There is nothing good to be said about bullies. Their appearance in our early lives can set the tone for a life of misery, fear, and remorse.
We do all we can to weaken their hold by seeking the help of others, by avoidance, and in some cases, by confrontation.
Bullies exist, too, in our financial lives. These bullies come in three guises: Institutional Bullies, Individual Bullies, and Internal Bullying.
Let’s examine each one and what you can do to fend off their grip.
Institutional Bullies exist in the financial industry. These are the companies, organizations, and lobbyists who expend big budgets and time resources to thoughtlessly shove their products down the throats of consumers without the concomitant responsibility that comes with their acquisition. From TV commercials to sports promotions, they have built machines and spent billions to support their intent to capture your dollars. These are the same institutions that have been found guilty of cheating the public, misrepresentation, and unfair practices. Don’t be fooled into thinking they have your best interest in mind.
Consider the messages on their commercials. “Trust us….we’re here for you….life is tough-you need us to help you find your way…” These constant barrages of messaging tell you that if you want to come through life’s financial meat grinder intact, you need to rely on them. Try this experiment: Over the course of one week, count the number of times you come in contact with a message from a big financial institution; radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, billboards, website ads, emails. Just one week. The results will prove my point.
Individual Bullies are in our lives. They’re the ones who are first to tell you or show you their wealth and success. They show you their new car, tell you about their lavish vacations or find some other demonstration of their financial might. The impact is to set up a hierarchy of power; think of the greater than/less than equation which invariably puts them in the greater than position for the purpose of making them feel good. And typically, the outcome is the other party feeling bad, weak, or jealous. Unfortunately, this creates an emotional beat down that, for many, hurts deeply and can lead to negative reactions or actions. The reality is, these folks learned at an early age that Money=Power and it’s their club to wield. The fact is, their broken money beliefs don’t lead them to true satisfaction or happiness. It is a treadmill from which they cannot get off. Think of it this way: do they run to tell you when they’re having financial hardships?
Another iteration of individual financial bullying is where peer pressure is applied to coopt your sensible desires into spending on something you don’t value, in order to “belong.” This is a tough one since as humans, we want to be accepted by our tribe-our community-our peers. It is also an ageless one. Whether we’re five or 85, peer pressure can always be present. Whether it’s drinks after work, a share of a beach house or a vacation that’s not really in the budget, only you can make decisions to say yes or not. There is a level of pain either way. The real questions are, where is the biggest pain and what do you value most?
Related: Are You Seized in Panic That Retirement is on the Horizon?
Internal Bullying is what we do to ourselves when we don’t believe we are “enough.” You know, the negative self-talk; that inner voice that tells us we’re not thin enough, not smart enough, and not wealthy enough. Battling this bully is perhaps one of the toughest and most important one with which to engage.
Begin with understanding and stating your values.
I’m not talking about chocolate vs. vanilla. I am talking about who you love, what you care about, and why. The most important aspect to consider is that your values are YOURS. For example, one person might value, above anything else, paying for education for their children through advanced degrees, while others might value sending their children to state schools and contributing in a limited fashion to their tuition cost. Either is correct. The discussion or consideration begins with an internal understanding of your highest value and being able to share with other stakeholders. The final step is to put those values into real action complete with accountability.
Our lives are complicated. We are unaware of some of the forces that prey upon our lives and sensibilities. Being victimized by institutional, individual, or internal bullying is not an appropriate or easy place to exist or to have to live through.
By refusing to buy into the noise, the pressure, or the internal defeatist messaging, you take the power away from the bullies and put yourself on track to live your best life in accordance with your values. In a society that profits from our insecurities, having self confidence has never been more important. Stand up and be heard-it’s your life and I believe in you!