Personal flaws uncovered on our journey out of debt
When I gave my talk about our journey out of debt last week at the public library, one of the topics I touched upon was the “deeper” side of debt reduction. While we might all take on our debts with minds full of practical strategies, we soon realize that there is more than logic and logistics involved. “The deeper side of debt reduction,” I said, “is that as you work on the practicalities of budgets and tracking, you’re going to bump into character flaws that you didn’t even know you had.”
I then gave a list of character flaws that I had personally “bumped into”:
- Impatience – I had a strong willed inner toddler. “I want to buy it NOW!”
- In denial – I’d kept my financial head in the sand for many years.
- Pride & Shame & Tendency to compare self to others – Mortifying! I decided long ago that I was too lofty to get caught up in the pettiness of keeping up with the Jonses, of envy, and of needing to prove myself. Yet I had to acknowledge the presence of all of the above in myself.
- Purchase-as-self-medication – I sought comfort through spending – especially on food.
- Gullible to tactics of marketers – I had to acknowledge – again, mortifying – that the manipulative tactics of ads worked very well on me.
Yesterday, I discovered yet another character flaw.
Then: Snobbery about rusted beaters
I remember way back – I might still have been a teenager – when one of my friends made a comment about a rusted old car driving by. “I don’t understand why anyone would drive a piece of junk like that!” she said with disgust, shaking her head. I was an impressionable young thing, and though I had never had much of an opinion about cars up to that point, I adopted her snobbery about vehicles that were rusting.
You might say, “Well, rust is not a good thing. It eventually destroys a car.” And you would be right. But my response to these cars had nothing to do with the negative impact rust had on them. It had everything to do with image.
My friend had no qualms about expressing her disgust frankly, but since I was too polite to follow her lead, my snobbery took a more insidious form. “That person must be poor and can’t help it if he/she has to settle for such an ugly car.” It is said that pity is the flip side of contempt, and that was certainly the case with my attitude towards those who drove rusted old beaters. I would NEVER have admitted to snobbery at the time – least of all one so blatantly materialistic.
Now: We’re in the rusted beater club!
Fast forward to today: DH and I drive a soon-to-be 18-year-old van. And it’s starting to rust. If we had not begun our journey out of debt in 2012, I can guarantee that we would have replaced it with a shiny new vehicle by now. But our old van has become a point of pride – a symbol of what we’ve accomplished in bringing our original $257,000 total debt down to just slightly more than $90,000 (mortgage only) over the last 4½ years. Even our kids have gotten over feeling embarrassed by it. I hope it lasts another 18 years!
So what happened yesterday? I was driving slowly down an unfamiliar street – not in our van, but in our not-yet-rusted 5-year old car – and I noticed that the van in front of me had a solid line of rust running across the back. Before I consciously thought anything about it, I realized that what I felt was a friendly connection with the driver – who I couldn’t even see. A sort of “Hey! We’re doing that too. High-five for you, buddy!” My automatic assumption was that the driver was intentional about his/her financial health. Respect. Alliance. Understanding. They had replaced my former pity-and-contempt towards drivers of beaters. And I hadn’t even been aware of that snobbery.
How limiting our beliefs and attitudes can be! “I don’t understand why anyone would drive a piece of junk like that!” Well I do! If you can tolerate a junker, your money is available to go towards your own debt-freedom or financial freedom. What’s not to love about that?
Implicit in every character flaw I’ve discovered as we’ve made our way out of debt are false, limiting beliefs that pull towards financial bondage: “It will feel good to buy this.” / “I have earned a splurge.” / “They will be impressed by this purchase.” / “I have to get a new one because my old one is embarrassing.”
And with the acknowledgement of each flaw have come powerful counter beliefs: “It will only feel good for a moment.” / “I want to earn financial peace of mind.” / “I don’t care if they’re impressed.” / “My old one is awesome!”
In praise of discovering character flaws
So although it’s a humbling experience to “bump into” your character flaws, it’s the single most powerful part of debt-reduction – the deeper side of it. Once you acknowledge a flaw, you gain insight into the sabotaging beliefs associated with it. You gain wisdom to challenge these beliefs – and to replace a path of limitations with a path of possibilities.
Have you discovered character flaws in your efforts to gain better financial health? Have you challenged the limiting beliefs that come with these flaws? Do you drive a rusted car? Your comments are welcome.
*Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons