One day each week I take some time to decompress. I plop down on the couch, turn on a relaxing YouTube video for background music, and I just think.
My thoughts tend to be rather random, but this week my eyes strayed around my living room. I looked at my home in amazement. In less than a year, this place has been completely transformed. I went from sleeping on the floor, using a tiny gifted television and a host of thrifted and gifted items to owning a brand new, large screen television, a new futon, and other items. With the exception of the coffee table that has been in my life since childhood, many items around me are new and have been purchased by me, for me.
I have a bedroom now. I not only have a bedroom, I have a beautiful canopy bed and other items that give me so much pleasure every single time I lay down to sleep at night. When I wake up, I take a moment to revel in how luxurious I feel.
I even own a brand new car. I could barely imagine owning a car a year ago today, much less a brand new one.
How did I do this? I asked myself in wonder as I looked around. How did I go from living on so little to the life I live today?
I realized that the changes in my life began after I gave myself permission to spend money on things that I enjoy. It wasn’t until I knew that my youngest daughter was moving out that I’d felt safe enough to actually spend money on me.
I journeyed back in time. When I was a child, my parents had more than enough money during my early years. It wasn’t until after my father lost his leg that we began to struggle financially. Before that, I didn’t even realize that money was a thing. We’d owned apartment buildings, a newer car; we’d even owned a farm in the country.
Had that been why I was so hesitant to spend money on myself?
While that seemed like part of the answer I realized that it wasn’t the entire story. After high school I’d taken a job, bought a newer vehicle, and while I wasn’t wealthy, I had enough money to buy the things I needed–if not everything that I wanted. I routinely treated myself to road trips, meals out, and even nice clothes back then.
To be honest, back when I was in high school and shortly after, I wouldn’t have been caught out in public wearing anything less but a nice shirt or blouse, quality pants (I preferred slacks), and ballet flats. That’s a big difference compared to just a year ago today.
But I became pregnant at the age of 19. I was unmarried, and to this day I can recall the tears as I spewed hate upon myself. I was a horrible person. I was a slut. I deserved not just to die, but for horrible things to happen to me because I was a horrible person.
My life began to spiral after that. People around me fed into my self-hate by telling me that the only future I could hope for was to be a “welfare mom.” No one would want to bother with “damaged goods.”
I was nothing and I did it all to myself.
Over the years I’ve rarely looked back at that time because it was too painful, but this time I persisted. I had went from living a comfortable (if not wealthy) life to painful, struggling poverty during the course of that pregnancy.
And I didn’t truly begin to pull myself out of that until shortly before my youngest turned 18.
Oh, I had good times over the years, but even when times were really good I felt guilt every time I treated myself to something nice, to the point where I didn’t treat myself at all unless I thought that treat would benefit us financially. I bought books because they could help me learn how to improve myself. I invested in computers because through computers I made our living.
I wouldn’t even purchase new underthings unless my current ones were completely worn out, and many times I would continue to make do until the items were totally useless.
I realized that during that time of emotional duress, that time when I spewed self-hate upon myself, that I had programmed my subconscious mind to believe that I didn’t deserve to have nicer things.
Perhaps that is why, when I would fill my house with things I loved, something would always happen that turned my life to shit.
I almost didn’t buy the car because of that programming. During the negotiations, I stepped outside to look at it, and I heard that whisper in my mind:
Who am I to even think of buying a brand-new car? There are much more sensible ways to spend your money! This is stupid, frivolous…go home before you do something stupid. This isn’t you.
But I knew that it was a logical choice. It was well within my budget and met every criteria for the purchase of a vehicle that the experts lay out. The cost (even with interest and that warranty plan included) was significantly less than my annual income. The payment I’d agreed to was beneath what even the experts agreed was acceptable. It had everything I’d ever hoped for in a vehicle down to the color and I knew that it would provide not only reliable transportation moving forward, but provide me an immense amount of pleasure as it did so.
The turning point wasn’t simply logic, however. The turning point was when I asked myself why not? Why not own a brand-new vehicle, if it met my needs and desires? Why not enjoy having the ability to drive to work in a car that gave me a feeling of pride? Didn’t I deserve to treat myself to something that was not only practical, but beautiful as well?
While I have no regrets about the life I have lived, I now wonder if I deliberately denied myself nice things because I had programmed myself to believe that I didn’t deserve them.
If that is the case, are there others out there doing the same thing?
Have you ever looked at something you wanted and told yourself that you didn’t deserve it? Do you live with things around you that fail to make you happy yet you refuse to change them?
Has there ever been a point in your life where you hated yourself so much that perhaps you, too, have programmed your mind to believe that you only deserve to live so well, but no better?
If so, please share your stories in the comments below.
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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:
Barnes and Noble