First, it was Santa Claus, and then it was the tooth fairy, followed by the ever-elusive Prince Charming. We treasure these stories because we want so desperately to believe someone is waiting in the wings to give us the things we desire. As we venture into adulthood, we soon realize these seemingly harmless tales become a crunch as we continue to wait on something outside of ourselves to come to our rescue and, in turn, abandon ourselves.
When we’re little girls, we feel we can do anything. We can jump higher, sing better, run faster. Then someone challenges that belief, and self-doubt begins to take root. Though we don’t see it with the physical eye, there’s a silent enemy wreaking havoc in our relationships, careers, and finances.
Here’s what I know for sure: confident little girls become financially successful women.
The real key to creating financial freedom isn’t changing what we do, it’s changing our limiting beliefs about how we feel—and that requires more than just learning how to invest,” writes Nancy Levin, author of Worthy: Boost Your Self-Worth to Grow Your Net Worth on her website. “When we don’t feel worthy on the inside, we develop patterns that prevent us from having the money, love, time, energy, health, joy we want and need.”
Expectations: The self-esteem bandit
From the time we come out of the womb, girls are socialized to play it safe, be polite and follow the rules or risk being a social castaway. What ensues as a result is a society of women who set impossible standards for themselves to gain the approval of others. When we fall short, we tend to beat ourselves up, assuming that if we missed the mark, there’s something not wrong with what we did but wrong with us.
Authors Claire Shipman, Katy Kay, and Jillellyn Riley tackle this issue in-depth in their book The Confidence Code for Girls: Taking Risks, Messing Up and Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Awesome Powerful Self. Their polling data revealed that nearly half of the 1,300-plus 12 and 13-year old girls they surveyed felt they could not fail and disappoint others. The pressure they put on themselves to achieve unrealistic ideals and expectations chipped away at their confidence but also set them up for years of depression and emotional struggle.
Getting to the root of your self-limiting beliefs
Your self-limiting beliefs commonly stem from the messages you received in your childhood. The next time your inner critic shows up, listen closely to what she’s saying; you know, that voice that tells you that you’ll end up alone and penniless with ten cats. Remember the first time you heard you weren’t capable of doing something or that you weren’t good enough?
Believe it or not, that one seemingly insignificant moment sparked a series of subsequent “what ifs” and “why nots.”
What if I’m not smart enough to write this book?
What if I start this business and it doesn’t pan out?
I can’t travel around the world because I don’t have enough money.
The reason you’ve attracted experiences of lack — the man that won’t commit, the job where you can barely make ends meet, or the struggling business — is due to those self-deprecating beliefs swirling around in your head. I’ve seen how this plays out firsthand in my own life.
Growing up, my parents worked long hours. Being an only child, I spent a lot of time alone. To cope, I sought out love and attention in any way I could, even to my detriment, a pattern that continued in my twenties and early thirties. I later discovered that the situations and relationships I attracted reflected childhood wounds and often reaffirmed those feelings of loneliness I felt as a child. It wasn’t until I deepened my relationship with God that I began to recognize my value.
Self-discipline and faith are the ultimate confidence cures
When you show up for yourself consistently, you begin to trust yourself, which increases your overall confidence. In 2016, I committed to run every morning. What I didn’t anticipate was the transformation that would occur beyond the physical.
At the time, I was newly engaged and had just started a new job. I should have been elated, but in reality, I was terrified because I knew that marrying my then-fiancé would be the biggest mistake of my life. Deep down, I knew I was settling. As a woman in her mid-thirties with a biological clock ticking so loud it was keeping me up at night, I had chosen to ignore all the red flags– the secret phone calls, the late-night texts, the unexplained disappearances.
Going for a run every morning regardless of weather conditions or how I felt soon transferred over into other areas of my life. Less than a year later, I had ended a toxic relationship, moved to a new state, and was in the process of buying my first home.
While self-discipline got the party started, faith brought the house down. When I decided to end my engagement and move to Charlotte, NC, having faith that God had my back is the only thing that kept me going. A year prior, I had buried myself in the Bible, reading a couple of scriptures every morning and praying for strength. I didn’t grow up in the church or even attend church regularly, so this was new for me. The more I read the Bible, the more I began to see the vision God had set forth for my life, and I knew remaining in my current circumstances wouldn’t get me there.
Developing self-worth is not an overnight process, nor an easy one. You’ll lose friends, shed tears, and be prompted to take risks that will cause you to question your sanity. But in the end, it will force you to make better choices for your personal and financial well-being because it will no longer be in your nature to settle.