Debt and the Battle of the Mind

Ruth’s post last week has really had me thinking about debt accumulation and the battle of the mind. When someone said during our Bible study yesterday something to the effect of “You’ll always put up with that which you can deal with”, the subject of the battle of the mind and wealth struck me again. For many people, their decision to become debt free happens when they can’t deal with “it” anymore. “It” being paycheck to paycheck living, not having any money for unexpected expenses, stifling debt payments and the stress that comes with dealing with it all. 

Overcoming the Battle of the Mind Regarding Debt

For many of us, it’s only when the pain gets too great and we cry “Uncle!” that we start looking for help in learning how to manage our money.

But even then, the battle of the mind can be working against you and sabotaging your efforts, even though you may desperately want debt freedom. This happened to me when I had an anxiety attack two weeks ago at the thought of putting money in savings. It sounds ridiculous, but the fact of the matter is that when you’ve lived a certain way for a really long time – whether that be in debt, in poor health, in a poor relationship or whatever – you learn to adapt to the situation and it becomes the “norm” in life, even though it’s not good for you.

And that can be the absolute hardest part about getting out of debt and staying out of debt. Like Ruth’s DH mentioned,  “People in my class don’t have money to buy things. They borrow money to buy things.”

Even though we didn’t realize it, we had that same mindset for decades. All we’d ever known was financial struggle. Most everyone around us struggled financially. It was “normal” in every part of our lives, and even though I read books on wealth, there was this little message in the back of my head that always said “Wealth is not for you.”

It was only through learning about Christ’s unconditional love for mankind that Rick and I started to think that maybe we did deserve debt freedom and financial security.

And when our mindsets started to change, so did our bank account.

If you’re struggling with what I like to call a “lack mindset”, here are some things you can do to overcome it and start treating yourself better where your money is concerned.

It Has to Start with Self-Worth

I spent years putting myself on the back burner in life, sacrificing many of my needs for the needs of those around me. This behavior stemmed from a poor self-esteem that started in childhood. I simply never did anything for my own benefit – there were too many others that deserved it more, and so I focused my time (and money) on them.

My kids used to chastise me for this on occasion. I didn’t realize how very much I had ignored my own self-care until last week when I bought myself a much-needed new purse and wallet. Since I never spend money on myself, I texted my oldest, who was watching her three siblings. Here’s how she responded:

“Yay!!!  I’m SO proud of you, mom. The others can’t believe it. It’s a miracle!”

It was at that moment that I realized that my well-intentioned, self-sacrificing behavior was NOT setting a good example to my kids. As such, one of my new goals for 2017 is to show the kids the value and necessity of good self-care.

When you accept that you are a valuable human being and that you matter to the world, you will tend to make money decisions that are better for you.

Start Seeing Yourself as Wealthy

This may seem shallow, but it’s important. I grew up thinking that there were the “haves and the have nots” and that you were born and destined for either one or the other. I had no idea that my daily decisions made that much of an impact on my money situation. After we went back and tracked our 2012 spending, I realized that our daily decisions with money were making and keeping us poor and in debt. And after much more self-analysis, I realized that there was a huge part of us both that saw ourselves as poor, and so we were okay with wasting money on stupid stuff.

Once we learned to study the traits of the wealthy, and started to mimic those traits, we learned to make big-picture decisions about spending instead of spur-of-the-moment decisions about spending.

Hold Yourself to a Higher Standard

One of the things we have learned tell ourselves during this journey is “you’re better than that.” In other words, “Laurie, don’t waste this money on takeout pizza when you could be putting it toward your financial goals. You’re better than that.”

When we started expecting more of ourselves regarding our money management we started making better money decisions.

Think Outside of Yourself

One of the biggest motivations for us in terms of working toward debt freedom has been that we want the opportunity to help others in a big way. We started increasing our involvement in ministry opportunities to serve the poor and struggling. Soon, our compassion for the poor grew and we wanted to find tangible ways to help them. Occasionally that meant giving money. The problem was that we didn’t have money to give, and that was really hard for us because we truly wanted to help.

