Money touches every aspect of our lives and occupies our daily thoughts.
When our thoughts about money turn negative, I call them “money shadows.” Psychologist Carl Jung popularized the term “shadow,” which means a belief about yourself that you hide, repress or deny. Very often these beliefs are negative judgments.
So our negative thoughts about money aren’t really about money at all: They are reflections of the negative beliefs we have about ourselves.
The sources of these shadows are emotional wounds we experienced as children. Yes, each of us has experienced events that caused us to create negative beliefs about ourselves.
Some common shadows are: “I’m not worthy of love or attention,” “I don’t matter,” “I don’t deserve success” and, one of my personal shadows, “I’m stupid.”
Money is a powerful trigger for shadows because of the power it has in our culture. For most people, money has come to mean more than its dictionary definition of something generally accepted as a medium of exchange, a measure of value or a means of payment.
In our culture, money and the things money can buy have become equated with security, power, beauty, social acceptance, sex appeal and success. It’s easy for our financial challenges and missteps to trigger shadows.
For example, if someone has the shadow of not being worthy of love or attention and equates money with social acceptance, any negative financial change may cause that person to feel excluded or unworthy.
Or, a person who doubts his ability to succeed and equates money with power may be paralyzed by fear when it comes to seeking a promotion or advocating for a raise.
Shadow beliefs can create a cycle of stress and unhappiness: When they block you from getting what you value because you feel inherently unworthy, you are unlikely to attain what you want, and you will feel even more unworthy.
But there is a way out of the cycle, and these steps can help:
Listen to those gremlins of negative self-talk. Don’t believe them, but become familiar with what they say. They will begin to reveal your shadows.
Make time to talk with your partner or a close friend, and share your shadows. They seem to have less of a hold on us when we shine some light them.
Make a list of what money – and the things it can buy – means to you. Be honest with yourself, you don’t have to show the list to anyone.
Make a list of what’s most important to you in your life.
Think about your financial behavior, and see if your actions are being driven by your shadows or what’s most important in your life.
Take action to bring your behavior into alignment with what’s most important to you.
Becoming conscious of your underlying beliefs about yourself and money, and it will make you a better consumer and a better manager of your money. And, more importantly, consciousness will decrease your stress and increase your happiness.