Do we have a pretty messed-up relationship with money?

We often feel dissatisfied with where we are and what we don’t have. No matter how financially “successful” we are, we personally know someone —or perhaps know of someone—who seems to have so much more than we do: more stuff, more money, more fun, more power, more fame. Do you ever wonder why they seem to have so much more than you? In exploring this, let’s consider the financial context of our lives.

For starters, our society is incredibly confused about money, and we all pick up on those convoluted beliefs. Various groups have widely varying beliefs about money. Some of this is generational: those who lived through the Great Depression have a very different approach to money than do baby boomers who grew up in a time of plenty. I daresay that some of the confusion also stems from religion. Certain religious groups celebrate and revere money as a gift from God for good works. Certain others teach that money is shameful, or even evil, and the lack of it is a show of piety: to have money means they’ve sacrificed their morals because of a deeply held fundamental belief that people with money must be dishonest and/or greedy.

Then there are the folks who think that people with money must work all the time and are therefore terrible parents or lousy spouses. I have seen others take the opposite approach. They decide they don’t need money or success to be happy and rebel against it, opting for a small life in a house made of tin cans and tires (it’s true, I’ve actually seen it). Those with a lot of money, and a lot of stress, often bail out of the rat race, believing they’ve earned a life of leisure only to find themselves bored and depressed. Then they begin nickel-and-diming everyone around them just for something to do or out of fear they might now lose their money.

If you are from Britain or Canada, you also most certainly do not discuss money openly in social settings, as that is considered to be in poor taste. That is, unless you’re at a cocktail party with your business associates where it’s acceptable to boast about your last business deal, stock trade, or new expensive car. But “don’t discuss money with the children!” We’ve also been told that if you want to make really good money, you must graduate from university with a degree. What university did Henry Ford, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson graduate from? That’s right, they didn’t.

And what about the obligations of those who are financially successful? Do you feel beholden to give to charity because you’re “so fortunate”? Not to give back makes you feel guilty because why should you have so much when others do not? If you don’t feel guilty enough already, most of the world resents you for having money and will only begin to forgive you if you give much of it away. We are told in the West that capitalism is our human right and the path to success, yet for many countries in the East, capitalism is considered evil and to be avoided. After all, debt is responsible for the demise of our society, is it not? Wait a minute, didn’t debt build our society?

I think you get my point: we have a pretty messed-up relationship with money. People make excuses about money. They seem so confused about money: how to make it, how to keep it, should they keep it, should they make it. And there just doesn’t seem to be enough of it! No wonder money runs away from so many. Would you stay in a relationship with someone who had such a bewildering message of what they wanted from you?

If we keep looking to the outside world for the “right answer” about money and all we get is contradiction, confusion, and the same result over again, is it not insane to continue in this way? Where should our attention be directed instead? To the inside! The health of our internal beliefs about money will determine if it wants to stay with us. The practice of self-awareness is the key to realizing our limiting, sabotaging beliefs and unlocking our potentials.