So one of our biggest motivations in getting to debt freedom is so that when someone needs $50, $100 or $1000, and we feel led to give that to them, the money is there. And as our ability to give and help financially has increased, so has our eagerness to help. This motivates us to keep on persevering toward our goal even on the days when it seems like far too much work.

I’m a firm believer that if you can conquer the messages in your mind that are telling you that you don’t deserve debt freedom, you too can change your money situation. And yes, you do deserve it. 🙂

How much do you think mindset affects money management?

17 comments on “Debt and the Battle of the Mind

  1. Couldn’t agree more that it’s a battle of the mind. One thing I’ve noticed is that I start thinking of myself as deprived (by my own frugality), then I will want to spend money unnecessarily. But if I can view myself as having all I need, and with the choice to spend how I want, it’s easier to make the choice to save. I think the human heart rebels against the feeling of restriction, and if I think that way, I’ll make worse choices. If I give myself permission and see it as a choice, I make better choices.

    1. I know!! Been there. Yes, I think rebellion is kind of inbred – the easy road to take, the wide road. It takes thought to take that narrow road of frugality and discipline when it comes to money management. Thanks, Kalie!

  2. Yes! I think mindset plays a bigger part in money management than the actual money itself. Believing that you can take control and make changes is a huge part of success.

    Your point about self-care is so important, Laurie. I think I do the same thing – with my time more than anything else. I took the whole weekend to rest. And I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I took an entire day to just relax. It was wonderful – mostly because I was able to let go of any guilt about doing it.

    1. Good for you!!! I did that over Christmas break and it was wonderful. Oft-daily naps and lazy days took up a good chunk of the week. Our bodies really do need to rest.

  3. Hey Laurie…
    I have read a fabulous book by Joyce Meyer that is called ‘Battlefield of the Mind’ … I think you would really get a lot out of it based on this post.
    I strongly recommend this book to read.
    I encourage you to keep on keeping on!!
    Ruth’s DFF. =o)

  4. Self-care and self-esteem are so closely related Laurie, you are totally right! I think also as moms, we tend to put our families first out of habit (I definitely do!).

  5. So agreed. Mindset absolutely affects my money decisions.

    I think this is exactly why early retirement blogs helped shift my thinking more than debt-repayment blogs last year — they opened my mind to a different possibility.

    1. Me too!! I started thinking bigger. Beyond debt freedom, and looking toward financial independence. Bigger dreams = bigger results!

  6. Great post, Laurie! So true that it all begins with a sense of self-worth. Your point in “Hold yourself to a higher standard,” hit home for me. I let my lesser self win out too often. “You’re better than that” is a message I’ll start using when I’m tempted to blow it.

  7. I love the story of buying the new purse/wallet Laurie! There is a difficult balance to be struck in self care/self esteem. Coming from a broken childhood, it is even harder to get a proper sense of how to care for yourself. I share some understanding of how a early childhood messages can be damaging. Enjoy your new handbag!

  8. A phrase I remember hearing in college was “Perception is Reality.”

    If you think the sky is falling, it is in your world even though it doesn’t for anybody else.
    So, our mindset and how we view life, finances, spirituality, making changes is inseparable. It’s the difference between “I can” and “I can’t.”

    We had our doubts with some of the recent decisions we made, but, once we decided to trust and saw that were achievable with some work and time, our “I can’ts” turned into “I can.”

  9. The mindset, mental piece is such a bigger hurdle than the math part of personal finance. We believed everyone has debt, and everyone uses credit cards. We just didn’t know any better or think any better.

    Once we realized there was a different way to approach it, it took months to change our mindsets , but slowly over time and with the help and motivation of other we were able to overcome our own lack mindset.

  10. One of the most helpful things I learned over the years from a couple of different preachers was to SPEAK OUT LOUD what you want. God created the world with words. God gave us the gift to use words to our advantage. It took about 20 years for what I said and believed to come to pass, but I had learned so much and I was ready when it did. Say it everyday out loud people ~ “I BELIEVE I am healthy, wealthy and wise.” And then thank the Lord. Amen! 🙂

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