Are Money Issues Keeping You Stuck or Holding You Back?

Money issues can keep you stuck. We don’t talk much about our relationship with money and the truth is that if unexplored, your relationship with money might be holding you back. That’s why I’m hosting a free interview with money expert and psychologist Dr. Maggie Baker on June 29, 2011. What exactly are money issues and how can our emotions confuse our relationship with money? In this guest post, Dr. Baker shares a dramatic example of how money—like food—can take control of your life when you don’t take charge of the root issues. I hope you’ll come to this interview and learn more about how you can examine your relationship with money.

In my book, Crazy About Money: How Emotions Confuse Our Money Choices and What To Do About It, I tell stories about real people I’ve worked with. I was reminded recently of Leslie, a person who presented with anxiety and confusion about being constantly overwhelmed and not able to stay in control of multiple demands on her time. Her story is an excellent cautionary tale for all of us who are hardworking and ambitious.
A high achiever in high school, Leslie graduated from college in three years. Before she knew it she was working her way up the ranks of an international computer company and fast becoming one of their top salespeople. In high school and college she thrived on the being competitive, not particularly with others, she told herself, but to advance her own standard of excellence. What fueled her drive were the responses of praise and admiration from her teachers and professors. When a prof told her she got the winning grade in a course or that she was one of the best students they had ever had, she glowed with pride and hungered for continued praise and affirmation.
The psychic fuel admiring, “mirroring” responses provided for Leslie soon became addicting. Deep in her heart she felt that she could never be good enough, smart enough, athletic enough-you name it, she could only strive to be better. Unconsciously, she had a low opinion of herself because of an emotionally neglectful childhood.
Leslie’s corporate success continued but at a price. Whenever anyone asked her to do something she reflexively agreed, no matter what the cost to her. After a year of constant high achievement and praise for her efforts, she realized that attaining the next level of success would demand more compliance and hard work. She thought of quitting, but couldn’t allow herself to do that. Praise and affirmation had become like oxygen for her over-taxed psyche, not to mention the mirroring glow she felt when she pictured  the money she was making, and at such a young age!
Then the day came. She met Joel. Flashy, expansive, full of grand ideas and constant flattery for his new find, Leslie. Within weeks Joel convinced her to quit her job and work for his new, fast growing high tech company. He offered  that because of her brilliance and work ethic he would make her a VP of Marketing and Sales and later a full partner. No one had ever made her feel so good so fast. Before she knew it she had quit and started working for Joel’s company. His support and affirmation continued to jet fuel her efforts. She worked 80 hours a week with plans for more. Occasionally Joel would correct her efforts with a sharp comment. When he did, she deflated like a balloon and found herself working harder to get his “mirroring” support back.  As time passed he became more critical and sometimes downright cruel. Anxious, she took the sting and tried harder.
Leslie’s pattern with Joel might have continued for a long time. But reality disrupted their relationship when they were both arrested for investor fraud. How could this happen to such a bright, young rising star? It may be hard to believe that the craving for external mirroring and affirmation can be so intense that it can have the power to distort our judgment and blind us to our own and others’ behavior. Leslie’s story is no different from the alcoholic, the drug, food or money addict that allows a substance to control their life. The only way to combat these extreme and self -defeating behaviors is to build a strong, positive and enduring internal sense of self that can self sooth as well as accept affirmation from others, but not at a high cost.
Maggie Baker, PhD, psychologist and author of, Crazy About Money: How Emotions Confuse Our Money Choices and What To Do About It.
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