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When I was a kid, I bit my nails. It was terrible. I was a chronic, habitual nail biter. I bit my nails mainly when I was stressed (which, as a naturally high strung person, was quite often).  But there were other triggers for nail biting—loneliness, boredom, awkwardness. Pretty much every negative feeling a child and teenager could have triggered my nail biting. I would even do it when I was happy!  Even though I knew it was an absolutely disgusting habit, I just couldn’t break it.

I played the guitar and the piano so I told myself it didn’t matter that I bit my nails—I couldn’t have long nails anyway.  But my parents hated the habit. They  tried everything they could to try to get me to stop. Thum, that awful tasting polish that goes on your nails? The taste didn’t bother me. Bribery? Nope, money wasn’t an incentive. Manicures? Didn’t care for them. My dad telling me he’ll quit smoking? That worked for awhile until I realized my dad didn’t actually quit smoking. Nothing worked. No outside force was enough to get me to stop biting my nails. Because I wasn’t ready.

As I got older, I began to realize that biting my nails was, in fact, disgusting.  I realized that there was nothing pretty or mature or even comforting about biting my nails. I would look at my hands and get repulsed at the site of the short, ragged nails that looked absolutely ridiculous with nail polish. And did I love me some nail polish! I was so envious of the women on TV and in real life who had perfectly polished, manicured nails.

Then one day, I decided enough was enough. I was going to stop biting my nails. I wanted to have pretty hands! I knew I didn’t want my nails to be long or fake (acrylic nails are a terrible, terrible product. I have a burning hatred for them) but I wanted them to stop being ragged and ugly. I wanted to buy fun nail polish colors and not worry that they looked absurd on me. So, I stopped biting my nails. And I haven’t done it in over 10 years. Why? Because I wanted to stop. I was finally ready.

What does this have to do with money?

A lot, actually. I bit my nails for emotional reasons, just like we tend to spend money for emotional reasons. I made excuses for why I couldn’t stop biting my nails, just like we make excuses for not paying off debt or making good choices. I wanted to stop biting my nails but couldn’t find the right motivation just like it’s hard to find the right motivation to get out of debt. I had to grow up and realize the consequences of my choices in order to stop, just like we need to realize the consequences of our debts. And the motivation to stop biting my nails had to come from me. Just like the motivation to pay off debt or improve our financial choices has to come from within.

That bears repeating. Motivation has to come from within. Whether you’re in a mess of debt or have horrible financial habits, no amount of deterrence, bribery, or deals are going to make you change your situation until you’re ready to change it yourself.  No outside force is going to make us wake up and start eliminating debt or learning good financial skills. No one—not a sister, brother, friend, spouse, parent—can change our minds about how our debt or habits. We have to figure that out for ourselves. We have to look in the mirror one day and decide for ourselves that today is the day you’re going to make the change.  We have to be ready.

When you’re on the outside looking in at someone’s financial mess, it’s hard not to want to fix it. It’s hard not to try to put a rewards system in place to help motivate her to learn good habits. It’s even harder to keep your mouth shut and do nothing while you watch someone you care about financially self-destruct. I have had to learn this the hard way.  And it’s not pretty.

Are there any habits that you’ve had to break but needed internal motivation to do so?

Article publié pour la première fois le 28/11/2011

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