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Whether you have money in the bank or no penny to your name, if you’re committed to being vulnerable you will have good financial health.
I kept my debt and indulgent spending in the dark for a long time. The shame and guilt of my financial mess overwhelmed me to the point of anxiety. So I hid it for years.
I listened to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University when I was halfway through college. I had no clue about budgeting, credit, and debt until that course. Unfortunately, I had $25,000 in debt and another $25,000 to go.
I wasn’t ready to take action then. I knew finishing my degree was the right step for me and cash-flowing it wasn’t an option.
It didn’t stop me from feeling like a financial failure. I felt bad for not sticking to the principles so I gave up and just totally ignored them.
I was blissfully ignorant that way for several years. After graduation, I was underemployed at a job in my field and moved back in with my mom under the guise that I’d pay off some student loans with the saved money.
All I did during that time was finance a car and rack up a balance on my credit card.
I knew what I needed to do financially; I even knew how to do it. There’s no shortage of budgeting forms, loan interest calculators, and “how-to’s” on the internet. So what was my problem!?
I was just too scared to start.
If you’ve listened to my story you’ll know what changed my path was my then-fiancé asking me about my finances. It was less asking more probing because I did not want to give that information up. But his persistence led to trust and trust led me to opening up that shameful part of myself that I’d carried for so long.
Once we started talking about the hard stuff we could start talking about our plans for the future and what we’d need to get there by certain age milestones. Once I had dreams, there was less room for fear, and the more we talked the more those dreams turned into goals with plans.
And it all started with being vulnerable. I didn’t know what the outcome would be but I took a chance, laid it all out, and started the process of working through it.
Years ago I discovered Brené Brown’s TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability. I hadn’t related it to finances before but I’ve always believed our greatest strength lies in our ability to share our weaknesses so I was an instant fan of Brené’s.
When I thought more about it I realized it has everything to do with finances. You ask people about their finances they don’t usually have anything good to say if they’ll say anything at all. There’s either a silent shame about not having it all figured out or a defiant disregard of a “lost cause.”
Vulnerability and shame in regards to financial healthy are topics we don’t talk about but are directly related to how we view and use money.
“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”
Vulnerability is defined as the state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed either physically or emotionally. Even though being vulnerable opens us up to the often-scary picture of our finances, it’s the only starting point to becoming healthy in that area.
I love this quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “we accept the love with think we deserve.”
Brené says it like this: “People who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging.”
Habits show the same is true for people who are financially prosperous. People who make money, pay off their debt and become wealthy believe they are worthy of it.
I see people who are content to live in financial mediocrity because they think they can’t get ahead or become financially successful because of their education, gender, or a number of things. But I’ve found that the things that move the needle forward, in debt, income, etc., are the chances we take with uncertain outcomes.
It takes a lot of courage to go against the mainstream and say no to your desires, to practice delayed gratification, and miss out on some things for the good of your financial future.
It takes even more courage to admit when you’ve messed up on that new path.
In her studies Brené discovered that the less we talk about shame, the more we have. So tell your story to the people who matter. Fully embrace vulnerability. Vulnerability isn’t comfortable but it’s not excruciating, it’s just necessary.
Don’t Numb it
“We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.”
I was numb to feeling the weight of my finances. I would actually spend money to feel better about how in debt I was. Sound familiar!?
In our efforts to numb vulnerability, we spend thousands of dollars to “perfect” our lives with houses, trips, food, and toys.
What is Good Financial Health?
You can be in debt and still be financially healthy. Health has nothing to do with your net worth. Being financially healthy has everything to do with your mindset on money and the direction your moving in.
Wealthy people see money differently than those of us in debt. For them it’s a tool to make more money for us it’s a necessity to live or be happy. Finding a balance between the two mindsets is powerful. It increases your earning potential and lessens the fear surrounding personal finance.
And as long as you’re on an upward trajectory, you’re going in the right direction. It doesn’t matter how slow you’re going. You’re going to have a few setbacks but it’s a journey, and when you’re committed to being vulnerable you’ll find that there’s more joy than disappointment to be had in your personal finance story.
Do you have a spouse, friend, or family member you can be vulnerable with about your finances? Think about what you can share to help you along in this journey of becoming financially healthy.