“Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives.” Robert Collier
Do you remember experiences from your childhood that shape how you think and feel about money? You may not because we don’t always relate what happens to us in our youth to how we think and feel about money.
But the truth is, there are many things that shape our money beliefs, even from a very young age. Examples are hearing and seeing things like:
- Money doesn’t grow on trees
- Work hard and you’ll be successful
- The cheaper the better or buy it only if it’s on sale
- Money is the root of all evil
- Easy come easy go
- Another day another dollar
These are just a few of the examples of messages that we could have heard and ingrained in our subconscious from an early age. And they could still be affecting you now!
When I was in the 4th grade, my parents took my sister and I out of public school and put us in private school. It was a stretch financially, but my mom worked at the school to cover most of the costs, and we also had help from the school itself in the form of a scholarship. The amount left for my parents to pay was low enough that mom could make cuts in her household expenses to cover the remainder.
The school had an agreement with a local college to allow them to bring students to swim during physical education class. The boys went Tuesdays and the girls got to go on Thursdays.
Thursday’s were my favorite day of the week because I loved swimming so much! And frankly it was the thing that I was MOST excited about switching schools because I love, love, love the water! But we didn’t have bathing suits, and no money to buy any. My mom asked around and was able to get a used one for my sister, but none of the donations fit me. Mom knew I really wanted to swim, so she decided to make me a bathing suit.
Again, with no money to buy material, she went to look at what she had on hand. She found this horribly rough, gaudily purple 70’s polyester and decided to make it out of that (see the pic below – this is an exact pic of the remaining fabric that made it into a quilt my mom made later on).
Now let me tell you, this bathing suit was not stretchy. So, in order to make it in a way that I could get it on, it was loose in all the wrong places. And not pretty at all. Picture a strange, sleeveless jumpsuit with loose short, shorts. Definitely not your standard bathing suit at all (let’s all be thankful there is no pictorial evidence!). But I wanted to go swimming so I sucked it up and wore it. Once I was in the water, it didn’t matter anyway. Ha!
I definitely picked up some money lessons from this experience. And while later experiences have changed my money outlook, I can still see some remnants of that experience.
Here are a few of the things that I see within my belief system.
1. I learned to figure it out.
While we didn’t have much money growing up, my mom was one to figure out how to make things work. I think this stuck with me and I can see it throughout my life including my money decisions. If I want something bad enough, I’m going to figure out how to get it or how to get the money for it! Examples for this include:
- Braces when I was 15, so that I could feel like I fit in with my peers.
- Hiring a business coach, so that I could make more money doing what I love.
- Moving from landlocked WV to Florida’s gulf coast, so that I could fulfill my lifelong dream of living in a house with a pool with the beach nearby.
2. It’s less about what you look like and more about doing what you love.
Even though I hated that bathing suit, I realized that once I was in the water, I was just another girl swimming around. And that’s exactly how I live now. I don’t have to have a fancy car, or monthly massage (not that there’s anything wrong with these things), I’ll give those up to be able to swim every day in a pool in my backyard.
3. I have tendencies to overcompensate.
That experience did instill in me a deep desire to have nice bathing suits. More than one, like we are talking six or seven suits here! I tend to prioritize my budget so that it includes money for swimming costumes. I did this even before I lived in a house with a pool and only needed a bathing suit on vacation. I feel extreme satisfaction in putting on a bathing suit that fits me well and doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb! And having those back-up bathing suits helps me feel supported and abundant.
You can see that one little situation from my childhood affected how I think and feel about money decades later. And that’s how it is for all of us. If we can learn to uncover these hidden stories and beliefs that we have about money, we can begin to change and invite more money to flow into our lives.
Listed below are a few of my favorite tools for uncovering your money beliefs system.
Write a list of everything you think or say about money for a 24 – 48 hour period. Look for things like:
- I can’t afford to buy that.
- But they are rich and I’m not.
- There’s no money for that.
- They’ve raised the price of groceries.
- Can you believe the gas prices now?
So many times, we have thoughts that don’t even register or we say things through habit and don’t really give it conscious thought. Spending some time on a list like this can be eye opening and will help you pick out themes of where you are in your money mindset journey. You might realize that you believe that more money means more work. Or you might see that you’re sabotaging yourself with a pattern of lack and scarcity thinking. Once you have that awareness, you will be more likely to pick up on it when it happens and stop yourself in the moment, so that you can shift what you are thinking and saying.
Write a letter to money and tell it what you really think about how it shows up for you. This may sound strange, but communication is key to any relationship. So, write that letter to money. This type of exercise is crucial to rebuild trust between yourself and money. I encourage you to let it all out, leave it on the page. This is another exercise that can be super powerful both for improving your relationship with money AND with your emotions around it. One caveat, don’t just dwell on the bad, it’s important to acknowledge the good things that money has done for you as well. This will help get you out of the details and see the big picture. It often surprises people to see how much good money does for them. You could say things like:
- Thanks Money, for allowing me to buy healthy food for my family.
- I have a beautiful home because of you, Money.
- I’m so grateful Money, for providing a vacation each year.
Do something you love to do every single day. This is another thing that may surprise you. But when we are spending time doing what we love, we are fostering good feelings. The more good feelings that we have, the more positive we will be. When we are feeling happy and optimistic, it gets much easier to change how we are thinking about money and break away from old stories. For me, that looks like:
- Swimming in my pool every day.
- Reading time every morning before I start work.
- Playing with my fur babies.
I promise you, if you are trying to break thought patterns and behaviors around money, it is going to be 10 times more difficult if you are feeling discouraged, worried or sad. So, feel good first and then take action steps to modify your thinking, feelings and actions around money.
Knowing our past history with money is often the key to creating the money story we want. Uncovering those historical and often generational thought patterns and behaviors is going to serve you tremendously in improving your relationship with money and your ability to invite more money into your life!
Sherry Parks, CPA, is a Money Mindset Coach who helps women escape feeling trapped by their finances. She is passionate about helping women change mindset, emotions and actions regarding money, so that they learn to keep what they have and generate more. Check out her 5 Steps to a Better Money Story workbook or join her women-only Facebook group Lives in Balance.
Image courtesy of Becca Tapert.