When you think about money, what kind of memories come up for you? Many of the stories you tell yourself about money will have been created by particular memories.
It might be that someone has directly said something to you in the past that you have taken as fact, or it could be more subtle.
Maybe you picked up on your parents’ attitudes towards money through your experiences as a child? Perhaps your mother always handed the responsibility for cash over to your father (or vice versa), which has taught you that this is the way it should be?
Perhaps one of your grandparents would sneak money to you and tell you not to let your parents know, leading you to believe that receiving money is something kinda naughty and secretive?
Maybe you saw your parents working really hard for money, struggling to make ends meet and you learned the lesson that earning money is damned hard work?
The memories don’t have to come from your childhood. I wonder if you’ve ever worked for an organisation where you feel your talents weren’t recognised financially and this has led to a ‘what’s the point?’ attitude and build-up of resentment?
Perhaps you’ve had relationships where your partner cheated you out of money and this has led you to be cautious of sharing your money with anyone else?
These are all possible memories that could be impacting the way you are with money now, either directly and consciously, or indirectly and subconsciously.
Let me give you an example of one of mine to demonstrate.
A memory I came to recently was one from when I was working in a firm of financial advisers back before I became a therapist.
All of the financial advisers in the company were men. I had started there as a Personal Assistant and over the years had taken my financial planning exams. I had the qualifications to be a financial adviser (in fact, I had more qualifications than a lot of the guys there), but something was stopping me.
I’d started out with the intention of becoming an adviser – that was my goal. But once I qualified, fear set in.
Could I do it?
Would I be able to fit into that world?
Could I be ‘one of the guys’?
One of the directors had a chat with me and offered me the role of paraplanner – a new role for the company. This involved doing all the research for the advisers, preparing reports and recommendations for clients – basically a behind-the-scenes role.
I knew this wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to step into my brilliance and be all that I could be. I wanted to be out there, seeing clients, doing ‘the work’, but I didn’t. I accepted the role of paraplanner, as it seemed safe. It was a step up, but it wasn’t THE step up.
And do you know what, during the time I continued to work in finance and for a long time afterwards I felt resentful. I enjoyed my role to a point, but I knew I wasn’t reaching my full potential and I blamed it on the guys.
I moaned and complained about the old-school male attitudes, the old boys club, not letting me in. I blamed it on them.
When I came to work on this money memory, it was all about those ‘men’ who made the big bucks when I worked in finance. I started journalling about it and was angry about how many of them weren’t as bright as me, in fact some of them were downright dumb! It just wasn’t fair that they were out there seeing clients, making the sales, earning limitless income, when I was stuck in a background role.
The learning I’d taken from this, and held on to for many years, is that women get held back in business. I believed that men had an advantage and it was a struggle to move up the corporate ladder and earn more money.
So far, so negative! You might be asking what’s the point in raking over all these old, depressing money memories. Well my friend, the thing is once you start to unearth these memories, you can start to reframe them. You can start to find the true learning in them and that is a gift.
As an example, when I wrote about my memory of working in that particular finance company, I started to have a realisation. How amazing was it that these guys, many of whom weren’t the brightest in the box, were doing their stuff? How amazing that they were just doing it? They weren’t letting anyone hold them back. They didn’t even think about whether they were good enough.
I may have imagined myself to be more intelligent and more charming than them, but suddenly I could see a lot that I admired in that middle-aged, bloated bunch of guys. Here are the 5 important lessons I learned from them as I looked back.
1) They had stepped up. Each one had given himself permission to just do it.
2) They believed in themselves. Now maybe they lay in bed at night worrying about whether they were good enough, but I doubt it. They didn’t even question whether they could do it. They took it for granted that they could.
3) They connected. Most of these guys were great at networking, either formally or informally. They got to know the people who could make a difference, they put themselves forward and made sure everyone knew what they did.
4) They supported each other. Although there was a level of competition in the team, those guys did support each other. They listened, gave advice, made referrals.
5) They took action! They didn’t just sit around planning and preparing, they went out there and did stuff. They made it happen.
When I sat back and thought about it, I was amazed at the learning I could take from these guys! I could see things totally differently and I can realise that this learning is now a gift to me.
I completely reframed that negative memory into something useful and inspiring. I was starting to make that particular memory work for me, rather than seeing it as something that was holding me back and keeping me small.
Take action now: Start writing a list of all your money memories. Go right back to childhood and work from there. You’ll find that as you get started more and more memories come to you.
Once you have your list, go through each one and take some time to journal on it. Write down how you feel about each particular memory and begin to find the learning in it.
If you feel resentful towards someone or something, go deeper. Ask yourself, ‘Am I really feeling frustrated with myself? Am I stopping myself from being who I want to be or doing what I want to do?’
It’s important that you let out any anger, resentment, sadness, fear, frustration, anxiety – all of the emotion attached to each particular memory. Once you’ve done that, you can start to step into a position of power. You can begin to reframe the experience and make it work for you.
Kapow! Make your memories work for you.
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