I’ve always been a mama’s girl. I always felt I had to protect her, even though I was the little one and she was the big one. Her hurt was my hurt. Her pain was my pain.
So when my father up and abandoned his wife and 2.3 kids, I knew the only way to show true solidarity was to sacrifice my happiness and adopt her beliefs about the world. In this case, I learned that men were bad, money was short, and men were never to be trusted with your heart or handbag. And as a dutiful daughter, I clung to these beliefs for nearly two decades. Every relationship I entered, I entered into with great suspicion. I never wanted to give more than I perceived I received. I never wanted to share more than I had measured was just enough.
After learning to ration love and support to those that wanted to love me, I soon turned this miserable way of living on myself. I started to treat my normal need for self-care with suspicion and extreme withholding. Despite what my bank account told me, I could never bring myself to give myself more than what I needed. I fought back deep desires to buy myself the most modest treat: a medium latte, an appetizer in addition to the main course, a book at Barnes & Noble, a regular hair appointment, or a pair of new shoes when it was obvious that I’d worn them to their death.
Rationalizing self-deprivation made it easier for me to harshly judge others that did the opposite when, in fact, I was really envious of how they attended to all of the needs and some of their wants: Why does she think she should get everything she wants out of life? Who is she to go after what she wants without fear?
These thoughts swarmed around my subconscious until I confronted them. I sat with my overwhelm and sadness until I was able to figure out that I wasn’t mad at anyone, not even my mother, whose beliefs I believed prompted this downward spiral into miserdom. I also realized the first step to recovering from distorted money stories that I played on constant loop required I take four bold actions.
My mother never got used to her downgraded status. Becoming a single mother of two was hard on her spirit and wallet. But I learned that her story wasn’t mine and that the most loving thing that I could do for the both of us was to ensure that I learned that it was ok to be happy with myself, men, and my money.