Debt Payoff: How to Zap Doubt and Discouragement

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Happy Saturday, friends!!  Hope you’ve carved out at least some time to relax this weekend.  So, regular readers might know that I went through a pretty rough patch this summer and got myself into a boatload of doubt and discouragement where our debt payoff journey is concerned.    Our journey started as a large one (we had a 65% debt-to-income ratio when we began our journey towards debt freedom in January of 2013) and we knew that our victory would take serious effort and concentration.

In blogging about it, we hoped to have accountability for ourselves, as well as encourage others who feel hopeless about our debt that they too can reach debt freedom.  What we didn’t expect from blogging was the occasional mean and discouraging comment that we get here.  Truth, yes: we’re happy to hear constructive criticism and have those who truly care about our journey ask us the tough questions about our spending and debt payoff.  Comments meant to tear us down and tempt us to give up all hope of debt freedom? Nope, didn’t expect that.  Call me naive, but I just assumed that those who didn’t like the way we are doing things would call us out honestly, but kindly, like most of our commenters do when they have a question about our spending.

Unfortunately, however, as other blogging friends have shared with me, yes, there are those out there whose main goal, it seems, is to make people feel like crap about themselves.  These kinds of comments, which seem to grow in number as a blog grows, can really put a snag in a plan for debt freedom or wealth accumulation.

Those on a journey toward debt freedom can also be zapped with doubt and discouragement by their real life friends/family/acquaintances.

However, what you do with those comments and criticisms is entirely up to you.  When we received our verbal beatings this summer, my first response was to hide under the covers, hands over my head to protect myself from any further abuse.  That was my fault and my mistake.  You see, there is a better way to deal with the doubt and discouragement that can creep in whenever you’re working towards a lofty goal.  Here are some tips to help you keep on working toward whatever seemingly insurmountable goal you’re working towards:

 

Zap Doubt and Discouragement

1.  Use positive aspirations.  I know that sounds corny, but when I read Natalie’s post on positive money affirmations, it really helped me turn the corner and get away from that doubt and discouragement.  Focusing on the positive truths about your journey and how far you’ve come will help you to see your progress in a different light.

2.  In the beginning….    Yes, go back to the beginning of your journey and look and see how far you’ve come.  This can work for any journey or goal, whether it be physical, financial, emotional or whatever.  Sometimes when one is working toward a goal, success seems to be moving at a snail’s pace.  However, when you look big picture, you can often better see just how far you’ve really come.

3.  Be honest with yourself, but be positive.  Don’t dismiss your failures, but don’t forget to celebrate your successes either.  Tell yourself “Okay, I’ve still got to work on cutting that entertainment spending, but I’m doing awesome at keeping grocery costs low.”  Praise yourself for your successes, and then make a plan to work on those failures.

4.  Think in percentages.  One thing I failed to realize when I became so discouraged this summer is that, percentage-wise, things are great.  99.99% of the comments we receive are positive and encouraging.  Our credit card debt may have risen a bit, but percentage wise, we’ve still kicked a good amount of debt to the curb.  Use numbers to remind yourself of how far you’ve come instead of how far you’ve got to go.

5.  Focus on what you have accomplished.  Little wins and big wins.  If you’re working to reach a fitness or weight loss goal, for instance,  congratulate yourself for the little wins, such as saying no to that second cookie and working out yesterday when you really didn’t want to.   If you are working on a financial goal, focus on the fact that overall, you are spending less and that you’re in a better place than you used to be.

6.  Refuse to give up.  If you’re going to succeed at any long-term goal, you’ve got to get it into your head and into your heart that you are not giving up, no matter what.  Make a decision that when those times of doubt come that you will put your head down and keep pressing forward, no matter what.  Decide that you will keep running your race until you reach the finish line, even if it takes longer than you expected.  Choose to win, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Doubt and discouragement are a part of any journey toward success.  What you do with those little monsters is your choice.

