Over the past two months, I have chronicled women’s stories about financial mistakes and the lessons learned from them. Our beliefs about money begin to form at a very early age. Until we unpack these beliefs and look at them through adult eyes, we’re likely to repeat our mistakes. To gain insight into your own relationship with money, I encourage you to write down some of your own stories. Here’s why:
1. It will help you understand your relationship with money.
Our stories contain so much information below the surface, revealing our assumptions, beliefs, and emotions about money. For example, take the story of a woman who was sent to the store to buy milk when she was a kid. After buying the milk and receiving the change, she spotted a cute toy bear. She had the money in her pocket, so she bought it. All the way home she was happy as could be. She couldn’t wait to show her mom what she’d bought. But when she walked in the door, her mom screamed at her and made her return the bear and retrieve the change.
This event left a lasting impression, and created some beliefs that still affect her today. She doesn’t trust her judgment about money and almost expects to make poor decisions. Perhaps she thinks what she wants isn’t important. The story also implies scarcity of money growing up, and possibly fears of not having enough have persisted.
Look for the underlying meanings in your own stories. What assumptions are still playing out in your relationship with money today?
2. Your stories may hold the key to your money triggers.
Here is one of my money stories: It’s about buying lettuce. Recently, I was stuck in the produce aisle trying to decide between organic and nonorganic lettuce. The nonorganic lettuce cost a dollar less. I love to cook. I want to support local farmers, and I would prefer to avoid pesticides on my food. My values were all lining up behind the organic choice, but a loud voice in my head urged, “Jeff, buy the nonorganic and save a buck!”
Why was this decision such a big deal? Though seemingly insignificant, it embodied one of my greatest money triggers. I discovered a fear of “not enough” when it came to money. Subconsciously, I believed that by saving that dollar, somehow I’d feel more secure. Now I am much more aware when my fears are triggered and able to step back to ground myself when making a decision.
If you find yourself feeling uneasy or fearful in a situation involving money, or perhaps on the verge of reckless spending, ask yourself if you’ve encountered these feelings before. Are they tied to some story or event in your life? Being open to how you feel and exploring your own personal money history can help you see things you haven’t noticed before.
3. They will help you acknowledge your victories and mistakes.
As you review your money history, acknowledge the wise moves and good decisions you are proud of. And of course, some of your money stories aren’t going to be pretty. But take heart — the negative stories, the ones you don’t want to revisit, can be the most fruitful for personal growth. Though they will be harder to bring to the surface, once you examine them, true healing can begin. Accepting past and present decisions without judgment is a huge step toward improving your relationship with money. Blame does nothing but keep you stuck in the past.
4. They help you set new intentions.
In my last two articles, the women I interviewed voiced themes of paying more attention, being more selfreliant, asking questions, and becoming more educated around money. Setting intentions along these lines is empowering. Try viewing yourself as a “money person,” one who is knowledgeable about her financial situation and fully capable of making sound decisions.
Writing your stories, looking for beliefs that formed years ago, and identifying the triggers that are still haunting you today can be a transformative experience. Acknowledging the good and bad decisions you’ve made over time are steps toward acceptance and self-forgiveness. This is the path to a new and improved relationship with money.
Jeffrey Stoffer is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.