I’ll bet you have an answer to that question. So what? I can’t sleep at night because of my debt! So what? I have creditors calling me all day long! So what? I can’t afford anything I want to do! Like I said: So what? Like most Americans and many Money Under 30 readers, I still have some debt—after all, it doesn’t go away overnight. But I am a different person than I was three years ago, even six months ago.
I’m a different person because I no longer allow my debt to define me. Up until recently I could trace every problem in my life back to debt.
- Why couldn’t I afford to grab drinks with my friends? I had too much debt.
- Why didn’t I take a vacation once a year? I had too much debt.
- Why was I having trouble with personal relationships? I was insecure because of my debt.
- Why didn’t I eat right and forgo exercise? I was stressed about my debt.
- Why wasn’t I doing my best at work? My mind was on my debt.
Does this sound familiar? Do you find yourself making excuses for yourself because of your debt? Do you complain to your friends and family about your debt? Even if you don’t complain about it – do all your friends know you’re in debt?
If so, STOP. Let me make it very clear: debt is not you, and you are not debt. Your debt is a financial consequence of past life choices or circumstances. That is all.
And notice there is a key word in the previous statement: past. Your debt is a result of your past. Yes, it’s here today. Yes, you have to pay it. Yes, you will pay it in the future. However, it is the result of the past. Unfortunately it is true that people in the business world will judge you on your past. When you apply for a job or new credit, your past is important. But here’s the good news: there is nothing anywhere that says you have to judge yourself on your past. To you, all that matters is today. Not even today, right this minute.
What are you doing today? If you are going into more debt, then stop to think about why and whether that debt is a wise decision. If not – if you’re working hard to earn money to pay back your debt AND enjoying your life – your work, your relationships, and your hobbies – then what else could possibly matter? You get to define yourself. You are who you tell yourself you are; you can do what you tell yourself you can do. You are, in other people’s eyes, whomever you choose to project to them.
So try this: Don’t think about your debt. Decide how much you can pay back each month and still enjoy your life and forget about it. Make it automatic. Now, take all that time and energy you used to use thinking about debt and think about important things: your loved ones, your career, and your health.
If more money is important to you – maybe you got into debt because you wanted more material things than you could afford – think about ways to make more money. Think up ideas to improve your value at work, ways to earn money in your spare time, or a way to go into business for yourself.
And if you’re currently able to live within your means and more money isn’t important to you, think about what makes you happiest, and pursue it every day to your fullest extent. Don’t think about debt again. It’s not who you are. It really doesn’t matter. You may owe money to others, but you owe this to yourself.