I remember sitting in the window seat flying from San Diego back to my digs in New York City. I’d been in a bit of a financial fog ever since I graduated from college, and though my parents had always instilled in me, “Never carry a balance on your credit card,” somewhere along the way I’d decided to ignore their advice. I’ll never forget the first month I didn’t pay my balance in full. It was November 2005. I figured I’d make up for the couple extra hundred the following month. The following month stretched out to several months.
Before I knew it, I had racked up over $20,000 in credit card debt. I resisted totaling it up for a long time because I was so scared to know the truth. Plus, I was ashamed of myself. What was an Ivy League-educated, resourceful girl doing with all of these credit cards, playing a shell game of balance transfers and paying slightly more than the minimums so as to trick herself into feeling like she was making some sort of progress? I spent way more time beating myself up for the situation than I did trying to do anything about it.
So there I was, on the airplane, handmade paper journal with lavender pages laid out on my tray table. I had my favorite rollerball ink pen (the kind that often explodes on airplanes but is worth it because of how nicely it writes.) I was finally doing some of my homework for Barbara Stanny’s course “Overcoming Underearning.” As I wrote, I had a realization: If I approached my financial awareness from the perspective of doing it as an act of self-love, as opposed to as an act of self-discipline, perhaps I would actually pay more attention to my money.
My credit card and bank account balances, not to mention how I felt about myself, were indications that what I was currently doing was not working.
What if I looked at my financial situation with compassion?
What if I were kinder to myself?
What if I forgave myself for previous financial infractions instead of diving into blame and shame every time I looked at my financial past?