Most people believe that the root of their money problems is that they just don’t have enough money and that if they had more their financial problems would disappear. Now, not having enough is certainly an issue, it’s just not the root of the problem. The source of the problem can be traced back to your money story and overcoming your money story is at the heart of making long lasting and permanent changes.
Your money story created your unhealthy relationship with money, and it’s at the root of your difficulties. The problem is you don’t know how to change your story for the better. You mistakenly believe you’re stuck with the story you inherited. But that is simply not true.
For most of us, we want money to show up when we want it and need it, to take care of us, grant us our desires and get us out of trouble too. Perfectly reasonable on the surface. But lying just below the surface are unreasonable expectations that translate into unhealthy behaviors.
I felt deprived and empty as a child because we didn’t have a lot of money and things I desired I never got. When I started working and landed great paying jobs, I spent my money recklessly. I racked up significant credit card debt, shopped like crazy and guess what? I felt deprived and empty. So with or without money, I felt the same way.
Overcoming Your Money Story
We all have a relationship with money. Because we have one, it means our parents and those people who influenced us as children had one too.
Our parent’s financial circumstances and attitudes about money laid the groundwork for our first experiences with money. These messages about money were sent to us long before we ever landed our first job or opened up our first checking account. Our psyches were bombarded with arguments, facial expressions, body language and the like.
These attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs were passed down to us from our parents, and more than likely will be passed down to your children unless you are willing to change your attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs to ones that serve you better.
To have a powerful and healthy relationship with money, we must be willing to look at these old beliefs, patterns, attitudes and such and be willing to let go of them if they don’t serve us well. That’s what we’ve started to do with our self-talk assessment and scripts from week one.
The next set of questions will lay the foundation for the majority of the work we’ll do here in week 2 of our No Spend Challenge. Take the time to answer each question carefully. Try to bust through any resistance you feel about any particular set of questions. Just be honest. Remember no one will see your answers unless you want to show them.
Here are a few guidelines for each question:
1. What is the money story you grew up with?
a. We all have a story. This story comes to us from our parents or other influential caregivers. What’s yours?
2. How have you experienced that in your life?
a. Your story manifests itself as your experiences.
3. What’s really the message that you got from your family’s money story?
a. Behind the story is an underlying message.
b. What about you? What’s your underlying message and where did it come from? You dad, mom, grandmother or grandfather or someone another influential person?
4. What do you think your father’s or mother’s or other family member’s positive intention was for themselves?
I want to speak briefly about the concept of positive intentions.
Each of us, when we act, have a positive intention for ourselves. Even people who do horrible criminal acts have a positive intention for themselves. That positive intention may make no sense to us. It may be completely distorted, strange and destructive, but they have a positive intention for themselves, even if the behavior may be perverted.
Of course, I’m speaking in the extreme, but it’s extremely important you understand this concept because tomorrow’s exercise hinges on our ability to forgive and let go.
It’s easy to say, “I would never do that.” But how can we release these old patterns of behavior and release ourselves from our past if we continue to be in a conversation with ourselves and say things like, “I would never behave that way,” or “How could they do that to me?”
If you’re struggling with coming up with a positive intention try “pretending” for a moment by asking yourself, “If I were just to make it up and pretend I knew what their positive intention was, what do I think it would be?”
If you are still struggling, ask yourself, “What do I wish their positive intention was?”
As you contemplate the answers to these questions, you’re probably starting to have some compassion and understanding into how your parents or other influential people struggled with their money story. You may not like or agree with it, but at least you have a different perspective that you didn’t have before.
Some of you may have had some pretty tough situations growing up. So I want to preface this next question by recognizing that some of our money stories are particularly difficult and painful. I understand this, and despite these painful stories in the midst of them, there is something we can love and be grateful for.
So, the next question is:
5. What is there to love or be grateful for?
6. What is there to forgive?
a. Can you forgive your parents or others for whatever they taught you that hasn’t served you very well?
What About Forgiveness
Our parents did the best they could. It would have been wonderful if they had instilled in us good money habits, positive feelings about money, the encouragement to save money or earn our worth. Unfortunately, for better or worse, they could only teach us what they knew, and if you’ve figured it out, they learned a lot of messed up beliefs about money from their parents. It’s like a never-ending, generational dysfunction.
You can stop all that! You are more aware and have a deeper understanding now than they did. But the first step to re-writing your family’s money legacy is to forgive both them and you.
Forgiveness is the act of releasing those judgments and assessments you had of someone, thereby pulling apart the understanding you had of him or her.
In completing the exercise today, you’re taking a major step towards your new money legacy. Forgiveness propels you on your path to a healthy relationship with money. Not completing this process will no doubt stall you at some point. If you decide you don’t want to complete this exercise, realize at some point you’ll be back here when you’re ready to forgive.
When I first did this exercise years ago, I was very resistant to the idea I needed to forgive myself. It was obvious why I would forgive my father and mother for all the messed up notions they had handed down to me. But I was perplexed as to why I would have to forgive myself.
I was just a child when I learned about money from my parents, and I was unable to discern and reject the notions that later in life I would cast aside. So why forgive me?
First, when we take the position that we didn’t do anything, or we didn’t deserve to end up screwed up about money, there’s an underlining thread of victimization running through the statement. It’s very subtle.
I had this underlying thread of being a victim in my belief that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was young and didn’t have any life experiences. When you identify with being a victim, you’re identifying with the feelings of powerlessness, helplessness or having no control. You’re at the whim or mercy of events or people.
That carried forward into my life, and it showed up in a lot of different ways. It certainly showed up in my relationship with money.
Consider this for a moment – as children, just like our parents, we do the best we can. I did agree to my parent’s crazy money legacy. I’m not at fault, and I accept no blame, but I did take on their beliefs. I didn’t understand I had a choice, but I still took it on.
Two things had to happen for me. First, I needed to own the responsibility, and the other was to forgive myself. By doing these two things I was able to own my part in the dynamic between my parents and me, and as a result, I had the power to change.
I didn’t need to stay stuck in the original agreement anymore. I could move beyond it and create a new agreement with myself. That’s what I did and what I hope you can do too!