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12 Women On Where Their Money Goes When They’re Low On Self Esteem

Like a lot of people (I imagine), I sometimes struggle with confidence issues. I don’t feel like I’m majorly insecure on a day-to-day level, but every once in a while, something comes up that makes me feel down on myself. I could mess up at work. and end up feeling like I’m heading for failure. I could be slighted while trying to be friendly to someone, which may momentarily kill whatever confidence I had mustered in talking to them in the first place. Or, frankly, I could just see myself from an unflattering angle in a photo or a mirror, and then mope about how I don’t look the way I did when I was 16 years old and dancing five days a week. A bad hair day or skin day is also never fun.

I’ve come up with productive (and largely free) ways to combat this. Doing a yoga video, taking a walk, or some other healthy activity that gets me moving always seems to help. If I’m down about something work-related, I’ll go back and read a piece that I’ve written and been particularly proud of, or update my resume or portfolio to see how much I’ve accomplished recently. Even talking with a friend about what I’ve been doing lately, or writing about positive things in a journal, seems to put me in a better mood about myself, and it’s something I think people should do more often. And, of course, there’s always the tried-and-true fallback of putting on a cute outfit and lipstick and getting out of the house, dammit.

Any of these are better than the alternatives: fishing for compliments from people (gross, but hey, I’ve done it), or even worse, impulsively spending on things I don’t need that might make me feel a little better in the moment. For me, that generally means wine and/or a dessert, or food delivery when I don’t want to leave the house, or a giant book that I have no intention of ever actually finishing.

It’s interesting to me that a lot of impulsive spending to make myself feel better isn’t necessarily a healthy decision. You’d think that, if I’m unhappy with the way I look on a certain day, I’d want to eat something healthy or do something active, but instead, those are things I’ve had to train myself to do. (Which is also truly interesting, considering the fact that every time I do eat a salad, I have to say to whoever I’m with, “Look how healthy I’m being!”) I decided to reach out to some women in my life to see if they had the same answers as me. When asking, I didn’t specify low confidence in relation to work or personal life, so it’s interesting how they each interpreted that. Here’s what they had to say.

1. “FOOD and alcohol…Sometimes I will go get a haircut or buy a new outfit or go out to dinner or something to get me out of a funk, or other times just stay in and rent movies and make a lot of snacks.” – Sarah

2. “If I’m feeling low in confidence, I’ll end up paying more than I usually would for little ‘treats’ to myself throughout the day, like ordering a fancy coffee, or buying the expensive soap.” – Elizabeth

3. “Books, man…I’ll go to the bookstore to get something inspirational, just one book in mind, and then I’ll end up leaving with three more, because I am a monster who can’t help herself.” – Molly

4. “When I’m feeling low on self esteem, I usually treat myself to a fancy coffee, usually a cappuccino. I prefer to get a coffee rather than some other food thing, because I’ve found that drinking a coffee and reading in a coffee shop leaves me feeling better when the day is done as opposed to eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s.” – Anne

5. “Chocolate for sure. And a bottle of wine. Immediate confidence boost with just one bottle! I don’t spend money on things, tbh…” – Sydney

6. “Pretty generic, but clothes and chocolate.” – Arline

7. “So, I have one of two thoughts when I’m feeling pretty shitty about myself: 1) “You need to eat your weight in chocolate and crap food,” or 2) “Be productive, get your lipstick on, and show the world what a goddess you are.” – Chelsey

8. “Even though I am not much of a reader, I find myself turning to self help books or magazines if I am feeling low on confidence or in turmoil about a big personal decision. Most of the time, I have found the resources very helpful, and typically I have considered the cost worthwhile. On the flip side, though, it is probably in my lowest moments when I have spent the most on skincare. I am a problem solver by nature and if one product doesn’t work, I try another. If I am in a low spot, I may be more inclined to listen to a sales pitch from a makeup counter rep selling some super expensive miracle cure. And I may just buy that ‘cure’ even if I think it is too pricey and too good to be true, and even if I just replenish some other skincare.” – Jan

9. “So if I’m feeling particularly disorganized or behind with work, then I tend to buy a lot of stationary, thinking that it will sort all of my organization issues. If I’m feeling low about myself, then I tend to buy really healthy food and meal prep stuff.” – Nicola

10. “When I’m feeling low on confidence, I spend money to treat myself to something I normally wouldn’t. A small luxury that I would normally forego. Whether it’s a cup of overpriced coffee from the nice coffee shop, or something that’s been in shopping cart purgatory for some time. It’s a way that I treat myself with love.” – Katie

11. “If I buy anything when I’m feeling low confidence, it’s definitely clothes or food. Something about having new things to wear makes me feel better about myself, as damaging as that mindset is to my wallet. A lot of times I buy workout clothes, because having something I feel nice in gets me more excited to go for a run or go to the gym. Or I embrace feeling like a blob and buy something soft and comfy. My spending on food is always a little higher than it could be, and when I’m a little down, I tend to give into cravings even more easily. But that’s life. :)” – Marissa

12. “It really depends. I don’t think I’ve ever consistently gone to the same ‘thing’ to buy after I have low confidence (apart from maybe a pint of ice cream and a bottle of wine). I usually do a lot of research into what will make me ‘feel better’ put it all in my cart and then end up walking away from whatever it is (make-up, clothes, etc).” – Brittany

Holly is the Managing Editor of The Financial Diet. Follow her on Twitter here, or send her your ideas at holly@thefinancialdiet.com!

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  • Summer

    I think it’s fascinating how many women turn to buying new clothes when they’re feeling crappy about themselves. Usually, shopping for clothes is one of the biggest causes for feeling bad about myself, haha.

  • Phoebe Prentice Terry

    I used to smoke when I was young and insecure and wanted to project an image of toughness. I dont anymore but I found that when I quit I really got into lipstick. Lovely, cheap, happy bright lipsticks. Its a far healthier habit than smoking but I have to be careful when Im stressed not to pick up a couple from the drug store for that reason. Taking a few moments to touch up my lipstick is a far healthier smoke break and as long as I use up what I have instead of hoarding new ones the tube lasts for months.

  • Ellie Rockhill

    Wow. I actually feel a little better reading about how many of these women turned to something consumable (coffee, chocolate, wine, food) to comfort themselves. And I thought I was weird for that! 😛 I wonder what the history is with chocolate and self-comforting. Was there an ad in the early advertising days that started the trend? Is there something scientific in the chemistry of our brains and food to where people have always automatically consumed cocoa powder to ail sadness, etc? It started somewhere because we all do it aware that it’s a cultural “thing!” Very interesting…

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