Spending money on others – selfless or selfish?

Wrapped Christmas gifts

Do you like to give gifts to other people?
Do you like being able to buy someone else’s lunch?
Do you feel loved or accepted when you throw big parties for all of your friends?

These are all seemingly selfless and charitable things. Many of us do them, and quite frequently.

But why do we do them?

We do them because it makes us feel good. But why does it make us feel good?

Does it make you feel loved?
Does it make you feel safe?
Does it make you feel accepted?
Does it make you feel better about how much you have?

Or do you do it because it genuinely makes you happy – regardless of how the person/people you’re doing it for react?

This can be difficult to figure out. Often, the “happiness” we feel is merely covering up our insecurities or fears. We feel “happy” (or more likely relieved) because our friends/loved ones liked what we did. Their happiness or acceptance validates us and makes us feel better.

If you buy someone a gift, do you feel bad if they don’t like it or don’t act excited about it?
Do you feel sad if people don’t have fun at your party or don’t show up?

If you are doing something in order to get a specific reaction from others, you probably have ulterior motives and are not doing it because it genuinely makes you happy.

I recently started reading Whitney Cummings book, “I’m Fine…And Other Lies” (affiliate link). She has an excellent chapter about codependency. (I know, not what you would think in a memoir written by a comedian, but I love her brutal honesty and getting into the messy stuff of life)

Reading this chapter made me really think about how we use “generosity” to help us feel better about ourselves. We use it to feel more secure in our relationships, and to make ourselves feel “happier”.

How does this fit into a blog about money? I’m getting there.

We often do things for other people so they’ll like us. We do it so they depend on us and we can feel needed.
We do it so they will treat us like we are valuable and worthwhile people. That way we don’t have to dig deeper into those feelings and find out why we don’t feel valuable and worthwhile all on our own.

We can use money as a tool to help hide our insecurities. We buy gifts so people will think we’re kind, thoughtful, and generous – regardless of whether we really want to be spending our money or have it to spend.
We offer to pay for people’s meals so they think we are well-off.
We throw parties and go all out so people will think we’re fun and likable.

We use money to cover up our insecurities about ourself. And we use others to make those insecurities go away.
And in the long run, it helps no one.

Being financially independent isn’t just about the numbers. It’s about people and all the fucked-upedness that goes into being a human being.

When we can look at ourselves honestly, it can be painful but it can also help us heal. And it can help us to have a healthier relationship with ourselves, with others, and with our money.

Habitude: Think about something that makes you feel “happy”. Why do you do it? No, why do you really do it?
Are you trying to cover up an insecurity or fear? Or do you truly do it because you derive joy from it regardless of what anyone else thinks or does?

P.S. Cummings’ book (affiliate link) has been really interesting. I recommend it if you like memoirs with some brutal honest and some tough topics.

 


Image: “christmas gifts..just getting started” by JOE MADONNA CC BY

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