The other evening I was putting my little guy to bed for the night and I was absolutely shocked at the amount of stuff that kid had tucked away in his bed. Where on earth did it even come from?!? Obviously, it was stuff that he had collected over time and put there. All of it a treasure to him at some point, I’ve no doubt. Some of it was useful (to him): a flashlight, a few books, his favorite stuffed animal of the moment, and his beloved brown blanket. I understood why those “valuable” items would be tucked in right next to him. But there was also a wide assortment of… well… crap. Scraps of paper, random hair ties, a variety of mismatched toys, and perhaps, even a cup of old rotten milk (yikes!). As I was clearing out his bed to make room for… ahem… him, I reflected on how much his bed and our emotional “money beds” seem to mirror one another.
When we were small children we began to pick up our views of money from the world around us. Primarily, we got them from within our homes and our family, because that is where our little world tended to be focused. So, in our home setting, we took whichever money-view happened to be laying around and, if it seemed valuable enough, we tucked it right into bed next to us, for safe keeping.
Now, as a small child, every one of the money-views that we chose to keep in our beds was seemingly important. Maybe one was important because mom or dad said it was. Maybe another seemed important because it brought a certain amount of joy or the feeling of safety. There are a million reasons for a kid to attach value to something. Nevertheless, the little money-view “treasure” that was collected was somehow very significant to us, so we held on to it, hid it under our blankets and never let it go.
Truth be told though, most of those “treasures” that we laid up for ourselves all those years ago, are actually just… well… crap. Sure, there might be something useful mixed in with all of the unnecessary, but those real gems are far outnumbered by useless pieces of trash that just ended up cluttering our emotional money beds.
A little illustration of this point:
I was once talking with a friend of mine, we’ll call her Angela, about one of the memories she had of money when she was a child. During the course of this conversation, Angela relayed to me that when she was around the age of eight her father quit his job to stay home with his family. At some point fairly soon after Angela’s dad quit his job she remembers going to the store with him. For the first time in young Angela’s life, dad told her that they need to stick to budget while at the store. This astounded little Angela. It was new, and different, and obviously very important.
Coincidentally, also around the same time as dad quitting his job, a psychic medium randomly began to call and leave messages on the family’s answering machine saying that there “are financial troubles looming ahead”.
At this point in her life, Angela’s impressionable mind picked up, and held onto, three “valuable” little “treasures” concerning money.
1. Dad quit his job (we’ve lost our income)
2. Now we must live on a budget
3. There is financial trouble coming
All of this equated to exactly one thing for eight-year old Angela:
We must spend carefully, because we are on the verge of going broke!
But remember, this memory comes from an eight-year old’s perspective. In reality, it is possible that dad always used a budget, but this was just the first time Angela had seen it in action. Or maybe, there was plenty of money squirreled away, but dad was just trying to be extra responsible in light of the change in circumstances. Who is to say for sure? Not little Angela. She was only looking at a teeny, tiny part of the picture.
As for the psychic medium – most likely a telemarketer trying to solicit new clients. But, of course, the little girl didn’t perceive it that way.
To this day, the money script that Angela picked up stays with her. She continues to operate under the message that she formed for herself as child, “Be careful, or you will go broke.”
Because of this created money message, Angela is a very pennywise person. She lives quite frugally and sometimes she even has difficulty spending money. Even though Angela has enough for her needs, she watches every penny and the thought of spending carelessly creates some stress and anxiety for her.
While being economical is a great skill to have for managing money, it can also, sometimes, become unnecessarily extreme. Money is meant to be enjoyed. It is meant to give our lives meaning and to help us bring happiness to those around us. The money message that Angela created for herself as a child no longer works. In fact, it is holding her back from creating something better for herself.
One of the first steps on the path to financial success is taking a good look at the money messages that we’ve created for ourselves as impressionable young children. They once served a purpose in our minds (to keep us safe, to make us feel loved, to help us make sense of the world) but now that we are adults we need to re-evaluate them, with the logic of an adult. In most cases we will see that they are not accurate, they no longer serve a purpose, or they are keeping us from moving ahead in the direction that we want to go. Once we understand the messages we’ve created and how they influence our view of money we can decide, as an adult, if we want to keep them next to us, or if we’d rather just let them go.
Sorting through our emotional money bed can be difficult and will certainly take some time. But, I promise, once all the trash is cleared out, you will be able to sleep easy, knowing that you have only the most valuable items tucked in right beside you.