COVID is Not the Cure

THE DISEASE IS INSIDE OF YOU

We need to talk about Coronavirus. Specifically, how COVID-19 might be impacting your financial sobriety. Perhaps you have had thoughts similar to this:

“My income is so uncertain with all this Coronavirus stuff; this means I HAVE to stop all this extra spending. This will be the thing that stops me from going overboard with my shopping because I really need to save my money now.”

I totally get this line of thinking because I have had those thoughts myself. Yet, deep down, I know this is a myth. When it comes to any addiction, no outside influence is going to be the deciding factor as to whether you change your habits or not. Sure, one can certainly be influenced by external events. However, the true change happens inside of you.

THE MYTH

Let’s examine this myth a little closer. If it were as simple as something outside of you creating a change then most likely the shift in behavior would have happened a long time ago. Think of how many external events have made it painfully clear that you needed to change, yet you didn’t. Overdrawn bank accounts, maxed out credit cards, sweating about being able to make a payment, the disappointed look on your partner’s face. If something or someone outside of you could make you change, codependents would be out of a job.*

To be clear, I am not minimizing the impact of meaningful events to serve as a wake-up call. Many people’s stories involve a pivotal event which served as a catalyst for great change. The shift however, happens on the inside and you are powerful enough to make the choices to facilitate that shift.

EXPOSURE MAY EXACERBATE SYMPTOMS

Maybe instead of the first reaction when faced with the devastation of the recent pandemic, your thinking was more along these lines:

“Oh, sh*t! The world is collapsing all around me! I need to get food, water and dear God, I need toilet paper!!!”

I wouldn’t judge you for having those types of thoughts either. After all, I think witnessing the panic spending happening all across the globe is enough to trigger an urge to react. Seeing the empty shelves in the grocery stores is enough to induce a strong sense of scarcity.

SCARCITY MINDSET

Financial uncertainty can put you at risk for a scarcity mindset. It’s something that all human brains are vulnerable to. One aspect of a scarcity mindset is it can take a significant amount of willpower and effort to resist non-essential purchases. One can become fatigued and end up making poor spending choices. Constantly resisting, resisting, resisting that thing you really,really want, all the while making other important decisions in your daily life, can potentially wear you down enough that you finally give into the purchase.

Not only does a scarcity mindset affect willpower, the fear of not having enough, which for some individuals equates to not being enough, can contribute to spending money on things to temporarily ameliorate feelings of inadequacy. Think you are not measuring up in comparison to your co-workers? Purchase smart new business attire, that will certainly make you feel like less of an impostor. Tired of being economical and making all your meals at home? Go out and enjoy some fine dining out, you deserve to splurge on a good meal after all the sacrifice of tolerating your own bland home cooking. 

With a scarcity mindset, you lose your long term perspective. The goal of getting out of debt, having enough to make rent at the end of the month, or achieve the loftier aspiration of FITE becomes clouded by the urge to artificially boost your emotions. So, you reach for a quick dopamine hit, purchasing that gadget you have had tunnel vision on because you had been telling yourself, “I can’t afford it” for the past week and a half.

YOU ARE IN CONTROL

The good news is if the disease is from the inside, then the control to change it is also on the inside. No need to wait for external circumstances to shift for you to have the power to change your life. The next post will outline some ideas for how to build up your resilience to the scarcity mindset and resist the urge to fall into addictive shopping habits as a way to soothe anxiety during uncertain times. In the meantime, if you have not checked it out already, consider learning my process for financial sobriety, starting with this post, The Structure to get a start on reclaiming your power over shopping addiction.

* In the simplest definition (and the definitions can be pretty broad) a codependent is someone who is in an unhealthy relationship with another person who has an addiction, unmanaged physical or mental health problems or a dysfunctional coping pattern. One characteristic of codependency is trying to control or fix the other’s maladaptive behaviors. If you are interested in learning more about codependency you might start by exploring books by the author Melody Beattie.

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