Money baggage can even keep us from finding work. A man named David walked into one of my workshops several years back—I’ll never forget him. He looked completely downtrodden and wore frumpy, tattered, tweedy looking clothes. Middle-aged, skeletal of frame, plain and simple, he slumped in his chair. He gave the impression he was trying to make himself physically smaller so he wouldn’t take up much space. He looked down at the floor most of the time, held his hands, and tapped his feet a lot. He looked like he didn’t have a dime.
David was an accounts payable clerk at a shipping company. He’d worked there nine years but didn’t like his job very much. He had taken classes to explore other employment options, but he couldn’t figure out what else to do. He decided it was his lot in life to just keep working where he was.
He shared with the group that his parents were really poor and he was an only child. He grew up alone; he didn’t have a lot of friends.
When it was time to share his money baggage he said, in a voice nearly inaudible: If you couldn’t afford me, why did you have me? If I had enough money, I’d have love. He looked up at me for a moment and then back down at the floor and tapped his feet.
While growing up, David heard a clear message from his mom that they couldn’t afford this anymore, or they couldn’t do that anymore. She told him that they used to have more money before he was born, but now it had to go to keep him clothed, fed, and with a roof over his head. She told him they used to do lots of things they couldn’t do now.
A child’s mind doesn’t have the logical reasoning power of an adult. Children often take things literally and personally. And then they grow up and begin to take actions over and over again consistent with the literal thoughts they formed as children.
David’s clear impression from childhood was that he was a financial burden to the family and that they shouldn’t have had him. He didn’t hear, “I love you” or “We’re so glad to have you.” He never got the message, “You are our pride and joy and we will spend whatever it takes to provide the best possible life for you given our limited means.”
He decided instead that if the family had had more money, then his parents would have loved him more. He formed a literal belief that he was unlovable and unwanted. He was a mistake, he shouldn’t be here. He said to himself, “Hopefully, I won’t be a burden for anyone else. I’ll just work hard and get by.”
It didn’t matter how many classes he took to figure out a passion in his life or a path to a new job. None of it was going to work until he began investigating his money baggage. His money baggage subverted his capacity to earn money or find opportunities.
Your thoughts—your money baggage—will sabotage all your good intentions. David’s meager life was in perfect harmony with his money baggage. It created his demeanor, it picked the clothes he wore, and it gave him the job he had. It chose his little apartment and made sure that he never dated. Deep down, David’s money baggage told him that he did not deserve.
One description of why our conscious intentions around money are so often frustrated is in Neale Donald Walsch’s book Conversations with God. Walsch says that it is our sponsoring thought—literally the thought behind the thought—that has the most say over our reality. It is the unconscious thought beneath the conscious one that is most responsible for the way our life is.
Your money baggage is formed by such a sponsoring thought. It formed in childhood. It became part of the foundation upon which you created your life. A belief that you do not deserve, held deeply in your subconscious, will frustrate all your attempts to bring sustained happiness into your life.
The process is faultless. If your money baggage says money is bad, you will, in perfect harmony with this belief, find a way to keep it away from you. Or if it does come, you will find a way to get it out of your hands, quickly.
When you discover your money baggage, you discover the sponsoring thought that has always been there running the show. You discover the way your money baggage directs your life by posing as the truth. It tries to convince you that it is in charge, not you. And it will continue to do so as long as you live an unexamined life around the deeper attitudes you have around money.
What conclusions and decisions did you make about money that are still silently directing your life today? The clue to discovering your money baggage might be in some behavior you have—shopping even when you don’t really need what you are buying; avoiding asking your boss for a raise; always looking for bargains even if you have to drive all the way across town to get them; never buying yourself anything nice; or wearing heavy sweaters when you could turn up the heat in your apartment to a reasonable level instead.
Start to jot down all the behaviors you have that are related to money. Do you resist giving money to charity? Is it hard for you to not take advantage of a sale even when you don’t really need what you are buying? Is it hard to say no to your children when they want you to buy them something? Take these behaviors as clues and ask yourself why you are doing them and what early experiences might be influencing you. The answer will lead you to your money baggage.
We’ll take a deeper look at how money baggage affects every part of our lives in upcoming weeks by focusing in on four main areas: relationships, work, finances, and family. Next week, we discuss Money Baggage and Relationships.