Pursuing financial success for the purposes of boosting or protecting your self-esteem is a bad idea, a new study finds.
There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to earn money. Wanting to be able to have the means to elevate our living situation isn't bad in itself. However, once we base our self-esteem on the state of our finances, it can be a problem. We don't usually think that this is problematic. After all, societal values place a premium on wealth or at least being financially comfortable. However, psychologists say that basing one's self-worth on one's financial worth can negatively impact our psyche.
So what is it like to base our self-esteem on how much money we have? Psychologists say that we may compare our own financial situation to that of our peers. We may also experience stress and anxiety when we think about our financial situation. Worse still, we may feel that we have less control over our lives.
The researchers gathered 349 college students and 389 national representatives. First, the researchers measured Financial Contingency of Self-Worth (CSW), which indicates how much people base their self-esteem on their financial success. The team also examined how people react when their financial security is threatened.
An analysis of the findings showed that people who base their self-esteem on the state of their finances felt less autonomy when they wrote about a financial stressor. They also tended to give up on finding a solution when they face financial struggles. The researchers say that people who don't base their self-esteem on their finances didn't react to financial stressors this way.
According to the research, if we base our self-esteem on financial success and believe that we will be successful in the future, we become more careful. We don't immediately make huge expenses. This indicates that we see financial threats as a threat to our self-esteem, not just our bank accounts.
The findings also revealed that people who base their self-worth on financial success used words like “anger” or “sadness” more. This showed that even just the thought of financial problems is an emotionally negative experience.
The researchers say that getting people to think about their personal strengths can eliminate these negative emotions. Thus, knowing one's personal strengths can restore self-esteem and feelings of autonomy.
Do these findings hit close to home? Do you feel like you're basing your self-esteem and self-worth on your financial success? If you do, remember that wanting to be financially successful is an important desire. However, it should not be the foundation on which you build your self-esteem.
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