The effects of poverty can last a lifetime, regardless of your current financial position. So how can you recognise the damage it causes, and begin to live life on your own terms?
Coming from a place of financial poverty, I have become all too familiar with money trauma.
Moving homes nine times before the age of 10 years old, I didn’t have a place to call ‘home’. Even then, when I say home, I mean a shack.
I spent part of my childhood living with my grandparents in Cairo. We didn’t have clean water, and had little food. Being the poor girl, with dirty, hand-me-down clothes from my uncles, you can imagine I wasn’t the most popular kid.
Even when I lived with my mum in the UK, and we were in a better financial position, I was still unpopular. All the other children had new clothes, video games, and went on days out – all of which were beyond me.
The teasing was humiliating. Kids would shout at me, tell me I was garbage, point, laugh, and make gestures that I smelt. One of the teachers actually joined in, publicly yelling at me for not wearing the correct uniform, because I couldn’t afford it.
As you can imagine, I felt abnormal, like there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Even though I progressed from a place of third-world poverty to the breadline, I was always falling behind. I was inferior and never good enough.
Money and self-beliefs
Anyone can see the negative impact of poverty in terms of quality of life. We hear how money worries can be stressful, but I’m not sure we appreciate its magnitude.
As a clinical psychologist, looking back at my upbringing, I know that I suffered traumas attached to money. My story is not unique, and money trauma, sadly, often leads us to have an unhealthy relationship with ourselves and with other people.
I’ll never be good enough
This was hard for me. Having those negative and critical messages from other people in society was excruciating. On top of that, the messages I received from family members were also painful (“We can’t afford X”, “We’re not good enough to deserve Y”, “We must accept being below the threshold”).
I ended up believing that I wasn’t good enough, that other people were better than me, that I deserved to be treated badly, and that was my life forever.
Unfortunately, these beliefs continued through my life, and negatively affected my self-esteem, mental health, and relationships. I would constantly be living in a state of anxiety, watching my every move to make sure I wasn’t being ‘weird’ or ‘shameful’.
I would tolerate emotionally and physically abusive behaviours from friends or ex-partners, because I felt that was what I deserved and I was worthy of no more. I would constantly try to please other people, so they didn’t have a reason to criticise me. I worried that if I voiced my needs, I would be rejected, and all I wanted was to be accepted.
I’ve got crabs, and I bet you do too
Have you ever heard of what happens to crabs in a bucket? One crab may want to escape – and why not? It’s crowded in that bucket, and there’s the e