Crossing Lines

It is not unusual to find that people who are foggy about their money also display a lack of healthy boundaries in other areas of their life, not just with money, but with people, their time, and their energy.

Emotional and self awareness, self respect, honest communication and saying the hard stuff (even when you don’t feel like it), are necessary ingredients for defining your boundaries, designed to create a safe space in which you can function.

Here are some common scenarios I have heard from a number of clients and workshop participants that describe boundary issues around money:

~ Functioning from a place of guilt, as a way of feeling needed or to maintain a false sense of control, a parent continues to support their adult child who is mentally and physically capable of making their own living. The child is given the message they will be financially supported so why even try to establish a sense of independence; financial or otherwise? Granted, it’s a lack of boundaries between both parties and this co-dependent relationship prevents parent and child from establishing their independent identities (and bank accounts).

While some might think that Warren Buffet is a horrible father for not leaving all his estate to his children, they have learned to be self sufficient. Barbara Stanny, the author of “Prince Charming Isn’t Coming” and “Overcoming Underearning” is the daughter of the “R” in H & R Block and claims the best thing to happen to her was to have her father refuse to bail her out of a horrible IRS situation caused by her ex-husband who left her with a seven figure tax bill. He wanted her to figure out how money works and she did. Now she teaches women how to take control of their finances.

~There are some who are driven by the pursuit of money, hungry for an unidentified and unmet need. Until the chase stops, time, energy and relational boundaries can be trampled on in the single- minded madness to get the pot at the end of the rainbow.

~ A surprising number of people have shared their memory of parents who would buy items, then hide them from their spouse, telling their children not to divulge what then became”their little secret.” Roping children into the parent’s shame and inability to be truthful with money showed a clear lack of boundaries. It also implied that money carries secrets, never mind the confusion and effect it hadon the (then) child’s perception of money.

Through example and words our parents, guardians and authority figures showed us how far we could take things and what the limit was; if you did certain things, there would be certain consequences. (Ex. A child who stole money from their mother’s purse, might have been grounded or penalized in some way).
OR perhaps a parent would “borrow” money, never to return it.

If boundaries were inconsistent growing up, it requires more attention of you now. Not setting them is without a doubt the far more difficult path in the long run.

Healthy boundaries help you determine what is acceptable and what’s not; when a situation or person has gone beyond your own safety zone.

Learning to say “No”.

The ability to say “No” is an indication of self care not a display of negativity. How many times have you said “Yes” when you weren’t really convinced it was a “Yes”, only to regret it later? It takes practice to be firm without letting your emotions take over so if you find it hard (which many do), practice how you would say it aloud, then practice doing it in front of a mirror until you get comfortable enough. It is very hard to say “No” when in the heat of the moment, so by practicing this skill, you can reach into your own tool box and pull it out on an as-needed basis.

How far will you go for someone, financially?

This can be everything from knowing how much you will spend on a birthday gift (and sticking to it), supporting someone or even incurring someone else’s debt.

How far will you allow other people to go for you, financially?

Do you secretly expect anyone in your life to support you, partially or entirely? To be responsible for your finances in any way?

What will you do if someone oversteps their boundaries with you? How will you explain this to them? Are you ready to say how you feel?

Boundaries are one of the basic tenets that make up a mature human being and the harder it is to set a boundary, the more important the boundary is. They need to be clearly defined, easily understood, discussed, consistent and enforced (and as we know, human nature is such that they will be tested).

At the heart of this is the need to establish and exercise extreme self care. It is always best to be pro-active than reactive so set some time aside to draw your lines. Identify which actions and even people, erode your self esteem and integrity and which serve your highest self .

Author's Bio: 

Helen Kim is an active workshop presenter, speaker and founder of, a company devoted to helping people gain clarity around their relationship to money so they can make conscious financial decisions. Through her workshops, coaching programs, articles and products, Helen helps you loosen the grip that money holds over you, allowing you to experience freedom from the inside, out. With her mindful approach, Helen gives you the opportunity to create a positive, dynamic and nurturing relationship to money and therefore, yourself. The results; a foundation from which you can create a conscious-based, fulfilling life.

Whether you are held hostage to money because you are unable to spend it, you overspend on unnecessary objects or things that you don’t even need or want, you find yourself caught in a debting cycle or you are a chronic under earner, Helen helps you help yourself, believing that we all hold our own answers. Awareness is key in this work of undercovering your money beliefs and coming to understand that which prevents you from moving into your desired place of being.

With 20 years of professional experience as a consultant in business development, career counseling, and management, she has led many workshops and seminars for entrepreneurs, artists and professionals working in the corporate and not-for-profit worlds. Some of her many clients have included the Yale University, Juilliard School, University of Maryland, Boston University, Rutgers University, Riverside Church, International Events Group and the Sony Foundation. She has also been interviewed on National Public Radio’s daily program, Marketplace.

Helen is a Certified Financial Recovery Counselor. A former cellist, she also earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the Juilliard School of Music and studied privately in London, England. And yes, she did practice, practice, practice and eventually got to Carnegie Hall.

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