- Growing up Catholic taught me that money was shameful and unwelcome.
- When I started earning more, I was plagued with guilt and an unwillingness to build wealth.
- Learning more about money from experts and examining the messages I grew up with helped me overcome my guilt.
Can someone be programmed to be poor?
Growing up in a middle-class family, raised by devout Catholic parents, I didn’t have many ideas about money. I thought it was a necessary evil; after all, we have been taught that “money is the root of all evil”.
From an early age, I saw money as an evil associated with non-believers. Here are five ways my religion has kept me from gaining wealth.
1. I felt guilty about making money
Over time, I knew 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 living a substandard life. Something had to change, and I had to be that change. I was already tired of letting my Catholic upbringing affect my life. I needed a complete reorientation.
So, out of necessity, I took up a career as a freelance writer. I did not expect the magnitude of the guilt that overwhelmed me when I started earning three times what I had.
I already associated money and wealth with nonbelievers, and earning more money felt like a serious 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 the kingdom of God.” Does this mean that a rich man cannot 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 to be in his good books, God wanted us to be poor or, at best, to have average incomes. Forgive me for choosing heaven over money; it was the top priority as Christians and Catholics.
2. I was overly charitable
Of course, charity is a good cause. Compassion is deeply rooted in human nature, which is why we instinctively care about the well-being of others. I was always willing to give away more money than I could afford, and being raised by caring 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 someone in need, and of course there would always be someone who needed the money more than me. Even if it left me penniless, I didn’t care.
3. I undervalued my value
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 longer to change my ways. I constantly 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 a higher salary or get the jobs I deserved. Something has always held me back from reaching my full potential. The result was expected: overworked, underbilled, and underearned just because I didn’t have clear contracts or the right boundaries to keep me safe.
I took small steps each day to break down the origins of my thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, feelings and biases towards money. The first action plan was a trip down memory lane, where I had a deep self-reflection that paved the way for unlearning the rigid rules and regulations that defined my lifestyle. I consciously observed the patterns and habits responsible for the mess I was living in.
4. I was not interested in having financial knowledge
What’s the best way to set yourself up for failure? In my case, I had no knowledge of managing my money, budgeting, saving, investing, or protecting myself. I knew next to nothing about personal finance, and I didn’t care.
It’s probably no 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 justify. As a result, living paycheck to paycheck has become a thing.
I started looking for people who would help me rewire my brain for success. I binged and watched many YouTube videos about money, mindset, and goal setting. I have also read many self help books like “Atomic Habits”, “Think and Grow Rich” and “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy”. I’ve followed all my favorite personal finance and mindset coaches on social media. I have implemented all the tips and strategies they recommended in my daily life.
5. I couldn’t set solid financial goals
My mindset about money and status was pretty messed up. I did not imagine that I deserved better nor did I plan to take the necessary steps to improve my finances. How can a financially deprived person set clear and specific financial goals?
My relationship with money had been laced with a lot of negative and good-for-nothing thoughts, which made it nearly impossible to set solid financial goals. I found myself doing the same things every day: same job, same network, same environment, setting myself up for failure.
Overcoming these challenges has been a painful process for me, but I can say that I am in a happier place than I was back then. It’s great to take the reins and be in charge of my life.