This is a no-brainer: When you're fearful of money, all of your financial decisions come from a place of fear.
But you may already be thinking, “Fear of money? That's not me!”
I beg to disagree. If you've ever avoided looking at your bank account, if you've ever panicked about your finances, if you've been immobilized by indecision, if you've made unwise investments, or if you’ve overspent yourself into debt … you're afraid of money.
Of course, you're not alone. Money is a bigger topic today than it has ever been. It is entrenched in politics, power, status, pop culture, and family dynamics. There is no moment where you are not consciously and unconsciously receiving messages about money. And whether you know it or not, those subtle messages have been impacting how you earn, spend, save, and value your capital.
If you want to earn more (and feel good about it), your decisions must come from a place of integrity. Here is an investigation you can do to understand your relationship with money and change it if you need to. I assign the following exercises to my clients who need help in this area. Call it a “reality check” on your relationship.
Do a “Money Purge”
Write down a rant of everything you feel about the subject, no matter how contradictory or upsetting or exaggerated it might be. This gets you loosened up and tuned in to your inner dialogue. It will illuminate your perception of money in the world and in your own life. When I started doing a money purge, I found myself saying things like, "Good people shouldn’t need a lot of money;" "People shouldn’t drive expensive cars." Do your own purge and see what you find. You can start by completing the following statements:
- People who have a lot of money are ...
- Money makes people ...
- I can’t make more money because ...
In this exercise, pay special attention to the things you learned (or didn’t learn) from your parents. What was your parents' relationship with money like? How do their traits show up in your life?
Identify Your Bad Theories
Self-discovery is the most powerful tool you possess, but only if you learn how to use it to your advantage. Pinpoint all the negative theories that showed up in your money purge, and then go a step further and write down all the ways that theory impacts your behavior. You might find you have the same theories about people with money that I had, or you might find bad theories about yourself: “I've never been a great saver” or “I’m not smart enough about investing to do it.”
I have found that artists and entrepreneurs especially have theories about the dismal state of their professional fields: “Only a few artists ever make it big,” “The restaurant industry is just so cutthroat,” or “The likelihood of a startup actually succeeding is one-in-a-million.” Now look at the effect of statements like these:
- "Only a few artists ever make it big." (Because I think this, it gets me off the hook for actually making time for my art.)
- "I’m not smart enough about investing to do it.” (Because I think this, I don't invest, nor do I go out of my way to learn how or seek advice.)
- “I’ve never been a great saver.” (Because I think this, I don’t prioritize saving money.)
Create New Theories and Collect New Data
The entire time you have held on to your fears about money, you've been collecting evidence to prove yourself right. It's time to replace your bad theories with better ones and collect new data to support your case. You don't even necessarily need to believe that your theory is true in order to do this exercise. Watch this formula in action:
- Replace “Only a few artists ever make it big” with “People love buying artwork by local artists.”
If I believed in my new theory, I would go check out the local art fair. I would submit my best piece of artwork to a contest. I would post a picture of it on my Facebook page with a price.
- Replace “I’m not smart enough about investing to do it” with “I can and will learn to make wise and lucrative investments.”
If I believed in my new theory, I would sign up for that free seminar. I would start paying attention to the Business section in The New York Times. I would ask my friend's husband to tell me about the work he does at his financial firm.
- Replace “I’ve never been a great saver” with “I set goals for my savings account by tracking my earning and spending diligently.”
If you’re reading this and you don’t want to do these exercises, I get it. Personal growth is hard work. But I promise you, it’s work that will pay off ... literally. Actually taking the time to do these steps will enlighten you about your own fear of money, help you break free of it, and adopt a new perspective on it that aligns you with your financial goals.
Putting this practice into action is what helped me get over my own fear of money so that I could build my company smartly, efficiently, and with integrity.
If you work it, it will work for you too.
Lauren Zander is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.