March 2016 By Suma Varughese Suma Varughese traces the trajectory of her relationship with money When I first started to work on myself more than 20 years ago, I had a complex relationship with money. For one thing, it did not attract me. Money was never a motivation. Secondly, I feared it, because numbers terrified me. On the few occasions that someone compelled me to make an investment, I would stow the document deep into my cupboard and never look at it again. I never knew how much money I had because I rarely looked at my passbook or went to the bank. It wasn’t until I decided to buy a house in 1996, that I consciously decided to confront my money phobia. But there were other issues. I had a deep insecurity about money. I came from such a marked sense of lack that the thought of spending would terrify me. Conscious buying, even of necessities, was a struggle. I would go for months before going for a haircut or buying clothes or even pillow covers and towels. At the same time, I dribbled away my money on small food items or other sensory pleasures. In fact, I actually decided that I did not want to have money until I became a conscious spender, who could spend lavishly when needed and not even a paisa when not needed. Fourthly, I was committed to a frugal and thrifty lifestyle as I could see quite clearly that materialism did not lead to happiness. Both intellectually and temperamentally, I was committed to simple living. All these various drives jostled within me for expression and created huge conflict. Whenever I went shopping, my inner Scrooge would turn watchdog and scream, No, No,No, to everything I needed or wanted. It got so, I would shield myself from all temptation by simply not looking at any ads, visiting any malls, or going shopping at all. But my slow and diligent inner work yielded results. My first real breakthrough happened during my mother’s extended paralysis. From a really modest household budget, I found my expenditure shooting up astronomically in order to pay for an attendant, a physiotherapist, a visiting nurse, a doctor, hospital visits, medication and so on. Slowly, I became more comfortable with the thought of spending. This accellerated when I did up my house in 2011. I had to throw vast sums of money about, and I got somewhat accustomed to the idea of paying for quality work. But it was not until 2012, with the passage of my mother, that I actually found myself with disposable income. I then slowly permitted myself to splurge on clothes and gifts, though with lingering traces of guilt and anxiety. Yet my money insecurity continued to hobble me in innumerable ways. I would buy clothes but rarely expensive ones, and only at a sale. I would put off major expenses even if they were necessary such as buying a firm mattress to support my weak back. My anxiety about retiring in a few years without adequate savings further cramped my style and caused me to clutch at my purse strings. It was only with the start of my writing workshops early last year that my insecurity was dealt a body blow. The idea that people would pay for something I innately had was a liberating surprise, making me recognise that job or no job, I could always earn a livelihood! So finally I am relaxing, stretching my legs, and allowing myself to enjoy whatever largesse my money buys without guilt or desire. It feels good! About the author: Suma Varughese is a thinker, writer, and Editor-in-Chief of Life Positive. She also holds writer’s workshops. Write to her at email@example.com
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