I spent some time this weekend with my brother Michael and it was very touching to watch him teach his children about finances. They had emptied their piggy banks earlier in the week and he opened up bank accounts for them. He was now in the process of showing them how to log in and check their balances on line.
He talked to them about the importance of saving and he asked them some ways in which they could earn money so that they could watch their funds grow. They are all under 10 so things like chores, flyer deliveries, a garage sale, grass cutting and snow removal were all discussed. He then talked about investments, compound interest, retirement and taxes.
I really had mixed emotions watching this take place. I was so proud of him for teaching and guiding these children, but it also stirred in me the painful memories of not having any guidance in my life what-so-ever.
One of the most painful issues I look back on in my young life was that I feel like I was unprepared for adulthood. My dad died when I was a teenager and he was pretty sick for a few years before his death and once he was gone, so were any lessons he was going to teach me, any preparation, any guidance or any desire to prepare me for life.
My mom was not interested in my development. She either didn’t know how or didn’t care about preparing me for the future. She would tell me stories about how she would make X number of dollars per week when she was young and her mom would take three quarters of it. So, she did something similar to me once I graduated, charging me 60% of my income for room and board. At the time I was making very little money and I had huge, crushing student loan debts to contend with.
I watch parents now setting up Education Savings Accounts for their kids, paying their entire ride, even for their residence and it amazes me. They’re involved, they give advice and they give their children the best possible start in life.
I never had money. I never grew up thinking that money came easy. Every penny was a struggle and I never had enough of it. More importantly, I never had any guidance or anyone interested in my plans or my life.
I was the only one in my family to go to University and throughout the entire process, no one was there. No one was interested in helping me make decisions. In fact, I felt that my mother actually resented my desire for higher learning and didn’t want me to go. She never went to a single one of my graduations. Not elementary school, not high school, not University. No one did.
Being Decisive and Becoming Your Own Teacher
It would be very easy to have a pity party and I’m sure I have many times. But the experience has forced me to become independent and very good at making my own decisions. One big issue for many Codependents is that, very often, they are really indecisive. Either they’ve been conditioned, like I was, to believe that what they want and what they’re doing isn’t important enough to garner anyone else’s interest or they lacked the guidance most people have been given by their parents.
When it comes to making a decision, I have taught myself that the consequences of my choices affect me the most and so I want to make the best, most educated decision possible. When it comes to money, finances, my career, my relationships – I am going to do all the research I can to come to the best conclusion possible. We are lucky that we live in an age where most of life’s questions can be answered at our fingertips. So I learned to do the work, find the information, ask questions, make phone calls and figure out the best course of action.
I may also bounce it off someone that is in my front row – someone I trust fully, who has my best interest at heart. I stopped asking toxic people or family members long ago. I don’t need to seek their approval or follow their advice – simply because I don’t trust their motives.
When you make a decision and you follow through with it, it becomes very empowering and it builds confidence, I’ve learned to look at, diagnose poor outcomes and analyze, where I could or should have considered something I didn’t and even in the end I’ll chalk it up to a learning experience if it turns out not to be the right course of action.
But by far, the greatest skill I’ve acquired is to trust my gut instincts. I’ve found in most situations it will not steer you wrong. Codependents have been taught to shut that out and to disconnect from their feelings. Part of the healing process is to reconnect to those innate senses that we all have. I truly believe that they are our spirits way of guiding us.
When you’ve researched something to the best of your ability, when you’ve asked the right questions, when you’ve sought out the input of those you trust and you’ve listen to your instincts – when all of these line up, more than likely your decision will be the right one.
Be your own cheerleader
For a Codependent there is something so deliciously tantalizing about winning someone over, who has doubted you. When someone shows you, they have no faith in you, we will often do whatever we can to prove them wrong.
Because love and attention were typically not given freely in childhood, we have learned that we must win these things by what we can do, or give to others, or by how we make them feel. Thus, we look externally for approval. We look externally for our worth and we learn to determine the quality of our abilities by their reactions.
What we can’t possibly know, as children, is that any parent who would withhold love, praise or attention and who would make us feel unlovable is never going to give us any sense of positivity or approval. So, you will always be disappointed in their reactions to your successes and triumphs. When we grow up, we often will keep this pattern going, looking to others to show us our worth.
A big part of self-care is learning to be your own best friend and how to give yourself what you need. When I was younger I didn’t go to my University graduation because no one else was going to come and I was made to feel like it wasn’t important. Now I celebrate everything – every achievement, every milestone. I make a really big deal about it, mine and those close to me.
I’m very, very particular about those who I let get close to me. I know that those people that have proven to me that they belong in my front row, want me to succeed and they are the first ones to cheer me on or celebrate a victory.
Some time ago, I was buying a house by myself and I text my oldest brother and asked him for some advice on financing. His reply shocked me, even now when I think about it, it leaves me feeling cold. He said:
“My finances are my business.”
I had made a joke several years ago that he was an alien hybrid because he had green eyes and AB negative blood, while the rest of us are all O positive. (I really don’t think he is an alien hybrid. I had read something about it and teased him). It was so long ago I vaguely remember saying it. He told me in this text that I could take my abuse somewhere else because I called him an Alien.
My jaw hung open. I couldn’t believe what he had just said to his little sister, who was just looking for some advice. I closed my mouth and text back, “I hope your day gets better,” and in that moment I did the pass back, leaving his foul mood with him, knowing his behavior had nothing to do with me and I quietly removed him from the front row, to the very back of the theater of my life.
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