Some people are very comfortable sharing their salary or business revenue openly, but if you prefer to keep that information private, you are far from alone. For most of us money is a sensitive subject. We wonder what our income says about who we are, our capabilities, our level of success. We relate it to our identity, and we expect to be judged negatively by others, no matter how much we have or make. However, keeping our thoughts, judgments, and opinions about money hidden can prevent us from seeing how much our beliefs influence our money situation.
Money is a symbol that can represent many things to us, ranging from our safety and security to our relationship to and ideas about power and self-worth. The reason it’s important to break down what money symbolizes for you is because it gives you more control over your relationship with money.
For example, Bob grew up in a world where he never felt like he was “enough”. At some point he began to see his net worth as a measure of his real worth, but no matter how large that number was, he always found himself comparing it to a new, larger ideal. He tried to “look” the part by driving a luxury car and hosting parties at his home, which he always kept looking like a resort. As a result, he found himself in debt, chasing pay raises and new business opportunities to maintain his “look” and constantly fighting a restless anxiety that rarely allowed him time to relax.
Jane had a similar sense of not being enough, which also she attached to money. But in her case the behavior pattern she was trapped in was one of excessive frugality that lined up with her belief that she needed to work harder to earn and deserve more.
The ironic twist in this scenario is that if you compared their financial situations, you would find that Jane was actually quite a bit wealthier on paper than Bob was. Nevertheless, neither of them was at peace with their finances. And they were both unaware that the peace they were seeking would not come directly from a change in their financial situation. Instead, awareness of their beliefs about money, identifying what they are making their financial situation mean, and then doing the personal work of shifting those deeper beliefs, is more likely to change their financial situations over time.
If you would like to reflect on some of your money beliefs, here are eight of the initial questions we ask people when we begin our exploration together.
- Make a list of things you were told about money when you were young, either from your parents, teachers or others who may have influenced your thinking.
- Which of these ideas most influence your thinking and behavior today?
- If “Money” were your significant other, what would be going on in your relationship?
- If there was one thing you would like to change about your current money situation, what would it be?
- If you’ve tried to change your money situation before unsuccessfully, what do you believe got in the way?
- When you think about money, what do you typically notice or look at? (i.e., bank account balance, monthly income, stock portfolio, credit card balances, budget, profiles of wealthy celebrities, items on your wish list, etc.…)
- If you were to successfully change your money situation, what would you have to do differently?
- If you were to successfully change your money situation, how would you have to think differently?
Feel free to send me your responses via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 714-931-2133 if you’d like some feedback on what your responses might mean and what steps you might take to start a shift.