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Money as an object and entity presents a unique challenge in our lives as something we interact with constantly and think of often. If we treat it inattentively, we risk falling into unhealthy habits that can affect and shape who we are. But treating it attentively is
not the same as fixating on it, so we are left with the task of trying to regard money in a healthy way, without becoming fixated, and falling into the two main unhealthy habits this article will discuss.
Imagine a spectrum with the two extremes of behaviour on either side. Both create a different, but parallel, relationship of inability. By that I mean: both relationships are born out of an incapacity to resist the pull of that particular relationship.
One extreme clings to wealth, hoarding, holding, gripping on to money.
This attitude tends to be obsessed with control. It cannot let go, and it feels always, and fears always, that money is eluding it or slipping away, and that scarcity is always a threat. This relationship grips harder and harder, jeopardizing the person's health, and their relationships with family, friends, and, most importantly, themselves.
Practically speaking, this attitude focuses on what it can save, what services will allow it to retain more money, and what will boost income. The person in this extreme lives in a world oriented toward and pledged to finances and success, defined in terms of money made.
The other extreme is that of excessive looseness: the entire inability to retain or hold on at all. Spending money, here, becomes an automatic and uncontrolled compulsion. This behaviour mimics a recklessness that borders on intoxication. Living within a budget, proper management of resources, good financial decisions, and financial planning can be difficult for the person trapped in this relationship. Frivolous spending, negligence, and debt are all clues one is stuck in this relationship with money.
But that being said, everyone (poor or rich) can fall into either of these two relationships.
The more time we spend in these two extremes, the more we sacrifice our chance at a healthy relationship with money and create feelings of anxiety and dependency. While it is possible to make money, existing within the first extreme (of intense control), it will always come at the cost of other important areas of our life.
How we relate
The first thing to identify, in diagnosing these habits within ourselves, and striving for a more positive relationship with money, is the very fact that a person trapped on either side has a very emotional relationship with money.
On the one hand, money anxiety is a frantic, raw passion for spending and releasing the money. A catharsis of sorts.
On the other hand, a clenched, rigid, and painful hold on the idea of keeping, containing money and resources represents a kind of uptightness and tension within oneself, possibly brought on in some other aspect of life.
The strangeness of this fact takes a moment to sink in, that we can have such an emotional tie to something so abstract when we might alternatively develop a calm, even indifferent attitude towards money.
Money, it helps to remember, is only a conduit between us and what we need. But we are prompted to treat it as more than that. We are encouraged to talk about money, think about money, (think about talking about money), worry about paying and payments, ponder how to manage money, fear debt, frequent the bank, and achieve heights that are measured by money.
All in all, time spent considering money is time well spent. But this time we spend helps feed our fixation on money, which in turn takes away from the time we could spend recuperating from the hours we put into accruing it.
A Mindset for financial success
I believe there is a looseness that is different from the frivolous looseness of excessive spending, outlined above. This looseness has helped me to gain wealth and success in my own life, and reach my personal dreams, without, I believe, developing a fixation with money that would cause harm to my health. I have been able to grow my career while keeping a soft, generous attitude towards spending money along the way and maintained time for love and other important activities in my life.
The key is to recognize the two extremes, and try to intuit when it is necessary to pay or spend, (or when one should feel free to spend money), and when it is unnecessary or harmful to our personal health to do so. While this does depend on your personal finances, I think it depends even more on your intuition about how you are treating money, how you are viewing it, at any given moment, and whether this way of thinking is disproportionate to what money is.
Your relationship with money and financial state will be just as much affected by how you make decisions, as the decisions themselves. If you can identify, early, what how you are conceptualizing money, at any moment that it's on your mind, you will have a better relationship to your financial life overall, and create a better chance for yourself to not only make money but feel calm and free whilst doing so.
In summary, money and personal finance are more about mentality than anything and keeping oneself and one's values safely removed from extreme behaviours that should not correlate with something so common and practical as money. We cannot succeed in any program that helps us with making money until we learn to treat it more calmly and loosely, remembering to devote credit to our mental health, so that we can actually value the things we gain from our money. This basic idea — that we need to listen to how we are conceptualizing money in our lives — goes a long way to helping us reach our financial goals.