Is money a source of self-confidence or personal empowerment for you? A source of joy, ease, or creativity?
If your relationship with money took the form of a flesh and blood relationship, would you be tying the proverbial knot with it and looking forward to a lifetime of growth, comfort, and security?
Does money – even the mere topic of it – feel like something you want to avoid? Like, really avoid.
When credit card bills come in the mail, do you stuff them in the junk drawer? Do you avoid looking at your bank balance or retirement situation? Does the topic of money make you uncomfortable?
Do you sometimes feel like you can talk to your girlfriends, your S.O., or even your therapist about everything else *aside* from your money issues?
If your relationship with money took the form of a flesh and blood relationship, would you basically beg it to seek out couples counseling with you?
(Alright, are you cringing and wanting to click away after even reading these intro sentences?)
If so, that’s okay. Really. These are evocative and big questions that might bring up anxiety for a lot of people. Because let’s face it: Money is a hot button topic.
And not only that, as a psychotherapist I actually believe that money is a therapeutic topic.
Meaning that what you personally believe and feel about money and how money impacts your life is an important topic that, when explored safely and skillfully, can therapeutically reveal so much about you and the larger patterns that you may need to pay attention to for your own personal growth.
But let’s face it: money – much like the topics of sex, addiction, or estrangements within families – is one of those hot button, typically shame-laced topics that’s historically super under-discussed in public settings.
And yet, I think, most of us yearn to talk about money and our relationship to money. And frankly I think we *have* to talk about money more as part of our individual healing and personal growth journeys.
So in today’s blog post I want to start a transformative, healing conversation with you about money. I’ll explain how and why our money beliefs – like any of our life beliefs – likely got formed, and then provide you with a set of inquiries designed to help deepen your awareness about your relationship with money, how these money patterns might be echoed across other areas of your life, and help you get curious about what it might take to challenge, transform, and heal your relationship with money.
So if you’re interested in deepening your awareness about your relationship with money, keep reading…
Remember, the way in through one thing is the way into many things.
The way in through one thing is the way into many things. So what does this mean?
It means that no matter what area you start exploring in your life – your relationship to food, to sex, to work, to your romantic relationship, to money – you’ll likely unearth patterning that’s similar across other life areas for you.
I invite you to begin this post by considering that as you begin to explore, get curious, and illuminate more about your relationship with money, you may also discover these insights and awarenesses extend across other areas of your life.
And the good news is, once we begin to bring our awareness to our patterns – whether with money or other areas – we begin the process of change.
And don’t forget: You come by your relationship with money honestly.
We come by our patterns, beliefs and behaviors honestly. In other words, you didn’t develop your relationship with money in a vacuum.
As humans, we learn our behaviors and patterns in relationship with others – usually with our early caregivers, our peers, and the immediate environments we grow up in (school, church, etc.). We know and do what we’ve been modeled. It’s just that sometimes, that modeling isn’t all that functional.
So as we move forward in exploring your beliefs about money, I’ll be asking quite a few questions about your past and how that may be informing your present relationship with money and I invite you to have a whole lot of compassion with yourself about whatever we unearth. Again, please remember, you come by your relationship with money honestly.
Get to know your relationship with money through these inquiries.
We’re about to dive into the interactive, meat of this post as I lead you through a series of inquiries designed to help you get to know more about your relationship with money and how it’s currently impacting your life.
And I’ll give you a head’s up: You may not actually want to do this part of the post.
You may feel a lot of resistance come up as you move through these questions – resistance that takes the form of wanting to click away from the page, not write down the answers to these inquiries, or resistance that takes the form of a sudden urge to wash the dishes in your sink.
Please know that resistance when facing challenging topics is normal and natural and completely part of the process.
Go at your own pace, take deep breaths, ground yourself and come back and complete the inquiries when you feel ready and able to. I believe that if you do, you’ll almost certainly gain greater insights into your relationship with money and your relationship with yourself.
Ready to begin? I invite you to crack open your journal or open up a new Google doc blank page and start writing down your answers to the following inquiries:
Money Story Inquiries
- Name three feelings that come up for you when you think about diving into your money story. (e.g.: “Excitement. Dread. Serenity.”)
- If you were to describe your current beliefs about money in one or two sentences, what would it be? (e.g.: “There’s never enough and I will always need to work really, really hard to make sure I can make ends meet.”)
- Growing up, what did your family beliefs about money include? (e.g.: “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” Or, “There’s more where that came from!”)
- Was money a source of ease in your house growing up? Or was it a source of pain and conflict? (e.g.: “I remember seeing my parents argue about money every Friday night – it was definitely a source of conflict.”)
