. "Failure means a stripping away of the inessential." ~J.K. Rowling
My whole life, I was groomed for success. I was the "good kid" while my brother was the wild one, always doing what would make my parents happy. An oldest child of a family who valued education, I went right to college after high school. I rebelled a bit in my 20s by pursuing the arts, music & dance, without much financial success. But I returned to the people pleasing of my childhood by marrying a wealthy man and having children by the end of the decade. I built a successful small business in the healing arts & spiritual coaching in my 30s, and maintained a 5 bedroom house on 8 acres.
It seemed we had it all.
Then failure came along and changed my life.
The underpinnings of my marriage began to unravel....my business was mired in debt....our remote rural neighborhood couldn't support my business....and then I began the arduous, slow process of losing everything I had. With the help of my prosperity coach Toni Stone, I got the courage to let go of what was not working. I lost the marriage, and became a single mom. I lost many friends & clients when I moved from a rural neighborhood to a progressive town. Although I had always made good money, due to my debt load, and out of control spending, I could not afford to buy a home for myself and my children. And then my income itself began to disappear, and I faced real poverty as a working single mom.
But becoming poor was one of the best things that could have happened to me.
I began to look in the mirror and see what was really going on.
I discovered my people pleasing was actually a fault. When I took a Debtors Anonymous course, the common theme in myself that I discovered was "lying". I was "lying" in order to be loved. I took on debt, and spent more than I had, to please others, and appear wealthier than I actually was. A lot of my lifestyle was based on trying to make up for a deep insecurity.
I began to really grieve for the loss of the marriage, and to grieve for many pains that I had experienced in my life. Instead of masking my feelings, I began to speak them, and let people know when they hurt me. I woke up to how I was medicating my grief with purchases, and I stopped the out-of-control spending.
When I did the math, I saw I had wasted about $75,000 in "people-pleasing"!
I found another money coach named Dave Ramsey, and discovered that what I found so shameful is actually a cultural problem. He calls it "Keeping up with the Joneses". We all do it! We look at each other's social media feeds to see how great other people are doing, and compare ourselves negatively. And it's an empty shell game! Who was I really impressing with my large lifestyle? I realized that for years buying the newer car, the bigger house, the prettier clothes, etc. never brought me happiness. The folks I was trying to impress never stuck around.
And my true friends are with me no matter how much money I have.
That was a real shocker.
J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter books, said of becoming a poor unemployed single mother: "Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way...I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies."
And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."
And so did I. I began to rebuild my life.
I no longer cared what other people thought. My own financial well-being was more important to me than what I looked like. I cut my budget drastically, rented out a room, and hustled in my business. I stopped going out. I stopped buying extravagant gifts for others. I paid off $20,000 in debt in one year, and saved an extra $20,000 the next year. I encouraged my boyfriend to do the same, and he paid off $20,000 in debt and saved an extra $40,000. We eventually bought a house for cash, funded our Roth IRAs, and cash-flowed our wedding & honeymoon. No one has praised us for this.
But it has pleased the one I really need to please: myself.
All of this came because I hit rock bottom.
So if you are facing debt, low income, unpaid bills, low-to-no savings, or financial failure of any kind, congratulations! It may be painful, but failure is nothing to be afraid of. Trying to pretend everything is fine, and continuing to drive yourself into debt, now that is a real danger.
Failure can be a blessing.
It just might lead you to a new beginning.