Although it will be three years this December when Brene Brown first gave her now viral talk on vulnerability at a TED conference, I had only “discovered” her myself about a year ago when I had a layover and finally got a chance to browse the TED app that I had purchased on my phone. Since then, it seems that I see her presence everywhere—on the Amazon’s bestseller list for her new book Daring Greatly, on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and most recently, at a local moms group as the featured topic for their monthly meeting.
It goes without saying that I LOVED her talk and new book. I am an official BBG – Brene Brown Groupie. If you haven’t had a chance to view her work, please stop reading and do so now.
For those of you who are already familiar with Brene (yes, we are on a first name basis now), it’s hard to identify just one reason why her message seems to resonate with so many people. Is it her straight-shooting Texas humor? Her down to earth, tell-it-like–it-is honesty? Her ability to legitimize any self-help speak with scientific research? Or the fact that by seeing Brene be so vulnerable herself and open about her own shame, we find the courage to follow in her footsteps and do the same?
As a personal coach and financial planner, I know that if there is one thing that people have difficulty being vulnerable about and which has “shame” written all over it, it’s the topic of money. We can passionately disagree over politics, wax poetic about the achievements of our kids, and commiserate over mid-life ailments from torn ACLs to gluten allergies. But we tip toe around the issue of money, following the unspoken cultural norm that it’s just not something you are supposed to talk about.
So in honor of my new professional crush, I thought I’d put in my own two cents on how to develop a healthier relationship with finances. Is it possible to “dare greatly” and become more vulnerable and less shameful when it comes to money?
Own Your Story – In Daring Greatly, Brene suggests that we need to find the courage to be authentic and own our own story. With the issue of money, often this means that we first need to uncover the old stories we may have inherited from our childhood but that we still may be carrying with us.
An easy way to do this is to google proverbs or sayings about money, and see which ones resonate with you. Is it that “money doesn’t grow on trees” and therefore you equate hard work with money (or a lack of money with not working hard enough)? Is it that “neither borrower nor lender be” and therefore you always go at it alone with a force field around your wallet? Even seemingly more positive spins on money, such as “the best things in life are free” and “money isn’t everything” may subconsciously be affecting how you view your personal finances in ways you don’t even realize.
The point is not necessarily to change these beliefs but to be aware of them. Only when you are aware of them can you begin to question whether they still ring true and are serving you. If not, it’s time to create your own story about money and what you want its role in your life to be.
Stay in your business – Alas, if we could only stop comparing ourselves to others…
Brene says that “We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing…We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”
This is true with so many things, from body image to professional success and certainly with regard to money. The operative word in Brene’s quote is “judge.” Judging someone else’s situation as a way to measure yourself is the surest way to be perpetually miserable. I don’t know anyone who has tried to keep up with the Joneses and is also happy. The more you stay out of the Joneses businesses and stay in your own, the more peace you will have regarding your own financial situation.
Net worth does not equal self-worth – Brene encourages us “to let ourselves be seen—deeply seen, vulnerably seen. To believe that we are enough.” At the end of the day, that means truly believing that your net worth does not equal your self-worth.
Of course, money is important and can be an incredibly powerful and positive force in our lives. But at the end of the day, we are not our bank accounts, our vacations, our cars, our houses, etc. Having the courage to let others see who you are without any ties to your net worth is the first step toward not only developing a healthier relationship with money, but healthier relationships with everyone in our lives.
Being vulnerable with regard to money doesn't mean we have to share everything about our finances with people we don’t know, or even people we do know. But it does mean that we have to be more authentic and less shameful, about how much money we may have or may not have, and all the stories about money that we have been telling ourselves for so long.
As Brene might say, I dare you.