wrote a $50 check for $20 worth of groceries. Then I could run to the neighborhood drugstore that also collected electric company payments and get the lights turned back on. On Friday if I hurried to the bank with my paycheck, I could get it deposited before the grocery store check hit. I didn't realize it was called kiting checks, and it was illegal. For me and for my girls, it was creative finance and survival 101.
So when this person met me, I was doing a lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul. But on just my salary, I never missed a mortgage payment, a birthday present, or went more than five hours without lights. And eventually, I sold the house for a nice profit.
Throughout those years, however, whenever she—who was tidy with money—repeated the mantra, "Beth, you are sooo bad with money," I believed her. She helped me out in some ways, not by giving me cash (which I wouldn't have accepted), but by making me pay a bit more attention to finances. On some decisions I’d made, she'd simply shake her head saying, "Oh Beth, you are just so bad with money," and I'd nod in agreement, hanging my head in shame.
One day when I was again being reminded that I was bad with money, the fog lifted, the clouds parted, and I felt filled with clarity and wisdom. I realized and acknowledged that I am actually extremely good with money. I was buying into a label, a story, a myth built upon someone else's paradigm on what being “good” with money looked like.
You see, this person actually had a fear of money. She was always afraid she might run out. It was a totally unjustified fear, but it caused her to cling to and account for every cent, as if there was a limited amount to be made.
I was living her story and her projection because I did not know myself well enough or respect myself deeply enough to say, "Hey! That's not my truth. I'm good with money. I'm smart yet fearless in my relationship with money. And I have concrete proof!"
For a long time, I dreamed of starting my own business, but she cautioned me about how because of my money difficulty, it was not a good idea. Again I bought the label, and I stayed small (and employed).
Then we parted ways. I knew I wanted to do two things: start a company and buy a house! As soon as I found the house and secured the mortgage, I quit my job. I literally had three months of living expenses in the bank.
Amid my excitement and confidence, I could hear her voice saying, “There she goes. Bad with money.” But my heart was exhilarated and empowered, screaming “You are so good with money. You’ve totally got this!”
I sent an individual email to thirteen former business associates saying that starting January 1, I'd have 8-14 hours a month available for project and contract work. I sent it on a Sunday night. It felt great until Monday morning when I woke up dreading there'd be no reply or worse, laughter. And again I could hear, “not so good with money.”
That was November 2012 when eight of the thirteen replied, saying they wanted to hire me for projects! I could easily pay my mortgage and then some. My adopted story that I was bad with money continued to be shattered.
I bought that house when inventory was high and interest rates and prices were low. I sold when inventory was scarce, interest rates were low, and prices had climbed. I made a nice return on investment. This was more evidence of—you guessed it—“I’m good with money!
Still the message in my head was, "That was sheer luck and I will never buy another house. I'm not good at it," and then I spotted a sweet little house in a great neighborhood and thought, here I go again.
I didn’t need to live in the house, but real estate had been good to me. And my daughter and her family could live there and pay rent to me instead of to a stranger. So, as a single, self-employed woman I've qualified for yet another mortgage and bought yet another house. Even I am believing I have a good relationship and perhaps some skill with money.
This all came flooding back to me recently as I was coaching a client who was beating herself up brutally for flaws I'm not sure she actually possesses. After several sessions, it was clear to me that she has decided to wear these assigned flaws like a heavy mantle placed around her shoulders. She is paralyzed by the cycle of believing the labels she has been given (generally through the projection of others’ fears about themselves). The paralysis is followed by shame that eventually results in sitting in a puddle of hopelessness around career and love.
All of these issues came up again recently, just as I was contacted by a member of my extended family who is questioning why she “often has anxiety” when things are going really well and are exciting. She stated that little voices of fear often work their way in, turning excitement to fear and impatience.
I don’t know the answer to her quandary, but I would imagine that somewhere she has been labeled as “anxious,” and now she sees that as way to protect herself. Being excited seems far too risky. What if? What if things don’t work out? What if it doesn’t happen?
Both of these people have asked me how I stepped out from underneath the labels that had been assigned to me by others. How I stopped believing others’ projections and using them to beat myself up, to shame myself, and to feel less than.
It is a tough one to answer because the answer seems too simple. I chose to stop looking to others for guidance and validation of who I am and how I’m skilled. I decided to trust the person who knows me the best but who previously was always the last person I trusted: myself.
In the weeks after realizing the title “bad with money” really didn’t belong to me, I made a series of commitments to myself that I continue to uphold:
- I will come to know myself well.
- I will tend to my physical and emotional health and wellness.
- I will manage my finances with intention and respect.
- I will play frequently and do work I love with people I enjoy.
- I will love and nurture myself first because it is through that portal I can love, connect with, and nourish others.
- I will rely on data (credit scores for instance) instead of subjective proof (opinions or comparisons) as the gauge for how I’m doing.
Some days it is easy. Some days I’m fascinated by how easily old labels and myths show up again in my thoughts.
What myths, stories, or labels have you accepted from others? Is it time to let them go? I'm willing to bet they aren't serving you.
I can probably guess some of them: bad at math, can't use a computer, unhealthy or weak, lazy, unlovable. It goes on and on.
I'm here to tell you to simply feel all the positive energy built up in you. In reflection, seek out the positive data points and the times and many ways the labels haven’t been true at all. Remember the times when you were the opposite of the labels—graceful, peaceful, wise, or so full of love you could burst. Use those as the data points to know yourself.
Now make your commitments to yourself just as I did above. Drop the mantle. Tear the labels off, and let them fly away in the wind.
Get to know yourself. Take yourself on explorations and adventures. Play!