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The Layers We Wear

Walking seems simple enough, right? Waking up and getting dressed on a 15-degree morning isn’t as easy as it was in the summer and fall. Not to mention, back in 2009 I fell down some stairs and had a head injury. As a result, my fear of falling is extreme. Even when 85% of the sidewalks are clear, I will wear YakTrax to prevent me from falling on the other 15% of the sidewalks.

As I returned home from almost a two mile walk this morning, I started counting the layers of clothing I was wearing to keep warm. You can imagine everything from thermal wear to puffy coat, I had about five layers on. The good news is that all those layers kept me warm enough to be outside for over 30 minutes.

I was hanging up my coat when I drew a parallel to the layers that we wear in our lives, regardless of the climate. I recall that in my 20s and 30s, I wore a different transparent, albeit real, mask for each group of friends, each organization that I belonged to and among strangers. I wonder, what I was protecting myself from? Was I motivated by fear to wear the masks? Was I afraid to let people see who I really was? If so, why? My guess is that I lacked the confidence to be in my own skin and truly value the gifts that I bring to the table.

Layering is also a metaphor for how we interact with our money. I used to mask the fact that I didn’t know how to manage my money by adding to my debt load. I was aware that I was overspending and that was stressful. The stress caused me to buy more to mask or hide the truth of my bad habits and decisions around money. It was truly a vicious cycle.

Another way that we wear masks around our finances is by depending solely on one partner to manage the household finances. Too often I’ve heard stories of separation, divorce, or even loss where one partner becomes the person who must manage financial decisions moving forward. We’ve felt protected and comfortable with the idea that we have someone else we can count on. In the meantime, we’re setting ourselves up for an even more uncomfortable scenario. This is especially difficult when you are grieving the significant change in a relationship.

Sometimes, we don’t even know we are wearing a mask or layer to cover up what we don’t want to see or acknowledge. Having subscriptions to every entertainment and gaming app is another way we hide our discomfort. What are we really feeling when we are mindlessly and continuously entertained? Are we bored, stressed, dissatisfied, or fearful? Side note: Check out Brene Brown’s book “Atlas of the Heart” if you want a more extensive list of emotions and explanations of each.

Part of understanding the layers that we wear is acknowledging that they exist and they may appear as a way to “protect” us. Digging a little deeper into how that layer became a part of our comfort and evaluating if it is protecting us requires some thoughtful reflection. Here are a couple of questions to help you get started:

  1. What is uncomfortable about my current financial situation?

  2. How did my current financial situation become uncomfortable?

  3. What have I have done to make it tolerable? (or what layer/mask am I wearing?)

  4. How is that serving me as I consider my financial goals?

  5. What am I willing to do differently knowing that this layer/mask might be keeping me from attaining my financial goals?

Great! Now you’ve identified how you’re layering up and “protecting” yourself when it comes to your personal finances. What will you choose now that you know? How motivated are you to do, feel or be something different? Let me know if you want some help in unraveling the layers or masks that you wear to protect yourself and how they might not actually protect you at all.

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