Reality Check!

It’s time for a reality check, because we all need one once in a while. In fact, it may be time to quit denying reality. That’s because we’ve all got things that we believe about ourselves and others that….may not be true.

Oh, they’re true for us, because believing becomes doing, but not everything that we believe has to stay that way. And yes, this includes our beliefs about money.

Reality check step one

So, think of an area that’s been bothering you for a long time. What do you believe about that area, and how do those beliefs match up with reality, really? It can be hard to figure this out, so one trick is to think about the things that other people are constantly telling you. It’ll be something that has bugged you for a long time, because it doesn’t match up with your inner beliefs.

For example, for years and years people told me that I was shy.

Even now, my reaction to that sentence is an automatic “I am NOT shy.”

Except, if you look up shy and its synonyms in the dictionary (and I’m not kidding here, that’s literally what it took for me) you’ll see:

Shy, bashful, diffident imply a manner that shows discomfort or lack of confidence in association with others. Shy implies a constitutional shrinking from contact or close association with others, together with a wish to escape notice: shy and retiring. Bashful suggests timidity about meeting others, and trepidation and awkward behavior when brought into prominence or notice: a bashful child. Diffident emphasizes self-distrust, fear of censure, failure, etc., and a hesitant, tentative manner as a consequence: a diffident approach to a touchy subject

And um, how did I act? Well, I went to parties or meetings and wished I could disappear. I stood at the edges of the room, hoping that no one would notice me. I was terrified of introducing myself to others. I hated when a clerk asked me if they could help me in the store, because I just wanted to be left alone. I couldn’t call people on the phone (and by “people” I meant the folks who could bring me one of my favorite things: pizza) because I felt stupid. When I did talk, no one could hear me.

Let’s see. Was I shy? Why, yes. In fact, I had social anxiety.

But that went so against my inner reality that I refused to believe it. I thought “shy” meant “didn’t want to be around people”. And I really, REALLY wanted to be around people. I like people a lot. I love hearing their stories. I like listening to what they have to say, finding out where they’ve been and what they enjoying doing. Therefore I wasn’t shy, right? Wrong.

What you want to do or how you wish things could be doesn’t matter as much as what you ACTUALLY do.

Reality check step two

Admitting things is 3/4 of the battle. Once you figure out that what you’ve been telling yourself doesn’t match up with reality, you can do something about it. A whole world of possibilities will open up, and you’ll wish you’d done so sooner. In my case, I attended cognitive behavioral group therapy, and hello, now my inner beliefs do match up with reality. I AM no longer shy — not because I’m in denial about it, but because I no longer meet that definition.

I go to parties and I talk to people. I go up to many, many people at events, stick out my hand, and introduce myself. I sit and chat with the person I’ve just met who is next to me at dinner. If I’m in a hurry in a store, I actively seek out a clerk to help me, and I don’t feel like crawling under a rock or lashing out when they approach me on their own. I no longer give picking up the phone to call someone a second thought. I still do need to work on speaking louder, but I’m making progress there. I am learning that if I pretend the person I’m talking to is really standing twice as far away as they actually are, they can usually hear me.

We’re all that good at denial

Don’t brush this aside, thinking that it doesn’t apply to you. It probably does, in some area.

If my story had been about money, it would have been the equivalent of telling myself that I was doing pretty well, because I pay my bills on time, own a house, and have a good job — when in reality I live paycheck-to-paycheck, can’t really afford that house (because something simple like a water heater going out would be the equivalent of a major financial emergency), and am likely to be laid off. (That isn’t my situation now, but it once was.)

Others would have mentioned to me that an emergency fund is a good idea, but I’d have had some ready excuse why that didn’t apply to me. After all, I hadn’t had any real emergencies, had I? Just some unusual things happening that I couldn’t pay for that forced me to go into credit card debt. It wasn’t my fault, right? Who can prepare for unexpected things like broken water heaters or getting laid off?

Give yourself a reality check though, and you can take action.

Have you ever experienced something like this? In what area? What area(s) do you think you might still benefit from a reality check in?

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14 comments

  • Very impressive “journey from shyness”! Congrats.

    I can’t think of something that I’m denying off the top of my head (which probably means it’s something big, right?). I suppose I should increase my emergency fund. I’ve heard that for every $10,000 in salary you should give a month to find a new job… and I definitely don’t have that sort of savings in my emergency fund. Things look brighter if you assume a severance… but can you?

    • I’ve only gotten a severance once, so I’d assume that unless you’ve negotiated one back when you accepted the job, it’s not something to count on.

  • A person who is a wallflower at parties is introverted, not necessarily shy. Shyness is a kind of fear. I am not shy – I don’t have a problem talking with strangers – but I can’t stand large get-togethers. Give me one or two other people to socialize with, and I have fun. Any more than that and all the energy is sucked out of me.

  • Shyness is definitely a kind of fear: pretty high anxiety. I think I’m somewhere in the middle between introvert and extrovert. Being around large groups doesn’t exhaust me, but I’m also not bored when alone.

  • Yes, especially when you make a new friend and they make the comment like “You’re so X” and whatever that “X” thing isn’t something you would normally use to describe yourself. That always throws me for a loop. Then I do some reflection and ask for clarification from that person to figure out where they came up with that impression.

  • Maybe it is due to my age or should I say length of time I am a live, I don’t think I have any of these left! When I am in denial, I only allow this condition for hours or days. I am shy too, but I managed to overcome most of my shyness.

  • I agree with Krantcents. For a great many people, being shy is one of things that fades the more life experiences are gained.

    • I think that it becomes harder to remain in denial about things as you get older (although by no means impossible) but shyness to the extent of social anxiety doesn’t just fade. It gets worse unless it’s treated.

  • I try to be honest with myself, but I know that when it comes to money, I’m still not meeting my goals. Maybe I do need a reality check! And I can be shy, too. I’m not so sure it fades with age; I think I used to be more out-going when I was younger. ;)

  • Financially, the biggest denial I had was our house.
    It wasn’t a good investment and it took me a long time to realize that.
    We probably should sell and cut our losses and move, but that’s a big step.
    Real Estate is funny though, in 10 years it probably would turn out OK.