Growing up in a household where parents are constantly arguing about money is a major stressor for any child, and often that stress around money continues into adulthood. One client had this experience, and although she is 38 and married with two children, she avoids any conversation about money with her husband. The interpretation her mind gave to her parent’s painful marriage and divorce became her limiting belief that money is the root of conflict between people. Subsequently, she adopted the belief that in order to avoid conflict in her marriage she must avoid talking about money and never, ever fight over it. This is her Money Script.
Money Scripts are the unconscious beliefs each of us develops about money. Money Scripts typically form in childhood and are shaped by the direct and indirect messages we received from our parents, other significant people in our lives, our circumstances, and society. They are created at a deep subconscious level and become part of our world view.
Some of the most common money scripts include:
Money buys happiness.
Money is the root of evil.
More money will make things better.
Money is bad.
I don’t deserve money.
I deserve to spend money.
There will never be enough money.
There will always be enough money.
Money is unimportant.
Money will give me meaning and status.
It’s not polite to talk about money.
If I am good the universe will supply all my needs.
While this is not a complete list and not does apply to everyone, when beliefs like these are left unchallenged, they can lead to self-destructive behaviors or the belief that what happens in your life is outside of your control and is everyone else’s fault.
In addition to family conditioning, significant or traumatic life events can cause limiting beliefs around money. For example, when she was 14, Sandra formed a limiting belief that no one could be trusted with money. This rose after her older brother stole her babysitting earnings. Because the theft of her hard-earned money was so emotional, Sandra’s belief that others couldn’t be trusted with money was incredibly strong and resistant to change. As an adult, this became an issue in her job, because she was unable to trust her coworkers to make ethical financial decisions. She was suspicious of others, became very secretive about money, and had an inclination toward hoarding. Instead of looking at her own beliefs, she blamed other people and external circumstances for her own repeated money difficulties and pain. Simply put, she acted as though her beliefs about money were always true. Sandra’s Money Script was leading to her own self-destruction.
With awareness, honesty and a desire to change, we can turn limiting beliefs into opportunity. A healthier relationship with money is achievable. Chris grew up in wealthy family and rarely wanted for anything. She wore beautiful clothes, was given a new car when she turned sixteen, and had full access to her parents’ credit cards. She went to college and married shortly after graduation. While her husband had a successful career and worked very hard, they did not have the kind of wealth she grew up with. Based on a childhood in which she always got everything she wanted and more, she believed that money would always be there, and she was entitled to spend with no restrictions. It wasn’t until her husband lost his corporate job that she was forced change her behavior and her spending. It took a traumatic event for her to face her patterns of overspending and feelings of resentment toward her husband. While the stress of job loss and money conflict nearly destroyed her marriage, as a couple they were willing to work at it. Chris realized she had to look at herself first, address her own false beliefs, and then was prepared to work on her marriage.
Like Chris, all of us have the opportunity to rewrite our money scripts. It’s never too late to change a limiting belief, but be ready for hard work. Our beliefs have likely been present for a long time and reshaping is not an overnight process. Give yourself time and grace.
Four steps you can take to start the process.
1. Write down your limiting beliefs. Note how strong each belief is for you and what emotions they elicit.
2. Acknowledge that these are beliefs, not truths.
3. Try on a different belief, such as, “I’ve learned so much from my previous financial mistakes, I’m ready to change my behavior.”
4. Take different action. If you have really learned from past mistakes, what will you do differently?
Once you’ve identified your patterns of thinking about money, you can begin to examine how changing those beliefs can fundamentally improve your financial situation and relationships. Then you will truly be ready to take mindful, deliberate steps to turning resolutions of change into reality.