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Mindful : October 2018
NAME IT TO TAME IT I’ve asked thousands of people: “Were you given a financial education, on an emotional, practical, or spiritual level?” The answer: “Nope.” Most of us were simply not taught about money: how to manage it, how to talk about it, and least of all how to navigate our feelings about it. In an ideal world, we would lea rn money skills and tools for understanding it and practices for relating to it and how to talk about it, all in incremen- tal, age-appropriate ways, from grade school on up. In the absence of this much-needed education, we project like crazy onto money: We conflate it with our iden- tity, our sense of worth, our definitions of success and maturity, beliefs inher- ited from our community, lineage, culture, spiritual aspirations, and on and on. Given that most of us simply were not taught how to make sense of money in any conscious way, is it any wonder, then, that we flounder and fall in this money territory? As shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown explains, “Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.” We’ve already seen these three ingredients in action: Most of us keep our money shame to ourselves, never or rarely speak it aloud, and berate ourselves for even having it. Yet simply naming and speaking money shame aloud is an important step in healing it. As Brown says, “Shame cannot sur- vive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy.” Shaming ourselves is an old, uncon- scious pattern. Telling ourselves, again and again, that we are not doing it right, that we’re not good enough, or that we’re unforgivable is self-di- rected violence. It’s unhelpful and flat-out inaccurate. The path out of money shame is not getting smarter or working harder or restricting your spending more harshly. The path out of money shame is finally putting down that lash, releasing those unrealistic standards, and cultivating every last drop of forgiveness, self-love, and compassion you can muster. Shame thrives in the dark, silent lands of taboo, so bringing the light of consciousness and courageous truth-telling can dissolve even the deepest, oldest shards of money shame. There is such healing in speaking the truth about money. SHAKING THE MONEY STORIES In Barbara’s earliest money memory, she was three years old, perched atop a miniature step stool, brushing her teeth before bed. Suddenly, a ques- tion popped into her mind, and she turned to her mother to ask, “Mama, how much allowance do you get?” Her mother remained silent but gave Barbara a withering stare. In that moment, Barbara got the message and made the decision: One does not talk about money. Years later, as she navigated extremely difficult financial circumstances, she kept silent about them. Even in her sessions with a therapist, where she could talk openly about everything else, she couldn’t bring herself to talk about money. This early memory, then, set Barbara on a path of neglecting money for many years—and ultimately paying a steep price for it. These earliest money memories are much like the first seeds planted in your money “garden,” eventually growing into the central, imposing fixtures of our financial lives. They are the focal points, the towering oaks, around which whole ecosystems Most of us were simply not taught about money: how to manage it, how to talk about it, and least of all how to navigate our feelings about it. grow, even though we often remain unaware of their existence. As pivotal as your initial money memories can be, there’s much, much more to your relationship with money. Whether or not you could afford college, for example, and if you did go, whether or not you had to work when you were there, may be a big part of your story. You may have relied on a partner for part of your twenties, lost your financial footing due to a layoff, or received a big inheritance. You may have been financially self-reliant from the age of 16, or your money relationship may always have been intertwined with your family. Perhaps you turned your financial relationship around dramatically when you started your own business—or maybe you took a risk in the stock market and lost your life savings. → October 2018 mindful 45 get real