 

 

 

89 comments

  1. This is great advice, Laurie. I especially like #5. I’m definitely guilty at times of only looking forward and only seeing all the things I haven’t accomplished yet. I need to be more balanced about recognizing how far I’ve come. And, I’ll say it again, I’m really glad you’re not giving up and that you’re still here, still writing, still motivating and encouraging your readers. And, still powering through your journey. Thank you!

  2. I’m sorry to hear you’ve had to deal with nasty commenters. It’s part of the price we pay for putting ourselves out there, I guess. Sometimes even people who mean well can cause us to second guess ourselves and feel bad. Architecture school (and its critiques) helped me to toughen up a bit, but I can still be very sensitive to criticism. By and large, though, I’ve found the personal finance world to be full of awesome, supportive people — far more than any other niche I’ve dabbled in.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Laurie says:

      Jen, you’re so right – on all accounts. I need to focus on the amazing, supportive people that dwell in the pf world – there are many!

  3. Nicola says:

    Sorry to hear you’ve had some negative comments on your blog. I guess if you write a blog then you’re always open to both good and bad comments. I love the list thought; especially number 6. When you’re in it for the long haul, it’s hard to keep going when the going gets tough. Hope you have a good weekend 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Nicola, and I’m so very glad you’ve started your own blog. It’s so nice for us to get great recipes and other frugal ideas from like-minded bloggers. 🙂

  4. It’s so easy to get discouraged, and we always seem to remember those negative comments more than the positive and encouraging ones. I’m glad you are strong enough to move past it. There is no not other alternative except to keep trying. Occasionally we mess up-as we are human! Anyway, just letting you know that I have your back!

    • Laurie says:

      “There is no other alternative except to keep trying”. My fave quote of the week. Thanks, Tonya, and thanks so much for your friendship. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Kalen!! The discipline absolutely has to follow the great attitude, or else one will accomplish much less than they hope to!

  5. Brit says:

    These are great tips, Laurie. Sometimes, I too, beat myself up because I look at others accomplishments and feel like a failure at times. I worry about the future not what I have accomplished not just financially but as a mama. One thing I am working on is never to compare yourself with others. This goes with how you attack your debt too.
    Great post, Laurie!

    • Laurie says:

      Oh, parenthood is a good one, Brit! I’m not sure there’s any other area where we women beat ourselves up more than that. Here’s to focusing on our successes as we work to do better. 🙂

  6. Autumn says:

    I am bookmarking this for those rainy days when I’m feeling discouraged. Such great advice. #5 is especially important – I have started appreciating my accomplishments more. I keep a spreadsheet that I can reference so it really is easy to see how far I’ve come. Ok, I keep several spreadsheets – one at work, one for my blog, one for personal achievements…..they all help.

  7. Kirsten says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I hasn’t been blogging long when I got my first “you are an idiot comment” and of course I get it from two perspectives – debt and religion. They are stressful things to handle and I appreciate some solid advice (affirmations were huge for me for my natural births, so it’s a wonder I hadn’t thought of them before).

    • Laurie says:

      I can’t believe you are seeing some of that stuff already, Kirsten!! Take it from me and don’t let it get to you as I did this summer: they’re not worth it, and you know you’re on the right track.

  8. Laurie, I’m sorry to hear about the negative comments you’ve been getting. I’m glad you’ve kept your head up even when people are trying to knock you down. Thanks for sharing these great tips with us. We can all use some encouragement to keep our heads up when the going gets tough.

  9. Positive affirmations has been a biggie for me! I tend to have the problem of letting my thoughts become really negative when things aren’t going my way. Making a conscious effort every day to remind myself of things that are going well in my life and things that I am doing right has really helped me to reach a much more positive frame of mind.

    • Laurie says:

      Ugh, Dee, I can SO fall into that trap too. I’ve been really bad that way this summer, but I think I’ve got my attitude together now. 🙂

  10. #2 is great, and I think looking back and seeing how far you’ve come is something everyone can benefit from doing. I do get caught up in what I haven’t accomplished yet, but I know I’m in a better spot than I was 2 years ago.

