As we all know, there are a lot of folks out there who are blogging about their financial journey in life, and for many of us it has not been a smooth road. One thing I have noticed is that, especially among those whose major financial focus is paying off old debts, this can really affect the way that we think about ourselves.
For example, it is not uncommon to hear words like “embarrassment” and “shame” when folks describe their debt. We feel badly about it, often due to mistakes that we have made in the past that we cannot change now. We feel especially terrible when those past mistakes impact our present ability to do things like get married, purchase a home, or save for our children’s education.
The good thing about financial mistakes is that we can learn valuable lessons from our past misdeeds. We can have a moment of clarity or enlightenment that may profoundly change the way we view money, and we can significantly change our behaviors going forward. But here’s the ugly truth about past financial mistakes: it may take many months or even years before your balance sheet catches up to your new mindset in terms of financial health.
What does this mean? It means that there are likely plenty of people out there who are the picture of fiscal responsibility today who still have shall we say… not-so-healthy-looking balance sheets (feel free to substitute “net worth,” “pile of stinking awful debt,” or whatever applies to you here). Do these people deserve to feel terrible about themselves? I am sure that we can all agree that the answer is a resounding NO!! Just the act of completely changing your mindset from that of spender to saver is a feat to be commended.
Now, for most of us I’m guessing we don’t have friends or loved ones harassing us about our past financial transgressions (at least I hope not!) No, sometimes we are our own worst enemies when it comes to dealing with our past. We are the ones who can’t stop thinking “If only I had not shopped so much on credit cards” or “I can’t believe I took out all those student loans when I didn’t even know what I wanted to do for a career.” We may use words like “stupid” or “dumb” when we are thinking about our past mistakes. We are sometimes the ones who fill our own brains full of garbage!
If you have already changed your financial mindset into one of saving/investing/financial responsibility, congratulations! That’s more than half the battle. Now the other part is learning to live with your past mistakes in a healthy way. I used to be a terrible offender of filling my own brain with crappy thoughts about myself and my past mistakes (well let’s face it, I still do this some days). What can we do to change this? I definitely don’t have all the answers to this one, but I can share with you some of the best tips that have helped me.
How to Live With Past Money Mistakes in a Healthy Way
1) To begin with, try to be more mindful of your internal thoughts. Some people may be so used to negative patterns of thinking that they may not even realize they are doing this! Pay attention to what you say to yourself that no one else hears.
2) Forgive yourself. I know, MUCH easier said than done, but here’s a way you can think of it- what would you say to your best friend (or your mother or brother or someone else you care about) if they came to you and said “I have debt” (or insert other financial revelation as applicable)? You would reassure them! You would build them up! You would make sure they know you are here for them. You would help them. So why is it so hard to be that nice to ourselves?
3) Take some time every day to be mindful of what you are grateful for. This one sounded lame to me when I first heard it. But I was motivated to change my internal thoughts so I dutifully put an item on my to-do list every day (I totally love my smart phone to-do list app!) called “Gratitudes.” Every day I take time to tell myself what I am grateful for. You know what? It has really made a difference. I am now much more likely to spontaneously think of what I am grateful for, even outside the time when I am checking items off my list.
4) If you are one who has really gotten down on yourself or tends to really be negative about what you’ve done in the past, it may also help to take some time every day to remind yourself of the good things that have come from your financial transgressions (lessons you’ve learned, etc). Ever heard of “the power of positive thinking?” There you go.
5) Remember that you are only human, and that we all make mistakes. None of us are perfect.
After all, you’re a good person right? Even if you have debt or have made other financial mistakes in the past, you still deserve happy life just as much as anyone else! You aren’t your balance sheet- you really aren’t!
Suggested Reading: Want to learn more about ways to forgive yourself for past mistakes? Check out How To Forgive Ourselves Totally: Begin Again by Breaking Free from Past Mistakes.
Are you guilty of not being as nice to yourself over your finances as you ought to be? What are some things you have done that have helped?
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