The Lean Years Part 4: Why It Happened

Even though I’d created a budget, had begun to live within my means, and felt “in control” of my finances moving forward, I still didn’t quite know WHY I’d gotten myself into such a deep hole.

I think at first, I blamed others:

  • I attended a “rich” school, and it simply cost A LOT to keep up with everything happening on campus
  • My parents never taught me how to manage money
  • My high school never taught us basic living skills, like managing money
  • Credit card companies sent me offers that were too good to be true (or appeared to be too good to be true!)
  • My ex spent our money frivolously (took me a while to realize I did, too!)
  • Being a homeowner was expensive and no one warned us about all the costs that go along with it
  • My company simply wasn’t paying me what I was worth! Obviously I deserved to make more money in order to achieve the lifestyle that was expected of me.

But let’s be totally honest. No one else was swiping my bank card and credit cards for me. No one else was signing the checks. I was the one making the decision to live a lifestyle I simply couldn’t afford. It took me a long time to swallow my pride and accept that I was doing this to myself.

But, still the question: Why?  Why did I feel like I needed to live outside my means? Why did I resort to “retail therapy” anytime I felt a little down? Why did I feel like I needed  a new car just because my co-worker had a Lexus? Why did I feel like I needed to build a brand-new home? Why did I “need” a new outfit for a wedding? Who was I competing with, and why was I competing with them?

I had to get control over my emotional spending habits, and that meant asking myself some very hard questions. Ultimately I had no good answers to my questions. There was NO good reason why I felt like I need to keep up with The Jones’ (whoever they are!). It all boiled down to a lack of confidence in myself and a lack of satisfaction or fulfillment in my life that I needed to deal with.

I spent a lot of time journaling about WHY I felt a lack of confidence about myself. Much of it went back to childhood. Specifically, I always had a major fear of disappointing my parents. I had so much anxiety built up around being Little Miss Perfect that I was willing to do anything, ie: SPEND ANYTHING, to make it look like I was “successful”, “happy”, living a better life than where I’d started.

I also looked very deeply into why I was so unsatisfied with my life that I felt like I needed to surround myself with material things. I began to realize I had built a life for myself that I didn’t really like, and the person I liked the least was myself. I realized I was harboring a lot of negativity into my life. I had surrounded myself with a lot of negative people, and was holding onto drama and stuff that I ultimately couldn’t control and that wasn’t important in the Grand Scheme of Things. The unimportant things I was trying to control gave me a very false sense of importance and fulfillment.

I recognized that I wasn’t spiritually fulfilled and began going to church more regularly. I started hanging out with the Negative Nancies less and less. I went to a therapist just to chat about who I was and what direction I was headed. I learned how to differentiate between the Circle of Control and the Circle of Influence. I worked on the stuff INSIDE me, and everything going on OUTSIDE me started to fix itself.

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