In my last post, I was verbalizing my frustration about what I call debt-shaming or money-shaming in the media. I feel this has been quite the controversial topic, so I wanted to follow up on it by addressing debt and the negative emotions around it, so you can ignore all the negativity and stop feeling bad about your debt.
What is Debt-Shaming?
I used that term because I see a current trend in financial blogosphere to ‘help’ people get out of debt by making them feel terrible about it – and themselves.
It is unbelievable what I see on the media regarding the debt discussion. Okay, maybe some people need a little eye-opening kick in the butt.
But not all of us are irresponsible FOMO millennial brats who don’t know how to manage their money and finance their YOLO lifestyle with credit cards.
Till Debt Do Us Part
Here’s my own story:
I made a very conscious decision to take on debt to pay for things I wanted. And it made my stomach turn at times. I have developed so much anxiety around my finances (especially debt) because all the financial advice out there was to
- never get into debt
- pay it off as fast as possible
- and stay out of debt forever
It made me feel like a financial failure.
Debt is the Devil?
Basically, the common belief is that debt is the devil. Stay away. It will ruin your life. You have been swooned by the shiny things, sold your soul and now you have to pay for it.
I find the emotional remorse, shame and guilt are far more painful than any interest rate. You pay not in money, but you sacrifice your happiness thinking you don’t deserve to have a life until you have made the last payment to get you into the club of the financially enlightened who are debt-free.
Like debt is something you only get absolution from through emotional and financial self-torture.
For a long time, I honestly believed that this was true. I believed I deserved to be a miserable miser.
So I did what I thought was sensible and reasonable and went on an aggressive debt-repayment journey. I thought I needed to hate my debt (and myself) to keep myself motivated to pay it off.
Today, I am on a mission to un-shame debt and help people stop beating themselves up because of their debt.
Money & Emotions
Money is a highly emotionally loaded topic. People argue about numbers and interest rates and debt repayment strategies.
But the math is not the problem, the mindset is.
What is not being addressed enough is that we have so many emotions around our money. In the end, our lives depend on money, quite literally. Our life (and lifestyle) has to be paid for.
And we make it mean something about us when we make financial decisions. Guess what – we make the best judgement we can at any time with the information we have available.
If you had a different option, you probably would have chosen differently.
You have made the best decision you could at that time, in that situation. And that’s okay.
Negative Emotions Around Debt
Debt is the ugly child among all money topics. People who find themselves in a situation where they want to listen to bloggers and financial experts further firing up the emotional agony they are already experiencing.
The most common negative emotions around debt are
- Envy / jealousy (for people who don’t have debt)
Any of those sound familiar?
There’s a lot of emotionality going on when it comes to our finances. We think our lives are over because we have to tackle that debt. Rice and beans, my friend.
From Debt-Mania to Debt-Phobia
What is currently happening out there is that it seems the last decade the majority of the population has been taking on tons of debt in form of student loans, credit cards, car loans and now they are being shamed for it. Like they are all stupid and naïve.
What we hear nowadays is that we see people become completely debt-phobic. Just look at the number of financial recovery shows that give us a secret satisfaction watching other people having their butts kicked on national TV. What we see is a stereotype of chronic overspenders and lifestyle junkies that need financial rehab.
Not only are they being publicly shamed by the media who keeps selling debt-free life as the only life worth living. What is even worse, is what we do to ourselves – feeling haunted by the ghost of our past mistakes.
This is the REAL student loan crisis – the depression debt causes for people.
More than debt, we pile up so many negative emotions around it. We feel guilty and ashamed and hope nobody finds out that our fancy purses and cars are not paid with cash but with credit.
Feeling like a fraud, you pay it off silently hoping you will be done by the time people start asking uncomfortable questions about how you finance your lifestyle or why you’re suddenly skipping the weekly night out with your bffs.
Debt is Not Bad
Against very popular belief, debt is not bad.
There is no universal truth that says debt is bad. Some people make educated distinctions between good and bad debt. Mortgage and student loans are good because they are investments/assets. Credit card is bad, always.
But that is simply not true.
Whether you think debt is good or bad is only defined by your thoughts and beliefs about it. If you believe your debt is bad and makes you a bad person… that is entirely up to you.
All debt is the same. Debt is borrowing (aka. buying) money for something you don’t have the cash for. Period.
Governments and organizations rely on external financing to keep the cash flowing. And they do great things with the borrowed money. They make sure you can go to school and have health care when you need it. They add value to society – with debt. In business, it is not uncommon to leverage external financing. That’s why investors are more than happy to chip in and help out with a cash injection, so the business can grow. “Cashflow makes cash grow.”
Why do we put such a stigma on people (individuals) who borrow money?
The best way to deal with debt is forgiving yourself and making peace with it.
Be grateful for your debt. It bought you things and experiences you can be grateful for. I love what my debt my possible for me!
Debt gave me an education, enabled me to travel, helped me eat, keep the lights on and a roof over my head when I had a rough patch.
I have debt to this day. I use credit cards. I even used debt to pay off my debt.
Today, I am grateful for my debt. I have completely transformed my mindset around debt. And you can, too.
Stop beating yourself up about it.
Get Your Power Back
The only way to deal with anything (including debt) is to forgive yourself. That is the only way to get your power back.
Once you change your emotions around debt and reframe it, you get authority over your emotions and your financial situation.
When I decided to not see debt as the devil or a terrible disease, I felt so much more empowered to deal with it.
I made my financial health and wellbeing a priority and money a form of self-care. And that starts with managing your emotions around money.
Taking emotional responsibility for your life changes everything.
You move out of the victim mentality, blaming yourself and others for your circumstances, and take ownership and responsibility for your life and your money,
It is so much easier (and more fun!) to pay off your loans from a place of love, abundance and empowerment.
Haters Gonna Hate
Stop listening to anyone who tells you are a bad person because you have debt.
What’s the use? It won’t go away. So choose to think and feel differently about it, in a way that serves you instead of punishing yourself.
You can decide today to love your debt, be grateful for what it made possible for you and still want to pay it off.
What do you think? Do you have any negative emotions around debt?