Money has the ability to change you, whether we like it or not. We all know that feeling of levity that comes on payday or that feeling of dread when a big, unexpected expense comes up. While money can change how we feel in a circumstantial way, it also has the ability to affect how we operate and see ourselves in a long-term manner based on our relationship to money. Whether your financial situation is highly difficult or very comfortable, either of these scenarios will impact you, and each of these situations has benefits and drawbacks.
Many of us know this situation, where money is tight and anxiety is on the rise. In the long-term, money-related-stress can lead to fractured relationships, mental health challenges, and can even begin to affect your physical health if you start eating only cheap food, losing sleep, and having chronic anxiety. Limited resources can cause you to start blowing off your friends when they want to hang out, avoiding the things that you love to do because they cost money, or even creating long-term impacts that will negatively affect your future, like being late on payments or even missing payments altogether for things like utilities, credit cards, or car payments.
This can become a downward spiral quickly as you lose touch with the things you enjoy and you begin to multiply the negative consequences of your situation. Unfortunately, this becomes a situation where your lack of money actually becomes the predominant thing about your personality because it is impacting every part of your life. No one wants to be defined by their financial circumstances, good or bad, and this can be a challenging place to escape.
Now not everything is doom-and-gloom when money is scarce. When funds are limited, many folks find out how resourceful they can be to make it through their circumstances. They also find out who their people are that will support them and help to lift them out of difficult times.
One of the beautiful things that happens to your personality and sense of self when your resources are limited is that you quickly start to gain a sense of clarity. You are forced to learn what is most important to you and prioritize those things. You will also learn who the people are that you can really trust, not just the ones who are around when things are going well, but the real ones who stick by you when things are challenging. Going through a season like this will help you to realize where to invest your time and attention and will also help you realize what things and people you can cut loose from your life and possibly be better for it.
We all know the trope of the rich jerk who does not care about anybody but themselves and their things- think of the villains in your favorite movies from stuck-up high school cheerleaders to pretentious corporate executives. Having an abundance of resources can quickly corrupt a person because it makes connecting with others very challenging.
Someone with a lot of money has to do a lot of inner work to empathize with others who do not have the same resources that they do. Having the ability to purchase things that other cannot, go place where others cannot, and experience things that others cannot has the potential to eventually convince a wealthy person that they themselves are better than other people because their life is on a “higher level” than others. Unfortunately, this has the potential to spiral out of control. If the wealthy person does not choose empathy and connection with others, they will simply become more and more disconnected from the lived experience of regular folks and they will become more and more isolated, leading to more disconnection and so on.
Of course, not everyone with lots of money will end up as some self-isolated jerk. Many people with plentiful resources are able to actually use that as a point of connection with others. The bright side of having more than enough resources is that it allows you to experience security instead of anxiety when it comes to finances. It also means you are in a position to ease the burden on others who are not so fortunate.
One of the best ways to stay out of the isolated-rich-jerk spiral is to be generous. Being in the lives of folks who have different backgrounds and financial circumstances from you creates a sense of empathy and connection with other people and can foster that spirit of generosity. Generally speaking, the less flashy your generosity, the better it will be for your own mental health and well being. There are ways to be generous with others (paying the check at dinner, giving to a local nonprofit, helping in a time of need) that are focused on lifting up others instead of self, and that is where the true bright side is.
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