We’ve all made money mistakes. How can you go through life and not?
Mistakes are actually good things as they provide excellent learning experiences and force us to look at alternatives. They help us adjust our thinking, understand what does and doesn’t work, and find more creative solutions that broaden our horizons. Most of all, mistakes help us build our confidence when we’re able to recover from them.
The problem isn’t making mistakes. The problem is when we don’t recover emotionally from our mistakes. Unfortunately, this is a scenario we see too often but it can be especially impactful for women in their 50s or older who are dealing with the ramifications of past money mistakes.
It’s not uncommon for more life-experienced (notice I didn’t say older) women to have made financial mistakes that they haven’t recovered from, either emotionally and/or financially. Perhaps you didn’t save enough in retirement when you were younger? Maybe you helped your kids pay for their school from your retirement funds or maybe you took out a Parent Plus loan? Whatever it is, if you’re feeling bad about it, it’s time to deal with the negative emotions. Dealing with the financial aspect is important, but today is about forgiving yourself for what and where you went wrong.
Why is this so important? Often, these are the types of mistakes that cause us trauma as we worry about our ability to retire or pay off a large debt. Finances are one of the causes of Broken Heart Syndrome because of the stress it wreaks on our bodies. According to a renowned book on trauma, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, our bodies literally lock in feelings tied to trauma. As we recall painful memories, our bodies feel the original emotions every single time. Trauma and its resulting stress hurt us through changes to body and brain, and those harms can persist throughout life. Excess stress can predispose us to everything from diabetes to heart disease, maybe even cancer. This isn’t healthy, productive, or enjoyable. In fact, the experience of reliving trauma makes you feel worse and provides no benefit for your brain or body. Money trauma is real and when these feelings aren’t addressed, our minds and bodies suffer.
The first step is to make peace with what you did or didn’t do. You were doing the best you could with the information you had at that moment. Period. End of story. Trying to reason why you did it or what you could’ve done better isn’t really worth your time and energy. Whatever lessons there are, take them to heart and apply them to your life going forward. Making peace can be done through a variety of means, like symbolically by writing the act on a piece of paper and burning it or through mindfulness exercises. Simply saying aloud that you forgive yourself is very powerful.
After making peace with the mistake, take ownership of what happened. Accept the blame and don’t deflect or direct fault elsewhere. Blaming credit card companies or universities or anyone else doesn’t fully allow you to move forward because it allows you to claim the victim mentality. By accepting what happened you are in the driver’s seat to move forward in full control.
Sure, there may be things you need to learn or adjustments you need to make to make better decisions, but by taking these steps, you are saying to yourself that you are in charge and you are positioned to do what needs to be done. You can move forward without the emotional (or physical) baggage of the past.
Start healing from past financial mistakes today. Your mind and body depend on it.
Gayle Evezich, AFC® is a Senior Financial Concierge at Your Money Line and personal finance author. Gayle’s greatest joy is to help others find comfort with their money through financial empowerment. When not working or donating her services, you can find Gayle hiking, cooking creative vegan food, traveling or reading scandalous murder mysteries!