“In the honest, bold, and thoughtful examination of our relationship with money we find some truth, and in that truth – whatever it is – we can find enormous possibility and surprising power.”
– Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money
We all have a relationship with money. Whether we like it or not, money is an integral part of our lives. Just like any of our other relationships, our relationship with money needs to be tended to, cared for and respected.
Consider this: If your feelings toward another person were filled with anger, would the anger affect that relationship? Yes, of course. Or, if your feelings toward another person were filled with fear, would the fear affect that relationship? Again, yes. How about if your feelings toward another person were filled with guilt – would the guilt affect that relationship? Sure it would. What I’m getting at here is that in the same way your feelings toward another person will determine your results with that person, your feelings toward money will affect your results with money.
Look at it this way. If you ignore your money, deny its needs, and are afraid of it, how do you think money feels? If you were money, how would you feel?
Tip: If you want your relationship with money to last, you have got to take care of it!
In the words of personal success legend Napoleon Hill, “Money is shy and elusive. It must be wooed and won by methods not unlike those used by a determined lover.”
It’s strange, but for many women, until we have no choice but to confront money matters, we don’t apply our primal, nurturing and loving instinct when it comes to our relationship with money. We take care of everyone else around us – our kids, our spouses, our parents, our colleagues, our friends, our neighbors, and orphans in Africa – but forget to take care of our very own money.
One day when I was still living in Israel, I got a hysterical phone call from my friend Sarah. She was crying and asking me to come over and help her. I rushed over to meet her. When I arrived, I found her sitting on the floor surrounded by boxes of papers and bank statements scattered all over the place. Her typical elegant apartment (which was always impeccably clean and beautiful) now looked like a hurricane had just gone through it.
As Sarah sobbed, she told me that the bank had warned her that they were going to close her account and would be declaring bankruptcy on her assets. When I asked her, “What assets?” She said: “I have no clue.”
In Israel in those days you could have an overdraft at the bank that was equal to your salary. This meant that you could live as if you had “double” your real salary. Of course you paid a high interest rate on the overdraft, but this was something that most people tended to overlook. It was reported at that time that more than 70 percent of the population in Israel lived by using their overdraft at the bank.
Sarah was single and held a high position in one of the corporate businesses in Israel. Somehow she managed to get an overdraft amount that was more than her salary – and she used it.
I learned from Sarah that for nearly a year and half, she was getting warning statements from the bank about her overdraft limit. Sarah told me that because she had no clue what they were talking about and was ashamed to admit that she didn’t understand the “bank language,” she didn’t even bother to investigate the situation or respond to the letters. She just buried all those bank statements in boxes and hoped that the warnings would go away.
Somehow she thought they would disappear.
Well, this finally all caught up with her. She was so ashamed of what she had done and ashamed that she had no idea now how to get out of it. She called the one person that she felt safe to talk to about it … me.
But I was the wrong person to help her with this.
It took me more than three hours to get her to the point where she was willing to go and speak with some people who could actually help her. Her only condition was that
these people had to be people that didn’t know her. She was concerned that this situation would ruin her image if she had to go and discuss it with people who knew her.
I think this element of “saving face” is quite common among women – especially professional women. We don’t want anyone to see that we may have taken some “stupid” steps in our private life and be caught in a position like Sarah where we might be “found out.” Additionally, the guilt that we feel from not acting like the responsible woman we want ourselves to be can be devastating. It was for Sarah.
Women, Money and Shame.
Isn’t it strange that shame can be so big for us that we’d rather go to strangers than get support from those who know us and love us?
It seems as if women – no matter how confident we look, no matter how many titles we have, no matter how far we have advanced – deep inside we are still all trying to prove that we are good, that we are smart, that we are … better than ‘someone else’.
Shame is a big issue for women. We tell ourselves that we should have learned how to take care of our money a long time ago. We think that we are the only ones that missed “Money 101” in school, not realizing that this lesson was never in the curriculum. At this point it is simply too embarrassing to reveal the depths of what we don’t know. Many of us have ignored money for so long, that we are afraid that if we start to reach out to money – money will expose our shortcomings. We stuff the feeling of shame so far down and hope that if we ignore money issues altogether, we won’t have to face the shame that we are hiding. The problem with this is that the longer we ignore our shame around money (like my friend Sarah), the worse the situation becomes.
My Own Story With Shame.
I know from my own experience that the fact that I was ashamed of not being good in math prevented me (until recently) from even considering negotiating prices or my own salary.
In all of my jobs, I accepted whatever offer was given to me even though deep down inside the offer didn’t feel right. I knew the salary was devaluing me – but because I couldn’t figure out what the right number should be – I wouldn’t argue.
As I mentioned earlier, I was sent to Holland to open a training center for a training company I had been working with for 12 years. I was sent there because I was their best trainer and I was the head trainer. Although they offered me to be a partner in the company in Holland, I didn’t dare to accept that partnership due to my mindset of “it’s safer to be an employee.” I just wanted a fair salary that would cover my family’s needs.
