Growing up I was not a popular kid in school. I was timid and didn’t have a lot of friends.
We moved around every 3-4 years, which made it extremely difficult in connecting with people at school on a deep level. People took advantage of my quietness by making fun of me. In a previous post, I talked about how this damaged my self-confidence.
You might have noticed that I’ve started to open up about my past. I’m not doing this in the hopes that people feel sorry for me. My goal is to share my story to give you some background on my history, and how that influences me today.
I want to dig deep into my psyche so I can learn to overcome my insecurities and grow towards the financial future I want for my family. I know there is a risk being this open and transparent online, but if I can give hope to one person, it is worth it.
I started going to a new middle school. At the time, I was interested in sports. To participate in the school sports teams, you had to get a physical done to make sure you were healthy.
I still don’t remember how it happened, but a rumor started spreading about something that happened during my physical. I’m not going to go into specifics in precisely what that rumor was about, just know that it was inappropriate and embarrassing. And it wasn’t true.
I was always picked on, bullied, and laughed at when this rumor started going around in middle school. It took off like a wildfire.
There is one memory burned into my mind. I was in class, and the teacher left the room. Someone went up to the front of the class, announced this awful rumor and pointed at me. The whole class proceeded to laugh. I just sat there in a mental state of panic and embarrassment. That entire evening I was overwhelmed with humiliation, and I cried myself to sleep.
When this rumor came up, I would not deny what happened, and I would freeze. Worst yet, in some cases I would respond that it was true!
Shame and Depression
The questions that plague me to this day are the following:
- Why would I claim something happened to me, even though I knew it wasn’t true?
- Why wasn’t I willing to stand up for myself?
I’m not a psychologist, and I haven’t talked to a medical professional about what happened. But my theory is that my self-esteem was so low, that there was a part of me that thought I deserved this lie to be spread about me.
I was full of fear and doubt about who I was. Maybe seeing people look down on me validated these feelings I had about myself?
In either case, this caused me to withdraw further into my shell and internalize my feelings. I don’t know if I became more angry at the rumor itself, or my response to it.
Money Became an Escape
As I progressed through my career and increased my income, money became an escape from my internal reality. Regardless of what I was going through, I could always find something that got me excited to purchase.
It’s like spending money became my therapy.
Looking at it now, it isn’t that I didn’t know what was going on. But I didn’t care enough to spend much time thinking about it. If you don’t acknowledge and ignore the problem, it goes away, right? But the more significant the problem became, the harder it was to ignore.
My overspending got to a point where it could no longer be a minor annoyance. It’s like a splinter that is barely noticed at first but then gets infected and inflamed. If left untreated, it could end up causing serious harm.
Starting to Care about My Future
Learning to care about my future helped build my confidence.
Have you ever looked at the trajectory of your choices and thought about where they will lead you 5, 10 or 20 years down the road?
I started to do that, and these visions of the future terrified me. Were Andrea and I working so hard so that we could get farther into debt? Exactly what destination were we headed towards?
It is like a semi-truck struck me. The rate race in accumulating stuff I didn’t want and couldn’t afford started eating at my soul.
Refuting Lies I Told Myself
When you start to believe that you are worthless, the future doesn’t seem that important. It is like a veil that insulates you from what is happening around you.
Over the past ten years, I’ve started to confront these feelings I’ve had about myself. I realized that the insecurities I had about myself were coming from me and not anyone else. In other words, this was a battle within myself.
I started acknowledging my accomplishments and recognizing all the good things in my life. I’m not a worthless human being. I have people who love and care about me.
It’s one thing to be critical of your choices to improve your life. But when this critical voice in your head starts to question your self-worth, it can poison your mind and perspective.
It’s like my mind was trying to sabotage me. Here are a few thoughts that would enter my mind:
- “If you get out of debt, it will only be temporary.”
- “Andrea and your kids really don’t love you.”
- “It’s only a matter of time before you end up alone and broke.”
- “You are destined for failure. If it doesn’t happen soon, it will happen eventually.”
Writing these thoughts down makes me realize how these ideas made it so easy to seek temporary pain relievers.
You Have Control Over Your Future
Instead of making decisions based on how they made me feel in the moment, I started doing things that would benefit my future. I took a close look at how I wanted my life to look with Andrea down the road.
Instead of letting my past decisions lead me to depression, I redirected that energy to motivate me towards positive choices.
It’s crazy to think about how every decision we make takes us down a specific path. It’s only after we make sound financial decisions, one right after another, over a long period, before we start to see the fruit from our choices.
Acknowledging the errors in my past decisions helped me envision where those choices were leading me.
None of us are born perfect. We all have unique struggles either stemming from our DNA or our past experiences. These things aren’t going to solve themselves if we pretend they don’t exist.
In other words, we are all broken vessels.
But your weaknesses and bad financial choices don’t have to define your future if you can figure out what is going on. I love reading stories about how people have turned things around. They became hyper-focused on not repeating the past and making their future bright.
Our story can be about redemption.
We recently watched the movie, Forest Gump. I got very emotional re-watching this movie. The main character had huge disadvantages based on issues he couldn’t control, and he could have easily given up based on the negative experiences in his life. But he didn’t give up. He didn’t lose hope.
Forest Gump focused on what he could do and did it as best he could.
Am I a broken vessel? Yes. Does this have to define my future? No.
Destiny Doesn’t Exist
The more I thought about this, the more I realized the idea that we are “destined” for anything is more of an idealistic view of the world and not based on reality.
Destiny is about an idea that our future is predefined. Fate dictates that our choices don’t and can’t affect our future.
If your destiny happens to be positive, you are one of the lucky few. Otherwise, you are screwed.
I’m a firm believer that our choices today, can drastically change our future. Our destination is not set in stone but changes over time by the habits we maintain.
Let’s redefine destiny by looking at the choices we make. Sure, we can’t guarantee a specific destination, but we can extrapolate the choices we make today and where these choices have a good chance of leading us in the future.
It’s like good financial decisions increase the chances that our destination will be favorable. The more of these positive decisions we can make, the more likely we are going to achieve our goals.
Talk is Cheap
Have you ever met someone who has a lot of “great advice” but is unable to follow their wisdom?
The risk in having a PF blog like Money Stir is that it becomes all talk without any follow through. What benefit are these ideas if we don’t implement them into our lives?
Knowing what you should do, does not fix anything. It requires action.
I would argue if our actions don’t match our words, that we don’t believe what we are saying. We might say these things because we think others want to hear these words. Or maybe we only care about the perception others have of what we are doing.
If I tell my wife I love her, but I don’t show her affection, the words are meaningless.
In a sense, we are all hypocrites. There are things we do that we know are not good decisions, but we decide to do them anyway. Maybe it is because we are at a low point. Or perhaps we’ve lost sight of the goal.
It’s not about avoiding letting people down. It’s about not letting ourselves down.
I don’t want to prioritize saying words that I think others will approve of or agree with. The focus is on turning my own life around and helping others do the same thing.
My early childhood experience of humiliation has made me realize that I’ve lived with toxic thoughts for too long. These thoughts led to me ignoring bad financial decisions we are still recovering from to this day.
But instead of assuming my life has to be defined by my past decisions and thoughts, I’m focused on making my story about redemption.
Our choices play a big factor in our destiny. Otherwise, we have to let our lives unfold however they will and hope for the best. But I’m not willing to take that chance. Because I’ve envisioned the results of those bad financial choices, and I don’t like where they are taking me.
Do you struggle with toxic thoughts about yourself? How are you trying to turn things around?
Chris is a financial blogger who loves to be transparent about money-related issues. He’s paid off massive amounts of credit card debt and is the blog author of Money Stir. His main focus on Money Stir is talking about how money relates to our relationships, personal development, and how to plan for the future we want. He’s been quoted on Market Watch, The Ladders, and other publications.