  11. Go Laurie! It’s so important to remember how far you have come. Some days I think I’m not paying off debt fast enough — then I remember, I’ve paid off 43,000 dollars so far! That’s insane! I have to remember I HAVE made progress. I also agree it’s so key to remember the good things and good feedback — it’s too darn easy to focus on one bad thing.

  12. All the points you made Laurie are absolutely true. I especially loved what you mentioned about point #3. It’s so important to acknowledge both the things that aren’t working/need improvement AND the areas that we are rocking out on. Great advice and this post may have never come to light unless you hadn’t experienced the backlash. There is positive to be found in every circumstance 🙂

  13. Elisabeth says:

    I’ve had a terrible time staying positive. It just is taking so loooonnnng! Right? It isn’t moving fast enough. We’re working so hard!!! Michael and I take turns getting frustrated with it. Usually, we do exactly the things you’ve listed to help make us feel better. I’ve not received nasty comments (yet) and know that I’d take them to heart, too. You’re doing amazing things! It will be over and in the past soon!

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks so much, Elisabeth. Sorry you are feeling discouraged too, but hang in there, my friend. Debt freedom is nearer than we think. 🙂

  14. That’s the attitude I want to see from you, Laurie! Just starting to take the necessary steps to get out of debt is enough to consider you a lot more successful than you were before and no trip (especially when we’re talking about a debt to income ration of 65%) is an easy one to make. You’ve already done so many good things, changed your way of living and are heading towards self sufficiency that you have all the rights in the world to completely ignore the haters. So let the haters hate and keep doing what has to be done – you know better than anybody else.

    • Laurie says:

      C, you are the best. Thank you so much for always encouraging and motivating me. You and your family, what you’ve done and continue to do to obtain financial freedom, are a true source of inspiration for us – thank you!!!

  15. Great attitude….Well done! One thing Ive noticed about blogging is that it leaves you open to any and all negativity. Anyonce can pick apart someones decisions but not look at their own decisions the same way. I guess you have to take the good with the bad, and of the most part I think a lot of PF bloggers are supportive especially when someone is trying to improve their own financial situation

    • Laurie says:

      I think so too, Dan. Most of the PF blogging world, both commenters and bloggers, are so amazingly supportive. I need to remember that and focus on it more.

  16. Amy says:

    Great advice, Laurie! Thanks for the reminder, especially about recognizing all accomplishments.

    I, too, get the occasional less-than-supportive comment, and they definitely take the wind out of my sails for a few minutes.

  17. May says:

    It’s sad that people do that. I am not sure I understand it but glad to see that you have the right mindset. I sounds like you are on a long journey but making progress everyday. (I know the feeling – mortgage) I know I will get there and the time will go by no matter what I do. Either I will get there achieving something or arrive the same as I am now. Rambling here – but glad to see you have a positive mindset.

    • Laurie says:

      “Time will go by no matter what I do”. This was the catalyst for us starting our debt payoff plan, May. We knew that we had a choice: 5 years from now we could either have the same amount of debt, or less. I’m so glad we chose to get out of debt.

  18. For me, use positive aspirations does not sound corny. I always look up to someone aspiring because knowing that they can means I can also. It also inspires me to do better than them. Think I am now being being corny this time. 🙂

  19. Thank you for the shout-out, Laurie! I know it totally sounds corny, but it does work! And personally, I also like your point about focusing on what you have accomplished. For me, that helps me to remember that I’ve already accomplished so much, this is no real obstacle and is definitely possible.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Natalie! Really, though, your post did so very much for us in terms of helping us get back on track – thank you again. 🙂

  20. I think being a bit “pig headed” was one of the key factors in paying off my debt.

    No matter how disastrously I thought I’d done that month, I simply refused to be beaten. So back I’d go for another try; another budget, a bit more debt paid off, a little bit shaved off my expenses.