When we were discussing the salary, I had no idea about the appropriate amount. I was moving to a new country and didn’t know about the cost of living there. However, I was too ashamed to admit this because I was supposed to be this “all-powerful, know-it-all” woman. How could I admit to my employer that I had no clue how to estimate expenses and create a budget? I turned to Nisandeh and asked him to help me with this negotiation.
The initial offer they gave me was so humiliating that I knew it was wrong. But I didn’t know how to respond. Again, I turned to Nisandeh and asked him to guide me through the negotiation. I asked him to tell me what to do in order to get the “right” amount. I followed his advice and managed to get the minimum amount that I thought would be appropriate for us to start our new life in this new country.
When we arrived in Holland, however, we found out that this amount was ridiculously low for the amount of hours, effort and energy that I spent opening that center. Additionally, none of the other benefits that usually are given to anyone who is relocated (such as rent for a house, a budget to furnish that house, and a car) were given to us.
We had some friends from Israel that moved to Holland at the same time that we did. One of our friends was a project manager on a renovation project in Holland. When he asked about my salary, I was so embarrassed to tell him that I kept making excuses for the company. I said that they couldn’t afford to pay me a higher salary. Frankly, I was ashamed to say that I didn’t negotiate well enough to get what I deserve.
The worst part of this story is that because I was so dependent on Nisandeh for the whole process of determining my salary, it reinforced my old belief that I was not good with money and I shouldn’t try handling anything that has to do with business or money.
The History of Shame.
If we look at our history as women, shame is something we’ve been carrying around for thousands of years ago. What I’m talking about is the story of Adam and Eve.
Whether you are a religious person or not, we all carry in our genes the concept that a woman was the cause for the first sin. Consider the story of An Almighty man (God) told Eve (woman) not to pick a forbidden fruit (the apple). Eve decided to pick the apple and gave it to Adam (man). From this point forward, Eve went down in history as the one who led humanity to its fall from paradise and the introduction of evil into the world. Eve, the archetype of woman, has gone on record as the one who committed the “original sin”.
Some of you might disagree with this argument, but why is it then that women are much quicker to accept accusations and feel ashamed when they don’t know something or when they are not doing something well? And why is it that we constantly feel that we need to prove our worth even when we have many degrees, titles and awards for our work? I think somewhere down deep inside we believe that what we as women are doing is not good enough and we need to prove that we are good people.
To further this point, let’s also remember that in our culture our greatest spiritual role model, God, is a male in imagery and language. “He” is the one we are to please, emulate and be judged by. If God is male in imagery and language, wouldn’t it make sense that females would feel a sense of inferiority, self-doubt and perhaps never feel that they are good enough?
The Other Side of Shame.
While some women beat themselves up for not managing their finances well and going into debt, other women are ashamed to admit that money actually matters to them. These women think it is selfish to want to earn a lot of money and operate with a belief system that it is nobler to live on shoestring. We’ll talk more about this is Chapter 4. For now, it’s time to shake out of the old cliché, “Better to have no relationship at all than a failed ” As Lynne Twist in her book The Soul of Money says, “It is about using the unexamined portal of our relationship with money to deliver a widespread transformation in all aspects of our lives.” I hope that you will consider this.
Shame is our weak spot. The moment we stop trying to prove that we are “just as good” or “just as smart” maybe will be the moment we start acknowledging that we are already good and already smart. Once we stop putting so much energy and focus on proving ourselves, our shame will dissipate. As we begin to heal our relationship with money, we will reclaim our power and experience the wonderful opportunities that money can give us in our lives.
If you are someone who has ignored or resisted your relationship with money, you are not alone. There are many women who are walking around feeling ashamed about “not knowing enough” or “not being smart enough” when it comes to money. Unfortunately it is usually a traumatic, life-changing situation that wakes these women up to their denial. BUT I want you to know that it doesn’t have to be this way.
The very first step to changing your relationship with money is to acknowledge and respect your own needs to improve your finances. You are taking this step by reading this book and committing your time and energy to improving your Financial IQ. As you create a healthier relationship with money, you will find that you are creating healthier relationships with everyone in your life.
Questions for Reflection:
- What is your relationship with your money? Do you respect and appreciate money? Do you ignore it? Feel angry toward it? Feel guilty about not spending more time focusing on it? Write down your feelings.
- Do you feel ashamed because you have debt or don’t understand some of the language used to talk about money? Write down the name of someone you can talk to about this.
- Do you feel ashamed to admit that money matters to you? Write down why you think you feel this way and the name of someone you can talk to about this.
- Are you afraid of the responsibility of having more money? If so, write down what your fears are around this.
- Why do you want to improve your relationship with money? Write down three reasons.
Commitment to Yourself:
Remember, the most important person to commit to is … YOU. When you commit to an attitude or to one small action a day to take you closer to your goals, you will develop self-trust. As you increase your self-trust, your self-esteem and confidence will grow. This will have remarkable effects in your financial life. When you commit to yourself and stick with it, amazing things can happen.
I commit to healing my relationship with money.
Remember to say these affirmations out loud as often as possible. The more often you hear the words coming out of your mouth, the more you will internalize them.
- I value and respect my money.
- I love my money and what it provides for me.
- I am smart, wise, and good.