When I was in my early twenties (I’ll be 50 this summer) my BFF Judie and I were workout queens. Gym rats. Gym nerds. Muscle heads. Whatever you want to call it. We were amateur body builders who lifted weights three times a week in training from our body builder friends and spent three more days a week running or rollerblading around local lakes (it was the early nineties, after all 🙂 )
On the outside, our appearances were perfect. In fact, one time a guy came up to me on the street and said “MAN, you have the nicest calves I’ve ever seen!” It felt good to be complimented on a part of the body that most guys don’t usually notice. 🙂
Appearances Can Be Deceiving
Unfortunately, though, that fine physical appearance was deceiving in a way – at least for me.
I looked perfect on the outside, but my inside wasn’t so perfect. This should have been evident by the fact that Judes and I routinely left the gym and headed over to the local bar and grill for a giant burger and fries, along with an order of onion rings and an order cheese curds. On special days, we topped off the meal with some kind of gooey, chocolately dessert.
The calories didn’t affect us thanks to our crazy workout schedules, but our insides were pretty toxic.
You see, thanks to years of childhood and early adulthood emotional and physical traumas, I had become an emotional eater.
So although my outside looked perfect, my inside was a hot mess.
I wouldn’t realize this until years later. Marriage and four kids within six years meant no time for workouts, but I still succumbed to emotional eating.
This girl uncovered the reason behind her spending and paid off $500k in debt: Money Love
Over time, my rail thin, super muscular frame would become fifty pounds heavier. I’m 5’9, so fifty pounds isn’t as traumatizing on me as it is on someone who’s 5’2, but it still made an impact and wasn’t fun to carry around.
This “false appearance” of physical health carried over into our finances too, as it does with many people today.
When I worked in the banking world I learned this first hand. People would come in, asking for help because they were in a boat load of financial trouble. I remember one guy: he and his wife were in their mid-fifties. They were wanting to get ready for retirement but had only a few thousand in retirement savings. On the flip side, they had well over $150,000 in credit card debt. And a bloated mortgage. And car payments on high end cars. Their income? $150k a year.
We worked with them to formulate a plan to get the debt paid off via a mortgage refinance, but I wonder to this day if it stuck.
Customers like this guy and others like him – along with my own personal experience – showed me that appearances don’t mean crap.
When Rick and I lived in the ‘burbs, we lived in a pretty da*n nice neighborhood. But our nice neighborhood was side-by-side with an even nicer neighborhood that boasted homes that were worth twice as much as ours.
When we’d walk through those neighborhoods, Rick would always say “Wow. What do these people do that they can afford this house/this car/this boat?” But spending 15 years in the banking industry taught me that most of these people probably didn’t own the stuff they had, but instead were in hock up to their ears trying to pay to keep up appearances.
$150k guy should have been able to easily survive and have huge cash in the bank, but instead they were a hidden financial mess looking to get happy by spending money.
Get to the Root if You Want to Change the Fruit
I know firsthand that you can pay off (or refinance) all of the debt you want, but if you don’t get a handle on WHY you’re spending above your means, you’ll keep falling back into your old spending habits no matter how much extra money you have.
This is what happened with us. We would pay off our debt (usually by cashing in an investment or retirement account, or by taking out a home equity loan) and be debt free. But it wouldn’t be long at all before we’d start wracking up debt again.
Because, like when my gym rat days ended and I put on 50 pounds, I hadn’t dealt with why the gluttony was happening in the first place.
When I finally uncovered and dealt with the emotional traumas that were causing me to use eating as an emotional outlet, the weight came off even without the workouts.
Putting food in its proper place: When Food Is Love: Exploring the Relationship Between Eating and Intimacy
Similarly, when Rick and I finally faced up to and dealt head on with the emotional traumas we had experienced (which I will warn you isn’t fun but IS worth it), we no longer felt the need to buy stuff to be happy and we started spending within our means. Living within our budget became easier, and subsequently, paying off debt became easier. It was no longer the struggle it had been for so many years.
It’s amazingly calm living a life where you’ve dealt with past traumas and actually overcome them. The key for me was in realizing that my value isn’t in what I own. Or how I look. Or the car that I drive. Or in how successful my kids are. My value is based on what the Creator of the Universe says about me. And He says I’m awesome just because. And He says that about you too. And who are we to argue with the Creator of the Universe? 🙂
You’ll never be happy living someone else’s life: Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want
If you want true and lasting change in any area of your life, whether it be with your relationships, your physical appearance, or with your money, you’ve got to get down to the root of why you’re not treating yourself as you deserve to be treated.
By asking yourself why you make the financial and other decisions you make – and being prepared to accept the answers to those questions – you can begin the hard work of inner transformation that will lead to lasting outward transformation and true change.