Okay, so when I was asked to review Kate Northrup's new book Money: A Love Story, I was skeptical. How could money and love coexist in the same sentence? I was always taught that people who loved their money were greedy and I shouldn't strive to be like them. But as I begin to read Money: A Love Story, I soon realized this book was not about loving money, it was about loving and valuing yourself.
What does money have to do with self-love, self-worth and self-acceptance? According to Kate Northrup, a lot. You know that old saying "Put your money where your mouth is"? That's Northrup's point. What we choose (and yes, I said choose) to spend our money and time on should reflect what we value. If we constantly put ourselves last (and thus, never spend time or money on ourselves), it's very telling. And I'm not talking about buying a new pair of shoes. I'm talking about spending money on things that truly matter to you for you.
When Northrup was 18, she set a goal for herself to be financially free (passive income > living expenses) by age 30. She went into business with her mother and then proceeded to buy every cute dress, handbag and pair of shoes she could find and ended up $20,000 in debt. So much for financial freedom.
But that debt -- what she was spending money on -- didn't represent what she truly valued. It represented what she thought she should value (looking the part of a successful entrepreneur), and truth be told, looking like her mother or how she thought her mother would want her to look. At the time, she didn't truly value herself. So Northrup set upon a road to self-discovery to figure out what truly made her tick as a woman. It wasn't until a friend of hers said, "You are the opportunity," that she realized that until she valued herself, nothing in her life would make any sense. She would never be free from what she thought other people wanted and expected of her until she began to see her own self-worth.
When you're in your 20s and feel invincible, finding out that you got into business for the wrong reasons and managed to accumulate $20,000 in debt because don't value yourself is a bitter pill to swallow. But swallow it, she did. Northrup moved from her expensive New York home to a more affordable one in Maine, began to think seriously about what she valued (and what she should be spending her money on), and paid off all of her debt. By the age of 28, she was financially free.
In the process, she realized several important life lessons:
1) Love, self-love in particular, is the most important thing in life. Northrup's mantra is, "You are enough. You are worth it." Although she writes and teaches about financial freedom, her real goal is to get people -- women, in particular -- to realize their own self-worth.
2) It's not about the money, what you have or don't have, or keeping up with the Joneses -- it's about your perceptions of yourself, your world and what you value in life. No amount of money, changes in your weight or body, or object can ever replace the love and compassion you should be showing to yourself.
3) You need to learn to receive -- being able to take a compliment, receive a gift, or allow yourself to receive love from yourself or someone else will do more for your mental health than any sacrifice you may make so that someone else can feel better.
4) Speak your truth -- so often we bottle up our true feelings, afraid to tell people (or even admit to ourselves) what we truly think and feel. But showing up as yourself has value. Being who you are is more important than what other people think of you and is a powerful expression of self-love and self-worth.
5) Take care of yourself -- you only have this one body, one life, one chance, so you better treat your body and yourself right. No, you don't have to get weekly massages and pedicures (though you can if you so desire and those acts bring value to your life), but you do need to do things just for you every week -- preferably every day. Take a five-minute mental-health nature walk on your lunch break. Lay in bed for an extra hour on Saturday morning. Take that yoga class you've been meaning to try.
6) Be your own Prince Charming -- According to Northrup, many women are waiting for someone to save them -- financially speaking. In Northrup's case, it was her mother. When she realized in her 20s that being tied to mom through her business would never allow her to be free emotionally, spiritually or financially, she realized she had to break the ties. She had to stop waiting for someone else (her mom) to save her. She had to learn to save herself. How? "[Let] go of that false hero and move in the direction of taking full, loving care of yourself." How do you do that? By making a list of all the qualities you want in your Prince Charming and taking action to develop those qualities yourself.
7) Acknowledge your fears -- we've all got things in our lives that we're afraid of -- places where our fear is holding us back from fully coming into our own. It's time to stop running from the boogeyman and acknowledge your fears. Take those negative thoughts and reframe them into things you can actually work with. For example, "I'm afraid to quit my job," might be turned into, "I'm excited for the new opportunities a new job has to offer."
8) Pay attention -- what you pay attention to grows. So if you pay attention to how miserable your life is, guess what? Alternatively, if you pay attention to all the wonderful things that happen to you each day, you'll only attract more of those wonderful things. A simple attitude adjustment can often have profound effects.
9) Every change begins with a first step -- Northrup didn't get out of debt overnight, but each month she paid as much as she reasonably could on her credit card bills and after a few years, the debt was gone. Maybe your decision to eat healthy starts with eating one more vegetable a day. Then once you're comfortable with that, you add another serving each day. Whatever your goal in life, make sure your mini-goals are attainable or you may get discouraged along the way.
10) Ask for help -- there is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. From friends, family, teammates, or a team of financial advisors. You are not a lesser person for not having all the answers. You're human.
There are many more gems in Money: A Love Story than I could possibly list, but I found myself getting carried away with the exercises Northrup leads her reader through as they apply to so much more than your relationship with money. It's about what you value, and you should be at the top of that list.
For more by Mary Pritchard, Ph.D., click here.
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