One of the number one problems that my coaching clients have is financial impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is “a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’”. This is often talked about in terms of career and feeling like we don’t deserve our success, but it can absolutely apply to other areas of life.
As for financial impostor syndrome, I’ve seen it show up in many ways. It’s the belief that you’re just bad with money and will never be able to improve. The idea that your past financial mistakes define you as an irresponsible person. The belief that money is bad, and that you don’t deserve to feel financially comfortable. It’s the scarcity mindset. It’s avoiding your money instead of facing and fixing issues head-on.
These beliefs make it nearly impossible to make any positive changes. You don’t believe you’re capable, so why would you even try? This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think nothing will ever change, nothing will ever change. And that’s because you’re not trying new approaches to ensure that things will change. That’s why it’s so important to work against this financial impostor syndrome. Because if you do, you’ll be able to make changes and take control of your financial future. Here’s how:
We all make mistakes. I’m sure everyone in the world has something in their past that they regret and wish they’d done differently. If you’ve made unwise financial decisions in the past, there is nothing you can do now to change them. The most important thing you can do now is to make different, better decisions moving forward. But first, you have to forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made before. If you berate or shame yourself, you won’t truly feel motivated to move forward. You’ll feel paralyzed and incapable of making changes. Shame doesn’t help anyone, so forgive yourself and allow yourself to improve your life.
Learn the Truth About Others
If you’ve ever received an end-of-year letter from a distant friend of the family, you know that people have been sharing their highlight reels since before social media came around. But social media makes it a lot easier for people to make their lives look perfect. Instagram especially allows people to share beautiful, filtered images that represent their lives. But pictures don’t tell the whole story. Your friend who posts pictures of her new Kate Spade purse and your friend who is always going on amazing vacations might actually be in debt.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: there’s nothing morally wrong with being in debt, but it’s also not a stable place to be longterm. My point is: you never know what might be going on behind the scenes in someone’s life. So don’t try to keep up with others by spending more than you can afford. Get clear on what matters the most to you, and you’ll feel a lot better about how you budget your money. It will also be helpful to have open conversations about your financial situation. You might be surprised by what you find out about your friends. You may be more alike than you think.
If you’ve ever worked with a coach or done any sort of self-care, you’ve probably heard of affirmations. Basically, you come up with sayings that you can read or repeat to yourself to make your brain start believing them. Your affirmations will depend on what you’re struggling with, but they should always be positive and they should always be aspirational. Here are a few that might help you if you struggle with financial impostor syndrome:
- I am capable of improving my financial future.
- My past mistakes do not determine my future.
- I deserve financial security.
- I am worthy of financial freedom.
- I am capable of saving money.
- I deserve to feel comfortable in my life.
- My self-worth is not my net worth.
- I am capable of sticking to a budget.
Get Clear on What You’re Good At
As with anything, it’s important to know yourself when it comes to your money. If you have financial impostor syndrome, you probably think you’re not good at dealing with your money at all. But maybe that’s not true! Think about the things that you’re really good at. Once you identify what you’re really good at, see how you can apply those skills to your money. Even if those skills don’t seem obviously applicable to money management, there might be ways that they are. Think about ways you’ve overcome obstacles in the past. How can you approach your money in the same way?
Take Yourself Out of It
If it turns out to be true that your strengths do not lie in money management, there are still things you can do! This is why it’s so important to know yourself and your tendencies. If you set up systems and structures, you can remove yourself from your financial management. By removing yourself, you remove the emotion that comes along with it. I don’t mean that you should ignore your money. That won’t help you. What I mean is, you should automate your financial wellness and put systems in place that will protect you from yourself. Here are some great ways to do that:
- Automate your savings. It’s much easier to save if you don’t have to do it yourself.
- Literally freeze your credit cards. Once you’ve gone through the effort of thawing your cards, your urge to spend will probably be gone.
- Open a checking account that is specifically for your flex spending. That way, you can’t mindlessly spend money that is earmarked for other things.
- Automate your bills. You’ll never forget to pay a bill if you have them on auto-pay. Just make sure you’ll always have enough money in your account to pay them!
- Delete your favorite shopping apps from your phone. You’ll be much less tempted to shop if you take away the ease of an app.
- Spend cash only. Take out your budgeted amount of money at the beginning of the week. Don’t carry around a credit or debit card. Once you run out of cash, you’re done spending for the week.
Have you ever felt incapable or like a fraud when it comes to your money? Share your story in the comments! You’re not alone.
Maggie is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and financial coach for women. She founded Maggie Germano Financial Coaching with the mission to provide women with the support and tools they need to take control of their money and achieve their goals. She does this through one-on-one coaching, monthly Money Circle gatherings, writing, and workshops. Follow Maggie on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and join her Money Circle group! For more information, or to contact Maggie directly, visit her website.
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