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?