    And slowly, bit by bit, I struggled and fought my way through it to come out the other side. It certainly wasn’t easy and doubt is almost guaranteed at some point. Refusing to give in is the best thing you can do.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, we found that out when we started tracking our DTI. Seeing that number go down was much more gratifying to us than tracking our actual debt numbers because there were still so many dollars left to pay off.

  21. Such great advice as usual Laurie and it’s so true, sometimes you just have to go back to the beginning to appreciate how far you have come. And you can’t just look at the numbers, you have to look at the behaviors. Many of your money surprises have been exactly that, however, you have done amazing at controlling what you can control and if you were not doing that all along, you would be in worse shape. You are on a long journey and you have to sometimes stop, take a deep breath, look behind you, then let it go and move forward with strength and confidence. There will always be monsters, but there are also plenty of monster killers like positivity along the way as well.

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Shannon, for your always positive comments. 🙂 I feel like we’re back on track now and are no longer allowing those negative forces to influence us. And it feels great!

  22. Laurie, I’m very sorry that you’ve received nasty comments. It is so shocking – especially to someone like you who would never think of doing anything like that to another person. Cowardly, mean-spirited actions point at the person behind them, not at the person to whom they’re directed. I’m so glad that you aren’t giving up. You truly are an encouragement to so many people – including me. You said you didn’t share the comments with your husband. I think it would be good to share them with someone. Have you considered that? God bless you as you continue your journey.

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Prudence – I so appreciate your uplifting words. Yeah, I have a couple of very, very dear friends that I’ve shared the comments with, and that helps a lot just to get it off my chest. That, and support from dear blogging pals like you, my Fruclassity friend. 🙂

  23. anna says:

    I love all your ideas, especially keeping honest but remaining positive. I think it’s all too easy to get down on oneself when it comes to a long and possibly difficult journey, but all you can do is put one step over the other and just keep moving forward. I also agree about thinking in percentages – an overwhelming percentage adore you, Laurie, so please never leave (I think I have abandonment issues lol). 🙂

  24. linda albarran says:

    I applaud you for taking an incredible journey and sharing it with others. It is most unfortunate that there are ugly and mean people out there that enjoy tearing people apart for any reason (real or imagined)Please continue and know that you are a blessing to others that are traveling the same route.

  25. Great advice, Laurie. It’s strange how quickly a negative or mean comment can zap our self-esteem and momentum if we let it, which I am very guilty of doing myself. And you’re 100% right that we cannot control the things others say or do but we can control our response. It’s not always easier taking the higher ground but it always feels 100% better when we do.

  26. Alexis says:

    When I first received my credit card, I was spending a little more money than I thought I was which in return equaled a bill that was way higher than I thought it would be. I came into realization that I was overspending and then had to pay everything off by working long hours.

    • Laurie says:

      That seems to be the way it goes, Alexis!! When not paying with cash, it’s so easy to simply forget how much we’ve actually spent, isn’t it? This is why I’m a huge believer in spend-tracking.

  27. Kim says:

    I’m sending all my positive energy your way. I know we remember one negative way more than 20 positives, but I feel you on the haters. Usually the ones with all the criticisms and advice about how you should live are the ones who are in a bad way themselves. I try to remember that when I get angry at them.

    • Laurie says:

      Thank you SO much, Kim. I need to remember that as well. I get there eventually, but I usually spend way too much time beating myself up first. 🙂

  28. “Unfortunately, however, as other blogging friends have shared with me, yes, there are those out there whose main goal, it seems, is to make people feel like crap about themselves. These kinds of comments, which seem to grow in number as a blog grows, can really put a snag in a plan for debt freedom or wealth accumulation.”

    I can totally relate! There are so many negative trolls out there! Sorry they got to you. =(

  29. Great tips for dealing with negativity. While I’m not popular enough to have negative trolls, I do hear criticism outside of the blog world. It’s important to remember why you’re on the journey that you’re on and remind yourself of your goals. Focusing on your accomplishments is also very motivating. And as a wise person once said, “Remind yourself that no one’s opinion of you really matters other than your own and the opinions of those closest to you.” =) That was of course from your post about handling criticism.

  30. Debt Hater says:

    I use #2 and #5 all the time when I’m thinking about my debt payoff, as it shows me just how much progress I’ve made so far. Even though I still have such a long way to go it’s nice to see that I’ve also worked through and equal amount. Just knowing that I’ve gotten through that part helps me stay positive in knowing that I can finish paying off the rest too.

  31. Kipp says:

    Very good points Laurie! I was actually just going over my long term plan for investing and debt killing and things may seem so far off, but each month stuff is headed in the right direction and that is what matters!

    Keep up the good fight!

    • Laurie says:

      Kipp, awesome point, and I was just thinking that this morning. We are so much further ahead than we were when we started, and that’s what counts. 🙂 Thanks for your support – it means a lot to us!

  32. catherine says:

    Seriously why do people even bother?! I’ve dealt with my fair share of comments and it sucks but just remind yourself who you are and why you’re doing this. Though you choose to share things publicly its a very personal journey. Screw everyone else.

    • Laurie says:

      Catherine, we are finally starting to learn to stick with that mindset. We are doing what’s best for us, and that’s what counts. 🙂

  33. Mackenzie says:

    Ugh, that’s awful that people were mean to you Laurie 🙁 You are doing AWESOME in your debt payoff journey and you just keep pushing forward! Like you said, never give up!! 🙂

  34. This is some great advice. I hope you’ve taken and used some of these tips yourself Laurie. Any journey is going to have ups and downs and it’s hard to not get down on yourself when you’re having a rough month or two, but if you are still paying off debt and working to pay it off, that’s all you can ask for. Just do your best for you and your family!

  35. deborah almaraz says:

    you are very brave to open up your personal life to help others and then the downer debbies step in ( I have been called that) and try to bring you down. Its because they dont have the courage to step up and except that they can help themselves too but its easier to pick on someone else. When I said something negative to someone it wasnt to be mean I thought it would help them but they took it that way. Its great that you turned a negative into a positive because you will accomplish your debt goal faster and say thanks for the kick in the butt. How are you doing on your debt reduction? LOL

    • Laurie says:

      I think we all have those moments, Deborah, when we say something negative and didn’t mean it that way. Apologize and move on, right? Debt reduction is going well. July was horrible, August is much better. 🙂

  36. Giving up is the last option I will end up myself with. I always keep that big picture in mind to keep myself on track. Everyday I make a decision to live the life of a true runner who go to the finish line after all those struggles along the way.

    • Laurie says:

      Love that analogy, Jason, and as a former runner myself, it helps me a lot too. Just keep taking those steps, no matter how tired you are, and eventually you’ll cross that finish line. 🙂

  37. It’s too bad people were criticizing you for trying to do something so wonderful. Really makes you wonder where their heads are.

    I do several things when receiving criticism: 1) consider the source – some people aren’t worth listening to; 2) openly consider the comment – Is there any truth to it? Do I need to change? 3) try really hard not to get defensive about it – that only inflames my emotions and could lead to worse conflict; and 4) don’t fret over what a couple people might be saying that is negative – if 95 out of 100 people approve of what I’m doing, then I’m not going to try and satisfy or bow to the needs/desires of the other 5.

    You have so much to be proud of. Like you said, stay positive and focus on what you’ve already done. You know the end result will be spectacular.

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks Brian. Yes, we try hard to follow those steps too, but sometimes I get hung up on the nastiness of unwarranted critics, and I need to learn to blow them off, you know?

  38. Good tips as it is difficult for some folks to stick to the debt payoff plan 100%. Almost always people get so fustrated that they add new debt in the process, and have to start all over.

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