“I already have more than my family/friends. It is not fair for me to have more.”
“My family and friends make fun of people like who I am becoming.”
“I should always be giving to others who have less.”
“I’m already privileged and shouldn’t feel bad about anything in my life.”
I’ve met many people, myself included, working hard to achieve success and wealth. We sacrifice time with friends and family. We focus on work while others are having fun.
However, just as we finally start to gain traction, many of us find ourselves more stressed and with more obstacles in our lives. It’s as if when we finally have the chance to leave our old lives behind for a better future, our old lives try to pull us back.
We magnify our own obstacles to keep us where we are.
While we are growing up, we form internal beliefs about our worth and what we’re supposed to do to gain acceptance. Some of these beliefs are cultural, while others are learned through life’s circumstances. Because many of these legacy beliefs centered around survival and scarcity, many of us learned that to want something for ourselves is selfish and bad. As a result, we feel:
- Guilty for wanting more.
- Bad for becoming “that rich person”.
- Mean for having more than others.
- Shame for having complaints.
As we become more successful, we feel even more conflicted and start to express this conflict in unproductive ways. I’ve met:
- Successful professionals who make more than half a million each year but have no retirement funds or college savings for their own kids. Instead, over the years, they’ve supported siblings/cousins/extended family. Now they feel guilty as their own children go into debt for college.
- Engineers with pre-IPO stock who are paralyzed by the value of their accounts. They live like college students while leaving the accounts in cash and pretending those funds don’t exist.
- Executives who spend their high incomes so they don’t need to feel bad about saying “no” when others ask them for money.
Sure, these examples are extreme, but they are real. Many others live with variations of these behaviors.
How do we achieve goals and enjoy life when we are conflicted?
The answer is: we can’t.
The human mind is complicated and powerful. We can keep opposing thoughts in our mind and subconsciously work against ourselves until we feel less conflicted and more comfortable. The irony is that being generous/kind and being successful/wealthy are not mutually exclusive. To counteract this internal conflict, here are some steps we can take.
Accept the idea of self-care.
At the center of self-care is the realization that I matter and am worth it. All human beings have the same basic needs and emotional reactions. We may have different experiences and what we want might be different, but the core of what we want out of life is beautiful. I am part of life and what I want is as valid as what anyone else wants.
If I come from a place of abundance, I can grow the pie so that I am even more generous/kind while becoming successful/wealthy. When I give from abundance, I feel joy and fulfillment.
When I am filled, I can give freely. The most selfless thing I can do is to be selfish about my own peace of mind.
Separate “who I am” from “what I have”.
In society today, it is common for people to conflate their material possessions with who they are. It is easy to use material possessions as a scorecard. We can unconsciously fall into the trap of judging ourselves and others based on what we see others own.
However, if I pay closer attention, I realize that I know rich people who are hardworking, lazy, generous, miserly, caring, selfish, lucky, unlucky, etc. Just like I know people with few assets who are hardworking, lazy, generous, miserly, etc. Or middle class, or mass affluent, or young, or old, etc.
Money doesn’t change who we are; it showcases who we have already been.
If we are clear on our values, money would be another resource – like time, network, authority – to help us live our values.
Focus on “who I want to be” instead of “who I am not”.
Much of scarcity thinking is focused on what we don’t want. We don’t want to appear greedy, ungrateful, mean, or selfish. So we twist ourselves into knots trying not to be the negatives images in our heads. This is very tiring and mentally taxing.
Instead, we can focus on what we want. Who do I want to be? How will I show up in the world? There is power and simplicity in that clarity. With that clarity, we see that there are many different paths to reach success and wealth – that the conflicts we’ve felt are of our own making.
We can choose differently, in ways that honor all our values, without putting them into conflict with each other.
When I am clear on what matters to me, I can be creative about how to honor all my values. Without getting stuck on preconceived strategies, I can evaluate societal conventions and strategies that others have implemented to decide what works for me.
Wealth is a state of mind. Even though I focused on financial wealth for much of this blog, the ideas here apply equally to other areas of our lives. It is worth exploring your own unconscious biases when you are feeling stuck – either by yourself or by finding someone who can support you in this process.
I wish you success!