We are all engaged in various relationships, ranging from our family and friends, to neighbors and colleagues. It is fairly easy to know if these relationships are healthy or not: When love, respect and enjoyment emanate from the relationship, we can safely assume it is a healthy one. When anger, jealousy and resentment are present, then it is certainly an unhealthy one.
When it comes to our relationship with money, it is less straight-forward to know if we have a healthy approach.
As a money coach, I have observed several unhealthy financial behaviors. Having one or more of these habits is a warning sign that a shift is required.
You avoid your finances
Money is one of the most emotionally laden topics. It can trigger a wide range of emotions ranging from anxiety and fear to shame and overwhelm. Given that human beings are programmed to avoid pain and seek pleasure, it is a natural response to avoid dealing with your finances, particularly when they are off track. Your instinctive "fight, flight or freeze" response kicks in when you are in a stressful financial situation and "flight" (running away) or "freeze"(taking no action) is a common reaction.
Unfortunately, avoidance relieves the immediate tension but it worsens your financial situation in the long run.
Taking baby steps is a beneficial strategy in this case. For instance, you can list your most pressing financial tasks and dedicate 15 minutes each day to work on them. One of my clients found it valuable to do deep breathing exercises prior and after dealing with her finances, to reduce her anxiety and its physiological response.
You consistently overspend
Do you regularly spend more money than you earn? You are not alone! In our over-indebted society, it has become the norm to overspend. However, normal does not equal healthy. Indeed, overspending is a symptom of a more profound issue: a generalized sense of inadequacy.
Feeling like you are not enough can be a major trigger for overspending and marketers are specialized to give you that feeling. In fact, through advertisement, marketers can make you feel one of three emotions:
1- You don't have enough of something;
2- The something you have isn't good enough or
3- You are not enough without the something
A natural human reaction would be to swiftly get rid of this inadequacy feeling and feel whole again. This entails buying the advertised product/service, hoping it will fill the internal void.
Of course, it's a vain strategy that leads to financial distress over time. Your emotional needs can only be met from within. When you try to fulfill them with products and services, you will not be dealing with the real source of your ailment.
You keep financial secrets
Have you ever bought an item and hid the bill from your partner?
Financial secrets can be big or small. They include deceits such as having money stacked away in a bank account your partner is not aware of, lying about the cost of a large purchase, making purchases outside a pre-established budget or simply removing the price tags before you get home so your partner doesn't notice you went shopping. Such behaviors are mostly motivated by a desire to avoid a conflict, an angry reaction or disapproval.
When financial dishonesty, in its various forms, persists over time, it develops into what Dr. Brad and Ted Klontz refer to as "Financial Infidelity". Keeping financial secrets plays havoc in the relationship, leads to strained arguments and ruins the trust between partners.
A healthier approach would be to aim for complete financial transparency. It is also essential to dig deep within yourself to uncover and understand the roots of the trust issues. They could be ingrained in childhood if you witnessed deceptive or untrustworthy experiences and learned the behavior by observation.
You have unexamined money beliefs
How many times have you heard someone say "money is the root of all evil", or "it is inappropriate to talk about money", or even "it is not spiritual to charge for your services"?
There are countless unwarranted money beliefs out there and they mostly pertain to a time and age when society had reasons to believe in them. It is however dangerous to base your financial decisions on inherited beliefs that have been left unexamined.
Byron Katie encourages us to ask ourselves the following 4 questions to bust our limiting beliefs (The Work):
1- Is it true?
2- Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3- How do you react when you believe that thought?
4- Who would you be without the thought?
Questioning old money beliefs and being open to new possibilities can help you shift your perspective.
Be on the lookout for these warning signs and use your new-found awareness to change your relationship with money for the better.