Money isn’t normally something I’m self conscious about. In fact, I am generally pretty secure about where I am at this juncture in my life.
Then, I see others with more. Much more. When it’s people I don’t know directly and won’t be struggling to find common ground with, it’s infinitely easier to move past any twinge of jealousy I might feel.
But when it’s close friends, money can inch its way to center stage more often than I’d like to take notice of. It can quickly become a physical representation of the dividing lines that separate us, dictating how we spend time together and the conversations we just shouldn’t touch on.
While it might not be the most comfortable dynamic at times, these relationships carry with them powerful lessons in noticing how money makes us feel and how we can keep it from changing the shape of valuable friendships.
Money can impact our self-worth – if we let it.
Unfortunately, in our society the amount of money we have is seen as a direct correlation to how successful we are. Logically, we know this simplifies the concept of success far too much. After all, everyone’s definition of success is different – while one person could think happiness denotes success, another might think an ability to climb the corporate ladder is a true sign of success.
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If we blindly subscribe to the idea that the more money we have, the better we are at life and business, we place a direct tie between money and our self-worth. When you consider the plethora of professions that have a huge impact on the world but aren’t paid a salary representing their true importance, the absurdity of these ties becomes apparent.
Money is not a matter of self-worth; it’s a representation of life choices – ones that don’t make one person better than the next.
Money isn’t as uncomfortable if you speak openly about it.
We’ve turned money into a taboo subject – especially among family and friends – and, as a result, it is incredibly uncomfortable to talk about. We don’t feel equipped to help each other when money issues arise because we’re constantly tip toeing around the complicated emotions money brings up.
Opening the lines of communication about money, even if the conversations are limited at first, can make friendships closer and this divide between the “haves and the have-nots” become less noticeable.
I felt incredibly uncomfortable for a long while when I was invited to do certain things with friends that were clearly out of my budget. When I became comfortable enough in my own skin to say outright, “I can’t really spend the money on that right now,” they often changed the plan or chose something different for a later date. If I was comfortable saying it, they were comfortable hearing it. It was when I skirted around the issue and attempted to come up with other excuses that issues would arise.
How you react to the good fortune of others says a lot about you.
When I was younger, seeing others who had more than me sparked jealousy that was hard to contain. It made life seem entirely unfair.
As I got older I realized something monumental – seeing others with more was simply an indication that achieving great things was entirely possible. I began to understand how good it felt to actually celebrate the success of others instead of condemning them for it.
This shift in my mindset still serves as a powerful reminder when I’m confronted with the clear disparity in incomes between my friends and myself. I could wallow in jealousy and allow it to tear a hole in the friendship we’ve built, or I can choose to applaud what they’ve achieved and know they would do the exact same thing for me.
These situations test our commitment to our own financial health.
It’s easy to go along with the crowd and silently let your own financial health go downhill in the process. It’s hard to stand up and let others know that your commitment to responsibly managing your money won’t allow you to participate in something you can’t afford.
But the harder path – while socially uncomfortable at first – leads to the greatest chance at physical comfort and well-being down the road. Not only that, but it allows you to feel good that you stood in your truth and didn’t allow the threat of judgment stop you.
The truth is, any friendship that would crumble due to this one difference would crumble for a laundry list of other things as well. And that is not a friendship worth sacrificing your financial foundation for.