Have you ever overheard someone lamenting about their hard work and how they “deserve” a [insert perceived reward here]? Whether it’s an extra cookie, a pair of shoes, or even a vacation, there are plenty of ways to fill in this sentence.
Have you ever caught yourself saying this type of thing?
I certainly have. At least, in the past.
Rationalizing My Way to Excess Spending
Alongside my past days of being the Princess of Interest, I was also a master at rationalizing why I “deserved” various indulgences. I worked a long day? Of course I deserved a meal out! I paid off a credit card balance? I deserve a small treat–in the form of a mini shopping spree on a different card! I ran a few extra miles? I certainly deserve that piece of 10-layer chocolate cake.
The truth is, I didn’t deserve any of that stuff. Not one single thing was actually deserved—it was rationalized. I rationalized myself into a mountain of debt by fooling myself into thinking I deserved various treats and indulgences whenever I accomplished something. I rationalized myself into countless empty calories after running races or having a hard week at work.
Destructive Patterns = Disaster
Quite possibly, this is one of the most destructive patterns of thinking because it can be a gateway for even worse behaviors. Rationalizing negative behaviors is nothing more than enabling yourself to make emotional, ill-informed decisions that almost always have negative consequences.
It’s a way of shirking responsibility and reality, yet still feeling OK about doing so. There’s zero responsibility in making an impulsive decision based on what you “deserve.”
You Don’t Deserve That….
More than a mind game with yourself, qualifying a certain behavior or purchase just because you “deserve” it is a recipe for emotional and financial disaster.
The cold reality is that you, too, don’t deserve that. You don’t deserve that new shirt, that new car, that vacation in Europe. You don’t deserve those extra drinks at happy hour and you don’t deserve to sleep in rather than exercise.
…But Perhaps You’ve Earned it
Earning things is a different story. When you set goals for yourself and develop a plan to achieve said goals, then you earned the reward of realizing a goal.
Rather than impulsive decisions made when you’re tired/hungry/sad/stressed/elated/celebrating, earning what you’ve worked hard to achieve is a positive way to motivate yourself. Setting and reaching goals, among other things, is a key part in successfully managing your finances.
What You Do Deserve
However, there are plenty of things you do deserve:
- You deserve to be happy
- You deserve to have dreams
- You deserve to be hopeful
- You deserve to be loved; to be appreciated; to be included
- You deserve to be inspired
- You deserve to be safe
- You deserve to be challenged; to be held to a higher standard
- You deserve to work hard
Do you notice a theme with this list? While it can be expanded to include hundreds of other things you deserve, not a single item on the list has anything to do with materialistic pleasures or luxuries. They’re all types of feelings or motivations or intangibles that we all deserve as human beings.
Change Your Thinking
So as you venture into this holiday season, take a minute to re-train your brain: Remember, you don’t deserve that. Perhaps you’ve earned it, but rationalizing excessive purchases won’t make the twinkle lights shine brighter or your family and friends love you more.
Spending beyond your means because “you deserve it” or “they deserve it” might feel good in the moment, but the spending hangover will wreak havoc for weeks or months to come. If you find yourself rationalizing bad habits because you “deserve it,” try eliminating the phrase from your vocabulary for a while.
Chances are, you’ll see a marked improvement that will be worth making it become a permanent change.