- What did your father teach you about money? (e.g.: “Don’t worry about money – your husband will take care of it for you.”
- What did your mother teach you about money? (e.g.: “If you’re feeling bad, buy something!”)
- Did either of their teachings conflict with one another? Did their teaching ever conflict with what they individually said and did? (e.g.: “Mom liked to save and tithe, dad liked to spend and didn’t give to charity.”)
- In watching your parents or caregivers deal with money, what did you grow up believing about how couples handle money together? (e.g: “The husband controls the money and the wife has to ask for an allowance from him. As a woman I guess I imagined my husband would be in charge of the money and give it to me when I wanted it.”)
- Did you receive money as a child through an allowance, or did you have to earn it? What did this teach you about how money comes to you? (e.g.: “Every week there was money for me to spend as I wanted to. I didn’t really have to keep track of it or work for it – it was just always there.”)
- What do you remember believing about money as a child? (e.g.: “It’s an adult thing. It’s scary and mysterious. I didn’t really understand it. I just knew it caused a lot of fights.”)
- Have your beliefs from childhood followed you into adulthood or do you have different beliefs about money now? What role does money play in your everyday adult life? (e.g.: “I used to never be worried about money – my dad always took care of me. Now I’m frankly terrified about money because my dad isn’t supporting me anymore. Money just totally freaks me out when I think about having to earn and manage it on my own! I avoid dealing with it as much as I can.”)
- Do any of your money behaviors remind you of your parents? (e.g.: “I let my husband deal with all the financial stuff – like my mom did with my dad.”)
- What are your biggest fears about money? Where do you think these fears come from? (e.g.: “I’m afraid I’m going to end up as a bag lady on the streets. I don’t exactly know where this fear comes from but I guess I just grew up believing there was never enough and that one one bad thing – a hospital bill or something – could ruin my family. I guess money always meant catastrophe to me so it’s scary and something I kind of hate.”)
- What are your secret fantasies about your money situation? Where do you think your fantasies come from? (e.g.: “That my father and husband will always provide for me and I won’t have to earn or manage money super seriously on my own. This one definitely comes from my mother who said it was a husband’s job to take financial care of his wife.”)
- Do you believe you have a capacity to earn good money? Why or why not? (e.g.: “Not really. I’ve never earned good money before and I don’t think anyone would pay me big bucks for the skills I have.”)
- What do you think it takes to earn really good money and be financially secure? (e.g.: “You have to give up having a personal life and work insanely long hours.”)
- Do you believe other people have a bigger capacity than you to earn good money? Why is that? (e.g.: “Probably, other people seem to work harder than me and you can only earn money if you’re a super hard worker who’s willing to not really have much of a life.”)
- Do you believe you have a capacity to manage your money well? Why or why not? (e.g.: “No. I hate thinking about money. I think it’s gauche. I don’t like looking at my credit card statements or bank balances. It makes me feel anxious, like I’ll have to deal with my situation and frankly I’m scared to.”)
- What were you taught about money management growing up? (e.g.: “I was taught to always have an emergency fund and to live within my means. Security first, fun later. To this day I have trouble spending money on things that are indulgent.”)
- Do you believe that you align your money with your values? Why or why not? (e.g.: “I think I spend my money in alignment with my values. I invest in education, personal growth, travel, and things that are good for my health. I actually make a conscious effort to align my money with my values!”)
- In what – if any ways – is your current spending of money out of alignment with your values? (e.g.: “I don’t consider myself to be materialistic but when I look at my closets and credit card statements and see how much I’ve spent on clothing, I feel like a hypocrite…”)
- Do you trust yourself to take good financial care of yourself? (e.g.: “In some ways I do, but I’m kind of always counting on my family as my safety net – like if I needed to pay for a wedding or put down a downpayment on a house, I know I could count on my parents for that so I’m not really earning and saving as much as I could for that.”)
- What do you get by avoiding looking at your money situation? Imagine that you get something from any avoidant behavior or coping mechanism. What does avoiding looking at money give you? (e.g.: “I sort of get to still be taken care of – it’s easier to ask my dad to pay my credit card bill than to cut down costs and stuff.”)
- What’s the cost of avoiding looking at your money situation? (e.g.: “Well I don’t feel very good about myself and I feel stuck in my crummy relationship because my husband is the earner. I guess I feel kind of powerless.”)
- How is your life currently being impacted by your money story and actions? (e.g.: “Because I’ve been avoiding dealing with my money mess, I don’t have enough money to take a risk and leave my job or launch my dream business. My lack of money and my fears about managing it keep me feeling small and stuck and I’ve actually got a lot of shame about this. Money’s playing a big role in my life, but not really in a good way.”)
- As you read through your responses to the above inquiries, what themes and threads stood out for you? (e.g.: “One of the big themes is that I’m scared of money and don’t really think it’s going to be possible for me to take good financial care of myself. It also seems like I’m secretly hoping someone will bail me out or be responsible for me.”)
- Do any of those themes and threads that you’re identifying show up in other ways in other areas of your life? (e.g.: “I have a secret fantasy, too, that someone will just tell me what I’m meant to do with my life and what career path I should choose. I kind of want someone else to be responsible for that, too.”)
- What do you know about this way that you deal with your money story and other life areas? Is it familiar for you? (e.g.: “Yes. Hiding my head in the sand is kind of how I deal with most of my problems…”)
- Where did you learn to deal/cope/be like this? How young is this pattern? (e.g.: “This has been going on since I was a kid and I’d hear my parents fighting. I’d go sit in my bedroom closet and play make-believe to avoid them. As I grew up, that numbing out/escaping stuff continued with Netflix and trashy fiction books. It’s how I stay comfortable.”)
- How do you feel noticing how your relationship money patterns? Your other life area patterns? (e.g.: “Frustrated with myself. Ashamed. Motivated to change it.”)
- What thoughts or feelings come up around this for you? (e.g.: “I feel terrified! I don’t think I can do it!”)
- What could you say to yourself that would feel supportive given these thoughts and feelings that are coming up for you? (e.g.: “It’s okay to feel scared. It’s normal to feel nervous about doing something new and different. It’s brave of me to even think about transforming my relationship with money.”)
- What would you need to let go of to transform your relationship with money? (e.g.: “The fear of failure. Comfort in knowing my sister will always bail me out if I really needed money.”)
- What would you need to embrace in order to transform your relationship with money? (e.g.: “Discomfort. A willingness to do stuff I haven’t done before.”)
- Are there people in your life (or that you even know of – like authors or bloggers) who seems to have a healthy, functional relationship with money? Could you imagine asking them questions or reading their resources? (e.g.: “My friend is always talking about some money blogger she loves – I could ask her who that is and check out their site.”)
- What do you imagine are at least three small steps you could take to practice something different in your evolving relationship with money? (e.g.: “I could set some intentions for myself to have a better relationship with money. I could take a look at my debts and account balances. I could pick up a book about money management.”)
- What would you gain by taking consistent action to transform your relationship with money? (e.g.: “I’d probably gain more confidence in myself! And I’d also be able to pursue some of those far off dreams I have like owning a house.”)
- If you were to take action around transforming your relationship with money, could you imagine this spilling over to other areas of your life? (e.g.: “Yes, if I could be disciplined and sober with my money, I might develop skills that would help me be more disciplined and determined with my career, too.”)
- How are you feeling as we wrap up these questions? (e.g.: “Tired. Saturated. Proud.”)
You did it! You made it through this list of inquiries – great job!
Okay, I invite you to take a big ol’ deep breath now. Shake your body out. Get up and get yourself a glass of water. After we do the transformative work about bringing our attention to challenging or triggering topics, it’s normal and natural to feel saturated and maybe even a little overwhelmed. Once you feel ready, let’s talk about next steps.
So, obviously, I’m not a CPA – I’m a psychotherapist and coach. Therefore, giving tactical financial advice is beyond the scope of my license. But as a psychotherapist and coach I can help you further explore your thoughts, beliefs, patterns and stories that are possibly contributing to your current money situation. This is the inside work of getting to know your money story. This is deepening your self awareness by getting to know more about your relationship to money. Today’s inquiries are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting to know your money story and how your relationship with money impacts your life. There’s so much more I could have asked!
So if you’re willing and interested to take a closer look at your relationship to money (or anything else that feels challenging for you!) through personal psychotherapy or through coaching, reach out and book a session with me – I’d love to work with you. As of Monday, April 18th, I’m currently taking on three new clients.
And as far as the next tactical, practical steps in your money journey, I encourage you to review your brainstormed ideas above and then reach out and get supports and take some actionable baby steps. Practical action combined with personal insight gained through psychotherapy and coaching can yield really transformative results.
Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: What is your money story? Where did you learn your current beliefs about money? What’s one different thought or belief or action step you could practice that would begin to help transform your relationship with money? Leave me a message in the comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.
Or if you live outside of these states, please consider enrolling in the waitlist for the Relational Trauma Recovery School – or my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, designed to support you in healing your adverse early beginnings and create a beautiful adulthood for yourself, no matter where you started out in life.
And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.