This started as a journal entry and morphed into a blog post:
I have always had a terrible relationship with money.
Upon initial reflection, I thought it was because I grew up in a home where I learned two completely different ways of thinking; one parent was extremely financially savvy / sound, another not so much. I wasn’t known to make the best financial decisions growing up, either, and I often had to get bailed out by my parents. Thus, began the start of my internal dialogue, “you’re an idiot, you’ll never figure this out. You’re going to be screwed as an adult. You’ll never be able to afford anything.”
Throughout my young adult life and well into my adult life, I frequently fantasized about what it would be like to have “all the things” that “so many” adults had: a house, a car, money to travel, etc. Being a small business owner, that fantasy felt even farther away. It felt like I was always working to dig myself out of a pit that kept getting dirt dumped back into it. Part of me wonders if I did that to myself intentionally … always putting myself into positions that made it even harder on myself; a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Here I was so terrified to be broke, to be constantly fighting an uphill battle, and not doing much to get myself out of it. Because walking any path other than the one of financial struggle was far too foreign to me.
I grew up in a middle class, suburban home. My dad did well for himself and we never wanted for anything. When my parents got divorced when I was 14, things slowly shifted. At first, it didn’t seem too different. But I started to notice things as I got a little older … less food in the house, hearing my mom’s attempts at secretive worried phone calls.
There was no questioning things weren’t ok when my mom and I were eating green beans from a can for dinner, having to shower together for the last bits of hot water left and sleeping in the same bed layered under sweatshirts and comforters because we couldn’t afford oil to heat the house. I lived 20 minutes from my school and often times couldn’t get there because we couldn’t afford the gas. My mom consistently tried to get me to move in with my dad, but I would have rather died than leave her alone to starve or freeze to death, but that’s another story for another day.
When you watch a parent struggle as a kid, it’s easy to develop fears of having the same struggles. We learn a great deal about the world and what to expect of it from our parents after all. And what I saw was terrifying. Is this what life will be like? You work hard and still the Chinese restaurant won’t deliver you food because you bounced a check the last time? That I have to worry about feeding my kid every single day? Or worse … that basically if you don’t have a partner (in my case, husband) you can depend on money wise, you’re fucked financially?
I developed interesting, contradictory narratives because of these life experiences:
1. Marry rich and you’ll be all set
2. Bust your ass, be the bread winner and you’ll never need a man (or another person) a day in your life
My mom would remind me, as well, “Brittany, don’t ever depend on a man.” And then I would watch behaviors and hear other comments that didn’t align with that sentiment; even things down to calling someone, almost always a male, to fix your floor or your deck or change your tire … whatever those stereotypical male norms are.
While I touted the “I don’t need no man” motto, I fell prey to those same gender and societal norms of almost expecting a man to make more money than me and to be able to support me financially. The two belief systems fought one another whenever I visualized or was actually in relationships.
I want to back up a bit because I’m not going to lie. I take complete ownership over the fact that I was an absolute financial disaster for most of my life. Again, as a little kid, I got everything handed to me. I didn’t learn the value of a dollar. In fact, one time I dropped $500 cash of birthday money into one of my bed posts (the top came off) thinking it would be a safe place to store it, forgot about it, and didn’t remember until my dad threw the bed away.
When I got my first debit card, I had it in my head that the money would just always be there and swiped, swiped, swiped, like my life depended on it. My poor (no pun intended) mother would have to bail me out of hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees regularly.My credit was shot by the time I was 19 because I didn’t pay my bills after moving out and facing some financial troubles. But the kicker was when I was about 24 years old and had $30,000 stolen right out from under my nose. By my ex-stepdad.
You see, I knew I was a train wreck when it came to balancing money. I flat out ignored my balance and would hope that the money was in there when I would spend frivolously. So when I got my first “big kid” job at an insurance company at 20 years old, and decided to get an apartment, I asked my mom and stepdad to keep an eye on my account to keep me from continuing down this path. So I turned my debit card over to them and would request cash in an agreed upon allotment weekly so I could learn to spend within my means and still have enough for all of my bills. I was elated to have this extra help and to really learn how much I could spend without ending up in the poor house.
Fast forward a couple of years. Things started to smell a little bit fishy. I wont get into too much detail for this particular blog, but the truth came to light when I went to draft money from my account knowing I had just deposited a $3,000 check (I had gotten my debit card back at this point because I became a bit more savvy with my spending) and was told I had no money in the account.
“This cant be right,” I swiped again. The dreaded error beeps. Not enough funds.
So I called the bank. I asked them for the last 5 drafts taken from my account. All of them were internal transfers from my account to … my stepdads business? What?
I sped to the bank after freezing my account and after a few hours of highlighting ever unapproved transfer to his account, we calculated that over the years, he had stolen over $30,000 from me.
There are few words I have to describe the impact this situation had on myself and my family. (And yes, he is now my ex-stepdad). But what might come as more shocking is how grateful I am for this experience.
It changed me, in so many ways. At first it was a major shot to my self-esteem. I felt so stupid for trusting this man. And it didn’t help to have people from my family telling me how dumb I was or that I was dating an abusive person at the time who proceeded to remind me of my naivete on a regular basis for years to come.
But I also came to realize it was the wakeup call that I truly needed to pay attention to my finances and to empower myself to actually handle my own money … to learn how to do so without running from it.
While I developed a healthier relationship with money, I also developed new fears. I was petrified to ever let a situation like that happen again, and even more so petrified to put myself into a situation that would have me eating out of veggie cans for dinner and unable to afford oil to heat my home again. And those fears both helped me and kept me from really living.
On one note, those fears made me exceptionally attentive and thrifty. Why spend $5 on a latte every day when I can spend $8 the whole month and make my own coffee? Why buy take out every day when I can meal prep and ration my food? Why would I buy those nice furniture pieces or decorations at Target when I can go to Five Below or make my own? I became a savings queen!
But then every time a large purchase came around, my heart would race and I would become frozen in fear that I would now be broke because I went on a trip or signed a lease for a car.
The thing that helped me move through this was recognizing that this thought pattern even existed so I could do something about it.
I started with mindfulness; cultivating awareness of all I had. Awareness of what came in and what went out. And a pattern emerged that anytime I needed something or anytime a new bill was sent to me, the Universe would respond by sending me more clients or more money in some way. At first, I thought it was a fluke, but my years of documentation proved otherwise.
I also noticed that whenever I would sit in fear, it seemed to be that I had and received less and less. It was easy to switch that energy though, simply by remembering that it was within my control. Move from fear to trust. Once I’d sit in trust-filled energy, the funds would start to pour in. Then I’d move back to fear-filled energy and things came to a halt.
It was once again a juggling act of beliefs.
“I have enough.”
“I’ll never have enough.”
“Bring yourself back to your proof.”
Evidence showed: no matter how challenging things might be, I always had enough. I always had what I needed. I have yet to go without. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Earlier this year I came to the dreamlike realization that I was actually … doing … well. I wanted for nothing and had more to spare. Then the pandemic hit. And I sobbed regularly because all of these people around me were struggling to pay bills and make ends meet, and my life didn’t waiver financially (and for this I am eternally grateful). So much so that I was able to do something I never actually thought I would be able to do.
I bought a freakin house.
I have dreamed of having my own house since I was probably 2 years old (not an exaggeration). Yet that dream felt like it would forever live on another plane; not here on earth with me.
NEVER did I actually think I would do this … on my OWN.
The entire process made me realize that I hadn’t actually healed all of my own thoughts. There was still part of me that believed I could never do anything on my own; that I was still financially incapacitated, despite my proof; that I was always going to need someone else to help me—whether that was a partner, my dad, someone to set me up.
Even just the act of applying for a mortgage pre-approval made my stomach burst with a hundred fluttering insects because I was certain that I’d get a letter saying that they knew how terrible I had been with money and that they’d never give me a mortgage. Imagine my surprise when I was not only pre-approved, but pre-approved for more than I ever thought I would be granted. And then the day came where my pre-approval became a real approval and I was signing on a thousand dotted lines the day I closed. No help with the mortgage approval, no help with the down payment, just me, myself and I.
I can’t tell you the number of tears spilled during this process; from the stress, from the gratitude, and from the shock that this is where I am at in my life after so many years spent keeping myself down with negative self-talk about my lack of financial intelligence.
But here we are.
Our thoughts can keep us living a life, making decisions, and behaving in such a way that validate the thoughts. We will see what we believe. When I was convinced I was going to be broke, I didn’t see the abundance that rained down all around me. When I was feeling financially strong, I saw nothing but the gifts of prosperity I continued to receive.
It is so easy for the notions of need to become distorted by those same thoughts. I lived for 20+ years thinking I needed someone to bail me out rather than recognizing I could handle it all on my own. (This is not to be mistaken for asking for help when we need it, I’m talking very specifically about designing our life in a way that makes it so we need someone in our life vs. not).
When we think we need someone, we disempower ourselves to think we can never do something without someone else’s help or approval.
For me to go from a pinching pennies small business owner 7 years ago to someone who owns her very own house was huge for me. The healing process that took place along the way was transformational on so many levels; self-empowerment, self-confidence, self-awareness, trust, groundedness – my chakras are lighting the F up yall!
At the time of buying my house, I did have a boyfriend with whom I lived. He is now my fiancé. And I honestly need to give him a tremendous amount of kudos for how he moved through this process because I’m not going to kid you, I ran through our apartment 100 times screaming, “I don’t need no man! I don’t need anybody! THIS IS AMAZING! WOMENS EMPOWERMENT BIG DICK MOVE RIGHT HERE BABY!” and if you aren’t as self-confident as he is, I’m sure that would sting a little as someone’s partner; especially in a world where society tells the man they have to be the provider. But he cheered me on the whole way because he knew how big of a deal this is for me.
I needed this experience in my healing process to show me just how far I’ve come and how any one of us can accomplish anything we set out to do if we just learn to trust a little bit. In summary, I’m so fucking proud of myself.
I write this for anyone who feels that it is going to take an impossible miracle for you to achieve your goals. I write this for anyone who feels like it will take you forever to get where you want to go. I write this for anyone who has been told that they “can’t” or “won’t.” I write this for anyone who has been called stupid. I write this for anyone who needs to know that you can re-write your narrative. I write this for any womxn or person who has been told that they need a man or another person to take care of them. I write this for any person who feels that traditional relationship roles are the only way to be in a relationship. I write this for any person who feels they can’t do anything on their own.
Yes you fucking can.
It is our own story telling that makes it otherwise.
Thank you for letting me share my experience. My hope is that we can learn from one another’s experiences and empower one another on this crazy human journey. Sending you all the love and positive vibes.
You got this.