In Practice

Putting social psychology to work for you

How to Have Self-Esteem When You're Struggling Financially

4 strategies for how to have self-esteem if you're struggling financially.

1. Make a reminder note of 3-6 examples of people you respect who have struggled financially at some point.

Many now famous writers, actors etc. are open about having had periods in their lives when they were broke, rejected, and unemployed. Were they any less talented then? 

It can be people you know too. For example, you might know people you admire who have started businesses that failed.

2.  Don't lie about it. Lying and hiding increase shame.

Practice mentioning not having much money in conversation, with your head held high. This will start to undo the shame you likely feel about your situation.

3. Talk to yourself in a kind way.

Talking to yourself in a kind way will help you overcome avoidance coping.

For example you might say to yourself —

"You're having a hard time right now. You feel... (insert emotions words). You're thinking... (insert thoughts.) What you need is kindness so you can feel confident to handle this challenge."

4. Identify what your specific options are. This will help counteract hopelessness and will reduce anxiety because it involves "approach coping" rather than avoidance coping.

Dr Meg Jay talks about the importance of identifying your specific options in her book The Defining Decade. That book is aimed at people in their 20s but this particular advice is more universal.

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You can use this technique on a big scale level. You would do this by asking and answering the question "What are my specific options for improving my financial position?"

You can also use this technique on a smaller scale. For example, let's say you can't afford your child's school supplies. What are your options in this case?

Your answers for the latter might be things like: Selling your bike, taking an extra shift, talking to the school, asking your parents for help, not paying your electric bill this month. 

If your mood is low, your thinking is likely to be less flexible than usual. A trick for this is to imagine what advice you would give to someone else. This can create some psychological distance and help lubricate your thoughts.

If you liked this article

If you liked this article, you'll probably like this one on 50 Common Cognitive Distortions.

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Alice's Twitter @DrAliceBoyes 

Alice Boyes, Ph.D. translates principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and social psychology into tips people can use in their everyday lives.

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