Excessive guilt that inhibits decision-making and undermines pleasure. Guilt about having money. Guilt, and in particular unconscious guilt, may lead to self-defeating behaviors that are ways of punishing oneself for having what one never believed one deserved or was entitled to. We think of this as the “Clinton Syndrome”: when the disparity between one’s life in childhood and one’s adulthood is too great, human psychology seeks to reduce or resolve that disparity. One solution is for people to “shoot themselves in the foot” as a means of making the present more consistent with the past. Human being love consistency and predictability, so we may undermine our achievements if they make us feel guilty, and anxious. It’s as if we say to ourselves, this new person with all this money and success—that’s not me! So we may see people acting impulsively in ways that lead to potentially self-destructive behavior. Feeling guilty or overly self-confident, these folks may act on impulse, over-purchase things, or do things that undermine sound money management. They are not acting as stewards of their wealth.
I was a shy, geeky, sickly kid. Not much changed as a young adult. It wasn't until I moved from AK to WA with my husband and kids and got perspective (and a way better class of doctors) that things began to change. I realized I hated Alaska (there, I can say it) and I had mommy issues. Mom had a deeply narcissistic mother. Mom was always working (her way of dealing with the pain) and while there was love, things were missing. I was sickly, she couldn't take it after dealing with Grandma's hypochondriac stuff, and she had a way of making you feel as if you were making it all up to get attention. Didn't realize until I saw her do the same to my brother as an adult that it wasn't just me who was treated that way.
There's other stuff, but what matters is that I didn't feel worthy. That didn't change until the year I had huge success with my writing and brought in an unprecedented income. Suddenly, I was good enough. It was going to be great, right?
Wrong. It's not about the money. Suddenly becoming celebrated for something that was always frowned on as a kid does not make everything go away. It's not as if my parents were jumping up and down, either. I can count on one hand the times I heard, "Atta girl." They simply suck at encouragement. I hear second hand that they're proud, but that's not the same.
Granted, I was sick. My kid needed homeschooling for a year to combat bullying. People died, stuff happened. Still, things should have been smoother on the creative front. It's not until I began to confront my issues that things began to change.
This year, I want to be balanced no matter what changes happen. I give myself permission to succeed wildly, to not be nice (read: milksop) and to stop worrying about if I deserve it. I worked my tail off for it, I earned it, I'm going to enjoy it.
I give myself permission to guard my kitchen from allergens and to see a movie if I want, or buy six books a month. If I want lobster once a month, I'll buy a tail. If I want to go to lunch every two weeks, I will.
It's not about the money; it's about giving ourselves permission to enjoy our blessings. It's about not wasting what we have. Most of all, it's about not doing what someone else wants just because it's easier.
Screw the easy button! We don't celebrate the easy victories.