Gregory DeVictor is a trivia enthusiast who loves to write articles on American nostalgia.
It took Margaret Mitchell ten years to write Gone with the Wind. What is unique about the book is that the final chapter was written first. In a similar fashion, take a few minutes each day and write the final chapter of your journey to financial freedom. Forget about the details and means and believe with childlike faith that debt-free living is now coming your way.
You must also realize that certain "invisible enemies" can delay and even prevent you from achieving your financial dreams. This article teaches you how ten invisible opponents—denial, fear, complaining, not forgiving others, procrastination, pride, blaming, perfectionism, worry, and self-pity—can keep you from debt-free living and financial success.
First, let's look at denial:
If you are deep in debt, are you in denial that you have a serious financial problem? Do you pretend that the problem doesn’t exist or that it will magically go away? CareOneCredit.com tells us about the battlefield of denial:
Debt has a way of building and trapping you in a cycle of increasing payments and balances. But when you’re in that kind of debt, you’re very often telling yourself excuses and half-truths that keep your debt building and keep you from getting the help you need to break that cycle. Denial is the biggest problem of those who say they want to get out of debt because they cannot face the fact that their debt is a serious problem.
Here are three strategies that can help you to overcome denial:
- “Denial exists when three beliefs intersect: 1. It cannot happen. 2. It cannot happen to you. 3. It cannot happen to you now.” - Johnnie Dent Jr.
- "Denial does not solve the problem. Denial does not make the problem go away. Denial does not give us peace of mind, which is what we are really seeking when we engage in it. Denial is a liar. It compounds the problem, because it keeps us from seeing a solution, and taking action to resolve it." - Bill Kortenbach, Counterpredators
- “More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren't so busy denying them.” - Harold J. Smith
Next, let's look at fear:
David Schwartz tells us that "Fear is success enemy number one. Fear stops people from capitalizing on opportunity; fear wears down physical vitality; fear actually makes people sick, causes organic difficulties, shortens life; fear closes your mouth when you want to speak."
Fear comes in many forms: fear of failure, fear of constructive criticism, fear of people, fear of not pleasing others, fear of saying no, fear of rejection, fear of taking responsibility, and so forth. Most worry and procrastination stem from fear.
Is fear preventing you from getting out of debt and achieving financial independence?
- "I'm afraid to call the bank about my past due balance."
- "I'm too embarrassed to ask for help. What would others think or say?"
- “I’d rather have a toothache than confess my financial mistakes to a debt counselor.”
Here are some strategies to help you conquer fear:
- "There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure." - Paul Coelho, The Alchemist
- "Use action to cure fear and gain confidence. Here's something to remember. Action feeds and strengthens confidence; inaction in all forms feeds fear. To fight fear, act. To increase fear—wait, put off, postpone." - David Schwartz
- “Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali
- “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie
- “The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you.” - William Jennings Bryan
Next, let's look at complaining:
Rather than getting their financial house in order, some people would rather complain about drowning in a sea of red ink. Complainers live on a constant merry-go-ground because the more they grumble, the more they attract into their lives to grumble about. Mason Cooley observes that “Complainers change their complaints, but they never reduce the amount of time spent in complaining.”
Do you complain too much, too often about your debt?
- "I'm drowning in bills."
- "Each chapter gets worse."
- "I'm so deep in debt."
- "First, it was student loans. Now, it's credit cards. I just can't get ahead."
- "When is my life going to get back to normal?"
Remember, you will never make real financial progress if you constantly complain about your credit card balances, the high cost of health care, your property taxes, or anything else.
Here are some strategies to help you outsmart complaining:
- "Realize that if you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.” - Anthony J. D’Angelo
- “If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you'd be surprised by how well things can work out. Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won't make us happier.” - Randy Pausch
- "I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man who had no feet." – Indian Proverb
- “Now, 10 years later, the person who talked and complained is still talking and complaining and still remains in the same position. The person who took the initiative and found solutions has been promoted several times." Catherine Pulsifer, from How Valuable Are You
- "Today I can complain because the weather is rainy or I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free." - Author Unknown
Not Forgiving Others
Next, let's look at not forgiving others:
Not wanting to forgive others who have treated you unfairly will keep you in an emotional prison and can affect your financial well-being.
- “Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” - Marianne Williamson
- “Forgive as often as you must and don’t put limits on it.” – Joyce Meyer
- “Staying angry at someone who has hurt you is like taking poison hoping that your enemy will die.” – Joyce Meyer
- “Forgive quickly. The quicker you do it, the easier it is.” - Joyce Meyer
- "When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free." - Katherine Ponder
- “Forgiveness, does not mean you are excusing, or condoning bad behavior.” – Unknown
You must also forgive yourself for your past money mistakes. Certified financial planner Shannon Ryan agrees:
Forgiveness isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is downright hard, but it is necessary, especially if you want to achieve financial happiness, which is something everyone wants. Because even if you have financial freedom but haven’t forgiven yourself for your past money sins, you are still caught in the old cycle and not truly free or happy. It’s time to take an honest assessment of your past mistakes, identify patterns to be mindful of ongoing and let go of your money skeletons. Once that weight is off your shoulders, you’ll be surprised by how much lighter you feel and how nimble you become on your journey to money happiness.
Next, let's look at procrastination:
According to Napoleon Hill, “Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” Procrastinators hold off on doing essential tasks because they are afraid of getting out of their comfort zones. Their “hemming and hawing” involves health matters, finances, family and relationship problems, career development, addiction issues, and more. Rather than taking the first baby steps toward self-improvement, they prefer the easy and painless way.
- “I’ll get out of debt when I win the lottery.”
- "I'll put it on my list of New Year's resolutions."
- "Maybe I’ll do something about it after Super Bowl Sunday."
- "I'll put it on my to-do list for next week."
- "Let me clean out the garage first. I've been putting that off for months."
- "I'll do something about it when I get a raise."
Here are some strategies to help you let go of procrastination:
- “You may delay, but time will not.” - Benjamin Franklin
- "Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task." - William James
- "If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it." - Olin Mille
- "A year from now you may wish you had started today." - Karen Lamb
Next, let's look at pride:
You will never achieve financial success if you let pride and “big-shot-ism” control your life. Prideful people are habitual know-it-alls and don't like to ask for help. Keep in mind that financial recovery is often a process that you cannot accomplish on your own. Therefore, getting professional help from a financial advisor may be essential if you want to live fiscally fit.
Here are some strategies to help you triumph over pride:
- “Pride is the mask we make of our faults.” - Hebrew Proverb
- “Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” - Ann Landers
- "Generally, prideful people are stubborn and rebellious. A stubborn person is obstinate and difficult to work with; a rebellious one is unruly and resists correction. Until you let go of pride and having to do everything your way or not at all, your chances of living a debt free life are as unlikely as winning $1,000,000 in Las Vegas.” – Gregory DeVictor
- "Pride is an admission of weakness; it secretly fears all competition and dreads all rivals." - Fulton J. Sheen
- "Never look down on anybody unless you are helping them up." - Jesse Jackson
- “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Next, let's look at blaming:
Do you blame people or external conditions for your financial woes? For example, some individuals blame their financial problems on where they live. A few even make geographical changes, only to find that their financial difficulties follow them from Point A to Point B. If you spend money foolishly in Portland, chances are you will do the same in Minneapolis or Raleigh. Richard Roberts agrees:
Back in the days of the Old West, when tragedy struck people’s lives, they would simply jump on the nearest stagecoach and relocate in some other town where no one would recognize them. They could remain anonymous or hide their past. In the Old West, it was common to hear someone say that a cowboy was ‘riding with a secret.’ That meant there was something in his past that he wanted to overcome, so he was looking for a new place to start afresh.
Do you blame people, places, or things for your financial problems?
- "If I didn't live in California, I wouldn't be in so much debt."
- "It's a family curse."
- "The cost of living is too high."
- "It's my employer's fault. They should have cheaper health insurance."
- "I don't spend too much. It's the high-interest rates."
- "If I didn't have to pay so much income tax, I wouldn't be in debt."
- "It was the recession. I didn't get the raise I wanted."
Here are some strategies to help you overcome the blame game:
- "Blaming is so much easier than taking responsibility, because if you take responsibility . . . then you might be the one to blame." - Unknown
- “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.” - George Bernard Shaw
- "A bad workman always blames his tools." – Proverb
- "Your complaints, your drama, your victim mentality, your whining, your blaming, and all of your excuses have NEVER gotten you even a single step closer to your goals or dreams. Let go of your nonsense. Let go of the delusion that you DESERVE better and go EARN it!" - Steve Maraboli
- “Every financial worry you want to banish and financial dream you want to achieve comes from taking tiny steps today that put you on a path toward your goals.” – Suze Orman
Next, let’s look at perfectionism:
Trying to be perfect at everything will only make you perfectly insane. If you’ve been waiting for perfect conditions to get out of debt or start an exercise program, you will never get anything done. Like procrastination and other invisible opponents, perfectionism is a one-way ticket to frustration and defeat.
- "Don't wait. The time will be never just right." - Napoleon Hill
- “Meet problems and obstacles as they arise. The test of a successful person is not the ability to eliminate all problems before he takes action, but rather the ability to find solutions to difficulties when he encounters them.” - David Schwartz
- “Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough - that we should try again.” – Julia Cameron
- “Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.” - Salvador Dali
- “The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake - you can't learn anything from being perfect.” - Adam Osborne
Next, let's look at worry:
People who have an anxious and worried mind torment themselves with nagging, disturbing, and distressing thoughts. They are always preoccupied with what misfortune will occur ten minutes from now, tomorrow morning, or two weeks from yesterday. In short, they are connoisseurs at predicting gloom and doom. The next time that you feel depressed, be sure to ask yourself what you’ve been worrying about for the past half hour. DumbLittleMan.com affirms:
Things never happen the way you imagine. When you worry, you are predicting the future. You are saying, 'I know that things will turn out badly.' But this just isn’t the case. You have no idea how the future is going to turn out, except to say that it will not be what you think it will be. So why worry?
Do you have an anxious and worried mind?
- "What if my in-laws found out that I have $25,000 in credit card debt? I'd never hear the end of it."
- "What would the neighbors think?"
- “How am I going to pay these bills?”
- “What if my car gets repossessed? How will I get to work?”
- "The mail carrier probably knows that I'm in debt. He sees all of those collection letters."
Here are some strategies to help you eliminate needless worry:
- “Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength-carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” - Corrie ten Boom
- "Worrying is bad for your health. Worry is not a normal state of mind, and it adversely affects your health, even your physical health. When you worry, physical changes are happening in your body which are very damaging. It increases stress which can increase blood pressure, cause higher levels of stomach acid, cause muscle tension and headaches, among many other things.” - DumbLittleMan.com
- “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.” - Michel de Montaigne
- “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.” - William Ralph Inge
- “If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.” - E. Joseph Cossman
Finally, let's look at self-pity:
Self-pity, one of your worst invisible opponents, convinces you that you don't matter and that life is never going to get any better. Feeling sorry for yourself is akin to self-worship because everything is about Y-O-U. Like other invisible enemies, self-pity will keep you in a financial prison until you grow up and meet life’s responsibilities.
- “Oh, woe is me.”
- “I’ll never accomplish my dreams.”
- “I’ll never get out of debt.”
- “What’s the use?”
- "Each chapter gets worse."
- “If only I had better connections.”
- “I never get any good breaks.”
Here are some strategies to help you stop wallowing in self-pity:
- “Self-pity imprisons us in the walls of our own self-absorption. The whole world shrinks down to the size of our problem, and the more we dwell on it, the smaller we are and the larger the problem seems to grow.” - Kevin Malarkey
- "Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.” – Helen Keller
- “All depression has its roots in self-pity, and all self-pity is rooted in people taking themselves too seriously.” – Debbie Macomber
Your invisible enemies want you to live in a constant state of lack and limitation. On the other hand, your higher self wants you to have plenty and some to spare. Therefore, your external conditions will never change until you silence your internal opponents that are preventing you from becoming the very best. Make a decision now to replace fear, denial, and your other invisible enemies with confidence in a successful financial future.
- “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” - James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
- “The outer conditions of a person's life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state...Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.” – James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
- “As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.” – James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
- Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves.” – James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
- “If you don’t step out of your comfort zone and face your fears, the number of situations that make you uncomfortable will keep growing.” – Theo Pistorius
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Gregory DeVictor
Gregory DeVictor (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on August 15, 2020:
First, here is a fairly comprehensive list of the different kinds of debt: Credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, mortgages, rent, utilities, cell phone and cable bills, insurance premiums, car and student loans, alimony, child support, taxes, criminal fines, or money that you have borrowed from friends and family.
Some debt is good. Examples of good personal debt are mortgages, student loans, and financing a car. Generally, good debt is used to purchase goods and services that can increase wealth. For example, student loans enable you to get the education and training today to reap a bigger paycheck tomorrow.
On the other hand, some types of debt are bad. Examples of bad personal debt are credit cards, payday loans, and overdraft protection. Why? Bad forms of debt are generally used to purchase goods and services that have no lasting value. For example, credit cards are often misused to finance daily living expenses, clothing, holiday gifts, vacations, or a trip to the casino.
When it comes to debt, here is a “balance strategy” that less than half of Americans live by:
Focus on “good” debt, like financing a car or home. (Remember, you don’t want to buy too much house or car either. In other words, if you have a Toyota budget, don’t even consider purchasing a Mercedes.)
Don’t be an average American and spend $1.26 for every $1.00 that you earn.
Pay off credit card balances each month. Better yet, cut your credit cards up. Like I said above, credit cards are generally used to finance “bad” debt.
Don’t make purchases based on your emotions. For example, if you're depressed, don’t go to the mall or get on Amazon or Macys.com.
Don’t ever lend money to a friend or family member, and don’t ever borrow money from someone else. (Put the pause button on.)
Robert Sacchi on August 15, 2020:
Thank you for posting. Many good points. It does seem there are two approaches to debt. One is a fear of being in debt, which could result in never having anything. The other is accepting debt as a part of life, which could result in being heavily in debt. Is there a balance strategy?
Gregory DeVictor (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on June 28, 2018:
Thank you for your comment and for stopping by. Much appreciated.
Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on January 03, 2018:
Great article! Applying psychological principles to financial stability is a practical and useful way of addressing the topic. I haven't seen it done this way before and it helped me think about things differently. Thanks for a well written and interesting article.