I had a conversation last week that really sent my brain humming.
It was about separating what we ‘believe’ about money from what we ‘know’.
That might not sound exciting, but the more I thought about what I believed about money, the more I got into some really vulnerable places.
It’s kind of crazy. As I was jotting them down today I had so much trouble actually putting them down in black and white. My hand didn’t want to do it. My heart started beating fast
I’m not sure what’s all going on, and maybe it’s just me. But there’s something about these beliefs that’s powerful.
And that’s what I wanted to share with you today, in a much longer than normal email, a few of these panic inducing beliefs and how they’ve shaped, and continue to shape, my thinking.
I’ll be curious to know if any of you will find them familiar…
I used to believe that making more money will cause stress in my relationships
Back when I was a poor student, so were many of my friends, and the experiences that we had in our shitty apartments scraping by from week to week were a huge part of our relationships. It was one of the big things we had in common. Everyone was struggling with money.
And so 7 years ago, when I started to face my money fears this was one of the first core beliefs I came up against.
I was so scared that if I wasn’t struggling… that I wouldn’t relate to my friends anymore. Maybe I’d find myself on the ‘outside of the club.’
What I learned: my experience with this belief has been largely positive. The better I got with my money the more I’ve been able to open up a conversation with friends who feel really isolated in their struggles. But there are friendships that I have lost because we have less in common, and I still struggle being open with some of the people in my life about the fact that I’m not struggling anymore.
I used to believe that money is a barrier to what I want to do
“If I had the money to go on all the auditions, then I’d be more successful”
“if I had the money to travel more, I’d be happier”
“If I had the money….”
But then when I got more money… it didn’t unlock all my financial struggles. I was blaming things on not having enough money, but the actual problem was way deeper than that.
What I learned: Slowly, I learned that the barrier was my fear of money. The barrier was my lack of tools to use my money effectively. Those barriers have largely been broken down, and these days I don’t see money as a barrier… I see it as a tool.
I sometimes still believe that getting paid for being an artist validates my ability as an artist.
There aren’t a lot of success metrics for opera singers. This business is so subjective… one person’s favourite singer will be hated by someone else.
So I turned to the idea of ‘making a living’ or ‘amount earned’ to measure whether I was successful or not.
I clung to the belief that as long as someone was paying me for the work I was doing… it must mean I was good.
What I’m learning: It’s dangerous to link artistic satisfaction with something like earnings. As I work in the opera industry less, I’m forced to make to set my own goals and define my own success. It’s hard, and I’m still struggling with it. But I know so many amazingly talented singers and artists that don’t monetize their abilities at all. It doesn’t make their ability less, so why do I think it should make mine less?
I sometimes still believe that I have a unique financial life and that the conventional rules of personal finance don’t apply to me
I’ve never felt like my values or lifestyle are particularity well understood by the financial industry. I know lots of you feel that way too. It’s one of the main reasons I started R2R to begin with.
The problem that this belief has caused me is that I’m quick to ignore or discount tried and true financial fundamentals. And then, after months of inventing my own wheel… I realize that someone else has already done it.
What I’m learning and relearning: Yes, my situation is unique, but there is a lot of tried and true wisdom in the world. I don’t have to reinvent everything. Often I just need to tweak it a bit.
I begrudgingly believe that I should be able to be 100% independent financially, and anything less than that is failure
I don’t believe this about anyone else, but I do believe it about myself.
We’ve got something in our North American culture that glorifies independence and demonizes the reliance on someone else or a community.
Financial planning for lots of people needs to include the strength of a group because the numbers can’t work on your own.
The flaw at the heart of this belief is that somehow independence is better than dependance. Intellectually I don’t believe that, and yet it seems to be something I insist on for my own situation.
What I’m learning: I am not independent. No matter how I paint the picture, I am where I am because of the privilege I was born into and because of the generosity of my family, my friends, and my mentors. My independence is a myth, and my ‘pride’ in it is a trap. I am not ‘doing it all on my own’… and that’s not failure. I know this… but I’m still working through it.
What do you think? Anything sound familiar? Got any other ones you’re carrying around. If something comes to mind leave me a comment or come talk it over in OFFICE HOURS.
Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator
Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.
She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.
Email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org