Attitudes About Money
Money and mental health, they are inextricably linked. The way we grew up and our relationship with money influences our mental health and vice versa. At its very core, money equals energy. Money purchases food, shelter, clothing, services, etc. Most of us sell our time in exchange for money so that we can purchase goods and services. Money, in our cultures and families, can mean much more than simply a way to purchase goods. Whether we hoard or spend it all depends on our (sometimes) complicated relationship with money.
Since money is ubiquitous in all of our lives, we all inherited societal and familial attitudes and philosophies about money. Some of these philosophies may have been helpful like "saving for retirement is good" or "pay yourself first." Other attitudes/philosophies may have been less than helpful like "there is never enough" or "spending on yourself is selfish."
Many people who struggle with mental health issues can have low feelings of self-worth. This can manifest in not feeling worthy of spending money on themselves. If they grew up in a family where money was tight and the family money philosophy was one of lack and deprivation, it may be extremely hard to spend money and if they do spend it, they may feel guilty. Some people who grew up without money can feel nervous around money and spend it the second they have it because they are uncomfortable with the idea of having money.
Even people who grew up in wealthy families can have complicated and dysfunctional relationships with money. Inherited money can come with uncomfortable ties to toxic family members or other strings attached. Inheriting a lot of money can cause fear that the money will disappear and they will have no idea how to work to achieve that level of wealth again.
Healing Our Relationship With Money
Regardless of our backgrounds, whether we grew up rich or poor, we all come with baggage regarding money. Our society has many unspoken rules about it such as never telling others your net worth or salary. It is rare to hear anyone say they are satisfied with the amount of money or wealth they have achieved unless they are uber-wealthy. For anyone less than uber-wealthy, it is a taboo to speak of your comfort or net worth to others. Why?
One reason may be that our culture has mistakenly attached self-worth to net worth. The amount of money we make and have accumulated is erroneously used as a measure of our worth as a person. No one wants to walk around speaking about their net worth because that would open them up to the vulnerability of showing their "worth" and risking someone else being "worth" more. And if we are attaching love and acceptance to this idea of "worthiness" then it would be devastating to have someone know our net worth and belittle it or criticize it. We place too much value on net worth and not enough on if our relationship with money is healthy or not.
So what would a healthy relationship with money look like? Although it would look different for each individual person, fundamentally a relationship with money should be one where money is seen as a tool, not a master. Money is important but it is not everything, money cannot buy health (although it can buy medical care and healthy food), and money cannot bring our loved ones back from the dead. Money has a limited purpose and those who have the most of it have probably realized that by now. A truly healthy relationship with money would take this into account. Sacrificing too much time, health, and sanity in the pursuit of money is a losing battle. Money will not replace those things, money cannot give us back youth or time or sanity.
My Own Journey
I have also embarked on my own healing journey with money. I started off life in a home and culture that overvalued money. Since my family had little money, money was seen as an all-powerful ideal that could solve most problems. I had no skills on how to manage money but I knew that money was important. At first, I was so excited to have money, I spent it all the second I received it. As I got older, I learned about saving and became an aggressive saver and investor. I would go to extremes in order to save and would then have to bring myself back into balance.
I always had a feeling of lack deep within me, a sense that money will run out and that poverty was inevitable, no matter what my bank account looked like. I learned quickly that I would feel this way no matter how much money I had. Thus began a long journey of trying to heal my relationship with money and my own deep-seated fear of poverty.
Two books highly influenced me on my healing journey: