The Surprising Risk Of Believing That Money Makes You Successful
By Emma Loewembg Sustainability Editor
May 15, 2019 — 11:02 AM
Share on:I've spent the last few months interviewing wellness leaders about their relationships with money for mindbodygreen's Well Spent series. Regardless of whether it's a functional medicine doctor, a nutritionist, or a spiritual healer on the other side of the phone, it seems there are some things everyone can agree on: High-quality food is worth the steep price tag, kids need to be taught financial skills earlier, and everyone—everyone!—gets stressed about money at one point or another.
But this financial stress affects everyone differently. For some, it serves as motivation to take on more work or get better about saving. On the other hand, it can spiral into full-blown financial anxiety that leaves others feeling panicked, paralyzed, and unsure whether they have what it takes to get back in the green. One of the key drivers of the stress response seems to be whether you let your bank account define other areas of your life.
In other words, if you tie your self-worth to your net worth, chances are they'll both suffer.
A 2017 study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin backs up this observation with some initial research. In it, hundreds of participants from different backgrounds journaled about their financial stressors. In the end, those who connected finances to self-worth wrote in a way that hinted at negative psychological consequences, such as "feeling less autonomy and control over one's life, and experiencing more financial hassles, stress, and anxiety."
"They also showed more disengagement from their financial problems—they gave up searching for solutions," a lead researcher wrote. So according to these findings, defining yourself by your bank account not only dampens your mindset; it might keep you from making the right financial decision.
Untangling the web between net worth and self-worth can be messy—especially when you consider that so many of us were raised to equate money with success. Mainstream media only reinforces this idea, touting celebrities and influencers dressed in expensive clothes, driving expensive cars, and having expensive experiences as something to aspire to. However, the tide could finally be starting to turn on that one.
"This whole minimalist movement helped a little, I feel," said Megan McCoy, a financial therapist, of people's changing view of what money can buy. "The housing regression and student loans scared young people from buying a house, so that became one less status symbol to tie to your self-worth. And we're moving more into urban environments where cars are less important. So it might actually be getting better—minus social media's negative impact."
How to stop attaching your success to your bank account.When I asked McCoy for strategies that have helped her patients stop giving money so much power, she said that identifying your financial "script" is the first step.
She's referring to the four money scripts formulated by Brad Klontz, Psy.D., CFP, a clinical psychologist turned financial planner who spent years studying patients' relationships with money looking for similarities. He came up with four money camps—money avoidance, money status, money vigilance, and money worship—that everyone seems to fall into.
"Each of the money scripts hints at the different reasons people equate net worth to self-worth," McCoy said. For example, money worshippers think money is going to fix everything, so they feel like they're lacking no matter how much of it they have. Money-vigilant people, on the other hand, are hyper-focused on saving money for a rainy day and can be workaholics whose net worth becomes "like a drug."
Very rarely do people like other people because of status.
Once you figure out your script (you can take the quiz here), you're on your way to at least being aware of how you tend to tie money to self-esteem. From there, you can start to do something about it using self-worth building exercises.
One that McCoy recommends is journaling on what you love about a friend or family member. Get all of your favorite qualities about them down on the page. From there, think about the points from that list that you also possess. This quick exercise can help you overcome some of the cognitive distortions—aka tiny white lies that our brains tell us—keeping you from knowing that you are so much more than your bank account.
"Very rarely do people like other people because of status. You may think other people are judging you because of money, but you yourself don't do that to others. Why do you love your best friend? Is it because of how much she makes and what she has? Or is it because she's funny and kind and caring? It's about recognizing this thought process and making it more overt."
Financial worries will always come and go. The knowledge that the best things about you have nothing to do with your wallet? That lasts forever.
Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.
Emma Loewembg Sustainability Editor
Emma is the Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside her colleague and pal Lindsay...
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson