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The Personal Side of Personal Finance

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How improving our self-talk helps women stick to their budget

Historically women have been told that they aren’t good with money. Personal finance is 80% mental and 20% math so it is important that I address the elephant in the room. And that is the impact our self-talk has on our finances.

Do you find yourself wracked with guilt when you go over budget? Are you disappointed in yourself for having to dip into your emergency fund for non-emergencies? If you said yes to either of these then keep reading.

Before you skip past this post in search of the latest savings challenge I’d like to ask you this question. The last time that you made a mistake what was the first thing that you said to yourself?

Was it “Oh well mistakes happen. I will do better next time.” Or was it more along the lines of “I’m such an idiot. I can’t believe that I did that.”?

For most of us, we are more closely aligned with the second statement. It can be incredibly difficult to be kind to ourselves. This level of kindness is generally not something that is taught at home. We’re taught to be kind to neighbors, adults, pets, and inanimate objects but rarely to ourselves.

How our words affect our behavior

If you think about that it is no wonder that most adults have a hard time with intimacy. How can we practice forgiveness, kindness, and acceptance with our friends and families if we haven’t first perfected it within ourselves?

As a parent, I strive to teach my daughter to be a good person, self-assured, and confident but as we all know children learn more by osmosis than by the words, I tell her. Sure, I can tell her to love herself just the way she is but if I am constantly criticizing my hair or body, she will learn to do the same.

If I tell her that she is smart and can learn anything if she applies herself to the task but then I give up after the first attempt to put together her doll house, she will think that it’s okay to quit when things get hard. If I tell her that is ok that she spilled her cereal all over the table because mistakes happen, then when I spill my tea on the floor, I call myself an idiot she will think that this type of self-talk is the right way to go.

When I lose my temper and raise my voice at her and hurt her feelings but don’t apologize to her once I have calmed down then I am teaching her that it is ok to take my frustrations out on other people without consequence or making amends.

Give yourself grace

I have also observed many people who are extremely hard on themselves when it comes to dealing with loss. It seems that the further outside of our control the loss is, the harder people are on themselves.

3 Steps for improving your self-talk

Once I began to recognize this pattern within myself and in those around me, I devised a system to help me be kinder to myself so that others would be able to mirror the behavior.

Step 1: When I find myself using negative self-talk I stop and reverse that statement. For example, if I have missed a due date for a project at work instead of berating myself I say, “I missed the mark there but I will do my best to hit the next target.”

This allows me to acknowledge my misstep but encourages me to move forward.

Step 2:  Recognize and acknowledge that I am human and that mistakes will happen. I try to learn from the mistakes that I have made, and I do my best to make better choices next time.

Often, we will hold ourselves to much higher standards than we apply to other people, however, the more we do this the more likely it is that our self-talk will be negative and will lead to anger and irritation.

Step 3: Apologize when I’ve wronged someone. If I’ve lost my temper or hurt their feelings, instead of ignoring the offense or trying to downplay it I go to them and acknowledge my poor behavior. I extend a sincere apology and ask for their forgiveness.

This process applies to you as well. Don’t forget to apologize for the way you’ve treated yourself.

While I would love to tell you that by following these three steps, I’ve eliminated negative self-talk and am living a joyous life, that is not the case.

However, what I can truthfully say is that these three steps have greatly reduced the frequency and duration of my negative self-talk. I’ve also watched my daughter improve her self-talk.

I have watched her practice these steps with her close friends and their friendships seem much stronger because of it. My personal and professional relationships have deepened because of this process as well.

Now apply these principles to your wallet

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Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

When you find yourself saying negative things about your spending habit try this instead. Changing “I’m not good with money” to “I’m learning new ways of managing my money” creates a positive outlook on your habits.

It will feel awkward at first but practice makes permanent. Before you know it you will have a much more healthy outlook on your finance.

When you overspend instead of giving up on budgeting altogether review your spending. Were you making lots of unplanned purchases or did you simply forget to add certain items to your budget for the month? There is always an underlying reason that people overspend but most people default to negative self-talk instead of looking at the behavior.

Do you find yourself shaming people in your life for the way they spend their money? I know it can be really easy to do, heck society has programmed us to pick on people.

Think about the last time you made an off-the-cuff comment to a loved one about their spending. You may want to reach out to them to apologize for making them feel bad about their habits.

Other people’s financial journey is not your business. The next time you are tempted to comment remind yourself of this fun fact.

Now that you know how to recognize the way your words have affected your relationship with money you can create new patterns.

These processes don’t have to take a lot of time. However, I highly encourage you to implement them in order to improve your self-image, peace of mind, and heal your relationship with money.

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