How Being Broke Taught Me About My Self-Help Addiction

I’ve been pretty public about the fact that I’ve spent the past year going through some financial difficulties. While I absolutely understand that I’m privileged (my finances have never gotten so low that I became homeless or couldn’t eat), I’ve got to say that being broke sucks. I know that everyone has a different definition of what it means to be “broke,” and that compared to many people in the world I’m not broke at all. But for me personally, the past year has been the first time in my adult life when I’ve had trouble affording my monthly living expenses, with nothing leftover to even buy a cup of coffee.

This “nothing leftover” part has created all sorts of interesting situations.

First, as I wrote about in a previous blog, I’ve had to get honest with friends and family about my financial situation. Even something as simple as going out for lunch isn’t really in the cards for me right now.

Second, I’ve come face-to-face with all kinds of deep-rooted fears and issues that I have around money. There have been times in the past when I had $20,000+ cash in my bank account, but I still worried about money. I had no idea how it felt to actually not be able to afford simple pleasures that I enjoy.

Now I do.


And my hope is that sometime down the road, when my cashflow is high, I won’t continue making the mistake of worrying for no reason.

I’ve also been forced to notice how my ego is tied to my income (even though I thought it wasn’t). I’ve been embarrassed and ashamed to admit my financial difficulties even though they weren’t caused by reckless spending. I’ve been forced to question who I am, deep down, regardless of the number of 0s on my monthly pay stub.

Importantly, being tight on money means I haven’t been able to afford all of the new-age lotions, potions, vitamins, essential oils, specialty foods, gadgets, books, workshops, webinars, coaching and/or any other number of tools and techniques that I rely on to “fix myself.”

I’ve known for years that I was a self-help junkie, but I didn’t realize how deep my addiction went. There have been countless times over the past year when I wanted to see a therapist, or go for some type of energy work or massage, or order a book, or sign up for an online course, or buy some special magical supplement that would get rid of every physical ailment I’ve ever had.

But I haven’t been able to afford any of it.

And while I’m sure that therapy or bodywork or an online course might have benefited me in some way, and sometimes it is a good idea to receive help from external sources, this external help would have also kept me in a pattern of defaulting my authority to the authority of others.

You see, I’ve spent most of my life assuming that other people have the answers that I seek. And if another person doesn't have the answer, then surely some type of herbal supplement or newfangled food regimen will help. I’ve been convinced that if I can just find the right teacher/guru/doctor/book/supplement/smoothie then all of the pieces of my life will magically click into place. The question is, why do I keep doing this? Why do I keep assuming that everyone else knows more about me than I do?

There are probably many reasons.

But one of the main reasons is that I’ve spent years keeping myself busy with self-help and spirituality so that I can avoid feeling my feelings.

I don’t want to feel sad, depressed, physically unwell, lonely, bored, PMS-ridden, anxious, or annoyed. I don’t want to be forced to sit with these feelings. I don’t want to cry, scream, rage, vent, or lay in bed. I would rather go to a yoga class or have a coaching call or a massage or take a vitamin that will make it all go away. I want to be happy and calm and energized and productive. I want these “bad” feelings to go away so that I can check items off my To Do list and go about my life as if nothing is wrong.

As Sera Beak writes in her latest book Redvelations: A Soul's Journey to Becoming Human:

Point is: my unwillingness to feel is a pattern.

For most of my adult life, I kept myself busy:
focusing on my partner and the needs of the people I was aiming to serve;
writing books, giving retreats, and following my vocation;
fixing—er, “improving”—myself via health regimens,
relationship books, and anti-aging lotions;
analyzing myself psychologically and awakening myself spiritually.

In other words: I do everything I can, including
spiritual, psychological, and service work,
in order not to face and feel
my soul’s wounds.

This excerpt describes me to a “T.” I am absolutely obsessed with fixing myself, because fixing myself keeps me busy and distracted from feeling and acknowledging my core wounds. Fixing myself causes me to abandon my own inner authority. Fixing myself allows me to rely on the authority of someone else who I am assuming is more educated, spiritual, or otherwise seems to have their shit together more than I do.

Being broke has forced me inward. It has forced me to sit with uncomfortable feelings and go deeper in terms of where these feelings are coming from. It is forcing me to spend time with my shadows. It is forcing me to consult my own inner wisdom about what I need in any given moment.

To be honest, this whole process sucks. It’s really uncomfortable and I still try to avoid it. I still turn to work to numb myself from feeling. I still turn to yoga, meditation and dancing (at home since I can’t afford classes!) to keep myself from feeling anxious. Sometimes these practices are necessary - but sometimes I’m using them to get rid of feeling what I need to feel. It takes laser-sharp discernment to tell the difference - a discernment that I’m still working on developing.

My advice to you is to notice when you’re trying to fix yourself to avoid some deep truth that needs to be admitted or to avoid feelings that need to be felt. Instead, see if you can find a safe and healthy way to tell that truth or feel the feeling. Don't immediately rush to your yoga mat or meditation cushion or even to your therapist. Give yourself permission to cry, to be pissed off, to call in sick, to not meet your goals, to vent, to feel nervous.

In other words, give yourself permission to be human.

I’m convinced that the more we express our humanity - especially the messy parts that we’re so scared to express - the more we come to inhabit our physical body in the way that it’s supposed to be inhabited. We become embodied. As Sera Beak shares, we become a soulbody - divine and human at the exact same time. This is how we incarnate as Love on this planet - not by striving to be spiritual - but by fully embracing our humanity. This will sometimes feel uncomfortable and scary. Other times it will feel like coming home to yourself in ways that you never have before. It’s all part of the process.

So the next time you feel like fixing yourself, decide to fully feel instead. Your soulbody will thank you.  


Photo by Pete Birkinshaw.