- Being raised in the Catholic faith taught me that money was something shameful and unwelcome.
- When I started earning more, I was racked with guilt and reluctance to build wealth.
- Learning about money from experts and examining the messages I grew up with helped me move past my guilt.
Can someone be programmed to be poor?
Growing up in a middle-class family, raised by staunch Catholic parents, I didn’t have many thoughts about money. I believed it to be a necessary evil; after all, we were taught that “money is the root of all evil.”
From a young age, I saw money as an evil associated with unbelievers. Here are five ways my religion stood in the way of me gaining wealth.
1. I felt guilty about earning money
Over time, I knew that I had to earn more to improve my standard of living. I couldn’t live with the constant guilt, and I was no longer comfortable with a sub-standard life. Something had to change, and I had to be that change. I was already sick and tired of letting my Catholic upbringing affect my life. I needed a complete reorientation.
So, out of necessity, I took up a career in freelance writing. I didn’t expect the magnitude of guilt that overwhelmed me when I started to earn three times more than I had.
I already associated money and wealth with unbelievers, and making more money felt like committing a grievous sin. Even the Bible agrees. Matthew 19:24 – “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Does it mean that a rich man can’t enter heaven because wealth is a sin?
Or Matthew 5: 3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” I believed that in order to be in his good books by him, God wanted us poor or, at best, average earners. Forgive me for choosing heaven over cash; it was the utmost priority as Christians and Catholics.
2. I was excessively charitable
Of course, charity is a good cause. Compassion is deeply rooted in human nature, which is why we are instinctively concerned with the welfare of others. I was always ready to give away more money than I could afford, and being raised by altruistic parents made it even easier.
My philanthropy was motivated by my religious beliefs and self-imposed guilt. I would be miserable if I didn’t help a needy person, and of course, there would always be someone who needed the money more than I did. Even if it left me penniless, I didn’t care.
3. I undervalued my worth
When I started my journey as an entrepreneur, I was making costly mistakes. It took me months to figure out what I was doing wrong and even more time to change my ways. I consistently put up with bad clients, low paying gigs, and late payments. With an upbringing like mine, I was uncomfortable talking about money.
I didn’t know how to negotiate higher pay or go for jobs I deserved. Something always held me back from reaching my full potential. The result was expected: overworking, undercharging, and underearning only because I didn’t have clear contracts or the right boundaries to keep me safe.
I took little steps every day to break down the origins of my thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, feelings, and biases towards money. The first course of action was a trip down memory lane, where I had some deep self-reflection that paved the way for unlearning the rigid rules and regulations that defined my lifestyle. I consciously watched for patterns and habits responsible for the mess I lived in.
4. I was uninterested in being financially literate
What’s the best way to set yourself up for failure? In my case, it was zero knowledge of managing my money, budgeting, saving, investing, or protecting myself. I knew next to nothing about personal finance, and I didn’t care to know.
It probably does not come as a surprise that low financial literacy leads to poor financial decisions. Guilty as charged. Everything was falling apart.
One minute I had enough money, the next minute, it was all gone because I was spending more than I could account for. As a result, living paycheck-to-paycheck became a thing.
I started seeking out people who would help rewire my brain for success. I binged and watched many YouTube videos on money, mindset, and goal-setting. I also read many self-help books like “Atomic Habits,” “Think and Grow Rich,” and “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.” I followed all my favorite coaches on personal finance and mindset on social media. I implemented every tip and strategy they recommended in my daily life.
5. I couldn’t set strong financial goals
My mindset about money and status was pretty messed up. I didn’t imagine that I deserved better or make any plans to take the necessary steps towards upgrading my finances. How does someone who is financially disempowered set clear and specific financial goals?
My relationship with money had been laced with many negative, good-for-nothing thoughts, making it practically impossible to set strong financial goals. I was left doing the same things every day: same job, same network, same environment, setting myself up for failure.
Getting past these challenges was a painful process for me, but I can say that I’m in a happier place than I was then. It feels great to take over the reins and be in charge of my life.