Recently my economic situation is at the verge of turning into a crisis, as my original business plan for my start-up is not panning out. It sent me into a panic mode, as the savings won’t be lasting much longer.
Faced with such anxiety, I started to do some soul searching to try and find out why money always seems to evade me throughout my life. There seems to be something in my subconsciousness that pushes money away.
So I searched in my memory for the earliest emotional connection with money. One story stood out: My parents were always quarreling over money. In my innocent mind, money was that evil thing that caused disharmony at home. I hated it to my guts. I remember feeling terrible every time my parents had a fight. Then afterwards, I had to play the role of being my mom’s counselor, consoling her broken soul while facing an emotionally inaccessible father, who, like so many men, just resorted to “stonewalling” when he could not deal with all the emotional spillovers.
In my simple way of looking at the world, money was something that brought unhappiness. I remember my mom even threatened divorce one time. Such dramas sent shocks down my spine, making me fear that the solid home I had relied on for everything would soon fall apart!
What I remember most from my parents’ quarrels was this complaint from my mom: “We don’t have enough money. Why can’t you make more money?”
I could not understand why she would keep on complaining, as I sensed that we had enough to live a comfortable life. “Why do we constantly need more?” I thought. A comfortable life, to me, was what we already were having, although it wasn’t terribly comfortable by the society’s standard. Our family never ate out in restaurants nor did we travel at all. But such things were not that common—at least not in our social class—when I was a child, so I didn’t feel anything lacking. Having a big enough apartment and three good meals a day was already “a good life” in my book. As time went by, I started to regard my mom as the greedy one, who seemed to have an insatiable appetite for money.
Perhaps as a result of this experience, I’ve always injected an uneasy sort of energy into the concept of money. I would feel guilty about receiving too much money for my service. I would feel I don’t deserve it, despite the fact that whatever I do to earn it really represents excellence in quality and conscientious service.
Also, my upbringing colored my lenses when I see businessmen. Perhaps I had not encountered a “good” one, so I developed a sort of contempt for capitalists who try to extract as many resources from society and from people as possible. I wouldn’t touch “business” in my choice for a career.
This year, I quit my job because I could not stand the behavior of my then boss—a bureaucrat who is so inflexible that he was unwilling to bend any rules for the sake of the employees’ health and well-being. I realized that bureaucrats could be equally “evil,” and that becoming my own boss was really what I had always wanted.
But being my own boss means starting a business. Despite the fact that I have been writing articles about business for almost two decades, I did not have much hands-on experience doing it. I am now on a very steep learning curve.
One thing I realized recently is that there has been this tiny voice in my head nudging me, “Keep this business to a small scale so you won’t have to deal with all the troubles that come along with a big business. You are just one person.”
This voice is so tiny but it seems to be constantly there, putting a narrow box around my ambitions. Perhaps my negative feeling about money is preventing me from actually getting more, not that I am even close to breaking even.
Living at the edge has given me a light-bulb moment when it comes to how I felt about my mother when I was young. Like her, I now wish I had a bigger margin, or safety net, so that I don’t have to constantly worry about whether I’ll have a place to stay or enough money for food the next month. It then became clear to me that mom wanted “more” money so that she would feel secure enough to provide for the family. I had totally misinterpreted her words!
This epiphany opened up my mind about money in a brand new way. Now I can rewrite that story based on a false belief, so that the negative connotation about money would not influence my life anymore. I am now taking away the stigma that I’ve attached to money, and feel liberated to summon money into my life, may it be through business or other means.
A couple of days ago, I told this to my mom on the phone in an unusually calm manner. Suddenly, the emotional charge that I attached to money and to my contempt for my mother’s approach to money was dropped. It was simple but amazing. Simply amazing. All those decades of misunderstanding was resolved. I expressed my “forgiveness” to my mom, who was more than relieved to hear that. She even expressed how glad she was to see an “elevation” in my thinking (her choice of word in Chinese for “raised consciousness”).
This was probably the biggest Christmas present I ever gave her, and her, me.
Now that I have decided to have a “normal’ relationship with money, I am eager to learn how to improve my business and am getting excited about making money from it—lots of it 😉