Is Self-Worth Harming Your $$ Decisions? What To Do About It

mbg Financial Contributor By Brianna Firestone
mbg Financial Contributor
Brianna Firestone is a Financial Education Instructor certified by the National Financial Educators Council, and the founder of The School of Betty. Her expert advice has been featured in, Real Simple, and Business Insider. Firestone received her bachelor's in theatre from Stephens College and lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Sometimes managing our money has nothing to do with money: Our financial decisions are highly emotional. Of course, we all want our purchasing choices to be logical, but the truth is that our deeper emotional state often has more influence over our spending than we realize. When we try to take the "logical approach," we often spin around in circles wondering why we can't stick to a budget or why we are buying things when we know we shouldn't. That's why it's so important to address our emotional relationship with money first—then "logic" can follow. 

Here's the deal: We live in a society that teaches us to go outside of ourselves to soothe or celebrate. It's rare that you hear someone say, "I feel really bad, so I'm just going to sit with myself for a minute" or "I just accomplished a major task; let me just bask in this feeling for five minutes." It's usually, "I've had a bad day; maybe I should go shopping to pick myself up," or "I hit a goal; let's go out to celebrate!" 

Going outside of ourselves isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, when our purchasing decisions are being driven by our self-worth it can potentially affect us. As Lacy Phillips notes in her To Be Magnetic program, most of your daily decisions, feelings, and actions can be tied back to self-worth—more specifically if it was high or low. 

How does self-worth influence your finances?

Self-worth is like self-esteem but a bit deeper. Having a high level of self-worth means you have an unshakable faith in yourself and feel worthy of good things. Basically, outside influences don't affect the value you bring to the table. Partner broke up with you, or something fell through at work? You still know you are an amazing human, and it was meant to be. This can also be demonstrated with a dollar bill. If you take that bill and step on it, crumple it up, fold it, or so on—it doesn't lose its value. It's still worth the same monetary value regardless of what is done to it. That is high self-worth.  

Low self-worth presents itself in the opposite way in that outside influences do affect how you feel about yourself. Operating from low self-worth can cost us money, time, and energy. 

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You might see it manifest like this:

  • Spending money shopping because you didn't get a promotion.  
  • Not asking for a raise because you don't feel confident you are worth it. 
  • Assuming you won't ever make more money so you never explore options. 
  • Spending more money than you can afford on a gift because you are worried what the receiver might think. 
  • Not telling a server your order was wrong because you don't want to upset anyone.
  • Volunteering to help even though you are exhausted and tired. 

If you recognize that you've been operating from low-self-worth, here are some actions you can start taking today. 

Your emotional action plan.

While this won't magically solve your financial situation—that requires budgeting and the like—this will help you respond to the emotional side of things:

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1. Evaluate your emotions. 

When making decisions around money, ask yourself if it is coming from low self-worth or high self-worth? You will be shocked by how crystal clear the answer will be. If it is low self-worth, ask yourself, What would a high self-worth decision look like? This simple exercise of questioning will be enlightening. 

2. Address your attachments.

Assess your attachment to outside influences by asking yourself, "If everything was suddenly taken away from me and I was left alone, how would I feel?" Of course, you won't be happy, but it will show you how much of the outside world is influencing how you feel about yourself. Is all of your confidence tied up in your work title or the type of job you have? If so, we want to unpack that, so you can shift into a space of not relying on it to fill your cup. 

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3. Practice positive self-talk.

Create a weekly practice of writing out things you like about yourself and that you do well. Examples: I've helped others this week by ____, I've always appreciated ____ about my personality, I'm good at ____. So many of our thoughts are negative; we need to retrain our brains to start remembering all of the amazing things we offer. This can easily be added to a morning or weekly practice of gratitude. 

Remember, your value as a human has nothing to do with how you look, what your job is, how much money you have, or where you went to school: It has everything to do with how you view yourself.  

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