How Low Self-Esteem Could Be Keeping You From Paying Off Your Debt


When we talk about low self-esteem in our society, we often tie it back to body issues and negative feelings about our outer appearance. But self-esteem doesn’t just dictate how you feel when you look in the mirror, it can be the driving factor in how you show up in relationships, what you think you can achieve in your career, and how you handle your money.

Self-esteem is that not-so-quite voice telling you your worth for that day, or month, or lifetime. If you don’t think you’re worth much, your decision-making will ultimately reflect your negative self-talk.

So how can emotions impact the physicality of your financial picture? Here are just few ways.

It encourages you to stick to the status quo

Making a change – like creating a plan to pay off debt – takes confidence. Confidence that you can reach the end goal and confidence that you will be able to determine the best course of action along the way.

If low self-esteem plagues your thoughts of taking a step in a positive direction you haven’t been before, you are far more likely to turn back than push through the self-doubt.

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Staying within a box ensures you won’t have to face the inadequacies your low self-esteem swears you have.

It pushes you to keep up with the Joneses

When dealing with feelings of inadequacy, most will opt for external validation through buying and consuming versus examining and dealing with the feelings on an internal level. Pair this with an already shaky financial situation, and the results can be extremely detrimental.

Unfortunately, one study found this trigger to be particular strong in those with less money to spend. According to a Time article describing the study, “…the researchers came to the conclusion that we consume not only to create some impressive exterior, but also to alleviate interior psychological pain – in other words, to make you feel better when you’re down in the dumps.”

It keeps you from becoming informed

Information is key to feeling financially empowered but low self-esteem has a tendency to prevent the information gathering process from the get-go. After all, if you know what you need to do and how your current situation is keeping you floundering, you’d again face the push to make that change.

No one is born knowing how to manage money. Instead, we gather cues from our environment growing up and, if we take the initiative, from a variety of knowledgeable sources once we reach adulthood. If we never try to gather that knowledge, the low self-esteem tied to a feeling of not know what to do with your money will likely persist.

It Strips you out of Power

Take a moment to think about the people in your life. Chances are, you know people who believe life happens to them, and others who believe they are the driver when it comes to their life experience. This is the difference between those with an internal locus of control, and those with an external locus of control.

Low self-esteem often makes you feel life is happening to you and regardless of what you do, you’ll always be stuck without money and no financial stability to speak of.

But you can’t – and won’t – make changes if you’re always waiting for life to determine what’s next, or what insurmountable obstacle it will throw your way next.

It keeps you from seeing beyond this moment

Low self-esteem takes up a huge amount of brain space and thought power. It’s all-consuming. It also makes every negative situation seem permanent.

If you can’t see the possibility that lies beyond this moment – a life where debt repayment is in the past and financial freedom is something you can physically feel and experience – you likely will only picture yourself swimming in the same debt day after day, year after year.

Every journey starts with an end goal or picture, and you have to be confident enough to allow yourself to entertain thoughts of what’s possible.

Closing thoughts

Paying off debt goes far beyond the physical act of signing checks and sending in payments every month. These physical actions are always spurred by emotions and feelings we sometimes think are far more separate than they actually are.

If you’re dealing with low self-esteem, start there first. Find the strength to get your emotional mind right, and moving through the process of debt repayment will feel much more doable.

Even more important, start allowing yourself to think about the possibilities, to imagine a life where you aren’t drowning in debt, and trust in your own ability to get there.

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  • JSims

    I love this article! It wasn’t until recently I was finally able to tie my feelings of inadequacy to the fact that I bought things to make myself feel better. Once I began to dig deeper and determine this, it made a huge difference in working to pay off debt. I felt like I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone, or have expensive items to feel worthwhile.

  • trixietimez

    Wow… This is definitely a new angle that I hadn’t considered at all. Finances do tie into self esteem, but I always thought of it the other way… that low self esteem comes from being embarrassed about your debt. That avoidance that so many people practice when they start getting into financial trouble is part of that.