I have been wanting to write about money for days now, and I find it so difficult! It is part of our homework for the Legendary Marketer’s 30 day bootcamp that I’m doing. We have been asked “What is your money blueprint?”, and I really want to write about it but it’s so complex that I don’t know where to start…
Building a business online, I have become acutely aware of the need to “work on” my relationship with money. I was in a prison for so many years — the prison of my beliefs about money. Those beliefs have kept me tied up, handcuffed, and unable to move in the right direction.
This is a very difficult topic for me to open up about. I am going very much past my comfort zones. There is a lot of shame involved. But I know that this is precisely why I should open up about it.
Working on my relationship with money, I have become aware of the fact that we all have many beliefs about it. My own most important belief, for a very long time, was that money is somehow “bad”. It’s strange really, because I was raised in Switzerland, one of the very richest countries in the world — yet I grew up with this idea that money is somehow “the root of all evil”. There was always embarrassment and a kind of shame surrounding money. The bible passage where Jesus said that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” made a profound impression on me. To me, being rich and being good was simply impossible. You had to be one or the other. And I wanted to be good… so there you have it — rich just was not an option.
I grew up with the belief that it was somehow virtuous to have little money; there was something almost indecent and obscene about having a lot of it. I was told that “money doesn’t grow on trees” — always in a disapproving kind of tone of voice, which seemed to imply that people who had a lot of it were somehow outrageous. I was told to save money for “rainy days” — and I was led to believe that there would be plenty of those indeed. I was taught not to talk about how much money I had, or how much money my family had, or how much I wanted to have. Money was something to be hidden and kept secret; talking about it was shameful, it was like walking around naked — something you simply couldn’t do.
Growing up in Switzerland was strange. I see it still now: there is SO MUCH wealth everywhere… and yet most people talk as if they are struggling to make ends meet. It seems that people are scared all the time: scared of not having enough, scared of losing what they have, scared of talking about what they have, scared of being grateful for the abundance they have. Money is hidden away in secret bank accounts, the wages that people earn are never openly discussed. There is secrecy, fear and shame surrounding money. And yet more money is what everyone seems to be after all the time.
As a child, when I went to visit family and friends in England, I was always struck by how much more carefree everyone was, even though everybody we knew had less money than us. There always seemed to be more joy and less fear. I think this reinforced my belief that money was somehow “bad” — where there was a huge amount of it, people were unhappy and unfriendly, and where there was less of it, they were joyful and kind.
My parents’ story came to reinforce this belief in me: when I was born, my parents were “poor” but they were happy. I don’t remember this consciously, obviously, but I know it, and somehow this left an imprint on me. I know that we lived in a very small apartment in South London, and that I was put in a laundry basket as a baby. I know my mother counted the pennies. I also know my parents were madly in love and laughed a lot. As the first years of my life went by, my parents started doing better financially, but their relationship gradually deteriorated. We moved from England to Switzerland. My mother’s family, all Swiss, had money. My mother’s family also disliked my father. It felt like there was a lot more financial abundance but a lot less unconditional love.
Then, when I was 11, my mother left my father and all hell broke loose. My father was unemployed for a long time. That was, believe it or not, a very rare occurrence in Switzerland in the eighties. No one was unemployed. I simply did not know a single unemployed person. But my father was. My mother, roughly around the same time, decided to take a year out from teaching and try a completely different job. She worked for a year as a waitress, one of the lowest paid jobs in Switzerland. Tips are not compulsory here, and I remember her counting every small penny of the tips she received, when she got home late at night; I remember fervently wishing that it all added up to enough to keep us going. She then went back to teaching, and a good wage, but my father was still unemployed, and miserable, desperately trying to make ends meet. Unemployment benefit doesn’t last forever in Switzerland and there was a moment when he wasn’t entitled to it any longer. He used all the savings my sister and I had in a bank account our grandparents had opened and paid into for us. It was terrifying. We thought we would have to move out of our apartment. I was scared of asking for anything — I dreaded the beginning of the school year, when we were given a list of supplies to buy… I knew we couldn’t afford it. There were holes in the sheets, we ate pasta and rice all the time, my father cycled because he couldn’t afford the bus fare, if I received money from my mother’s family, I would put it under my father’s pillow, hoping it would help.
I was ashamed. I was scared. I was humiliated.
Then my father found work again and things eased up. But I continued to feel bad because I was “costing” my parents too much. They argued over the money they had to pay for us. They never could settle over who paid for what — each parent always feeling the burden was on him/her. My mother started saying she hoped I wouldn’t study for long, as it would cost her too much. I felt guilty all the time. I wanted to disappear. I tried never to ask for anything and I made myself as small as possible. I took as many little jobs as I could alongside my schoolwork. Then at 18, I left home, even though I was still at school. When I finished, at nearly 20, I decided not to go to university and I freed my parents of the burden of paying for me. That felt good. I had become very skilled at managing with very little money — a good thing I guess; but I felt permanently insecure.
I went into my adult life with all this behind me and for many, many years, my relationship with money was a really complicated one. I felt that money was bad, and that I didn’t deserve to have enough anyway. I believed that it wouldn’t come easily to me, that I wasn’t allowed to have much of it, and that that somehow made me a good person — even though it felt miserable and insecure…
It is only fairly recently, especially since starting to build this business online, that I started questioning my beliefs about money very seriously. At first, I felt incredibly guilty about even thinking of making more money. But then I began to be honest with myself.
Some things struck me: what is so glorious about having little money? What is so great and honorable about worrying constantly about how to pay bills? What is so virtuous about having to be thinking of money all the time because there is so little of it? And what on earth is so shameful about money? Why do we treat it so badly?
Money is energy — it is not good or bad in itself. What we do with it can be good or bad, but that’s something different all together. What has money ever done to deserve such a bad name? A kitchen knife can be used to slice a Sunday roast or to murder someone — yet we do not feel fear, shame, guilt, disgust, or embarrassment about kitchen knives, do we?
One day I realised that those very people who preach that it is virtuous to have very little money give it just as much power as those who live only to make more money.
I am still working on healing in my relationship with money, but I am getting there. I am incredibly grateful for the money that I have and the money I am making. I am joyful that this money is coming into our lives. I can already feel how happy I will be that we can afford to send our daughters to the music schools they want to get into. I can already feel the rush of pleasure I will get when I can treat those I love to things that they need or want. I have tears of joy in my eyes thinking of the day I can buy tickets to take my dad to the opera — something he loves so much but can’t afford. The more money comes into my life, the more goes out, and that is wonderful. It is like love, really… the more I receive, the more I give. How could I ever have thought that this could be a bad thing?