What is vulnerability
Vulnerability is a state where individuals put themselves in a situation which could result in a triumph or loss. However, individuals still put themselves in the situation and risk being vulnerable. In most cultures vulnerability or showing your emotions is considered to be a sign of a weak person. Brene Brown, vulnerability and shame researcher, gathered data for over fifty years to conclude that vulnerability is closely linked to courage and the individuals who have made the choice to be vulnerable are the only ones who took risks and most likely succeeded.
Money and Vulnerability
You must be wondering what it has to be doing with your money. Vulnerability has everything to do with money. You might risk an emotional expression but we hardly ever put our money to risks. We live in a hyper critical culture which criticizes everyone and forgives no one. How we handle our money shows a lot about who we are as a person and forms one of the important parameters by which others judge us. Hence, we cling on to our money and make no returns or low returns than risk judgemental glances.
Losses are highlighted and profits are ignored. Hence, your neighbour who lost all this money in stock markets last year is still the talk of the town. You would do everything in your power to avoid being in such a situation. Hence, you stick to traditional options and play safe with your options.
Vulnerability and Courage
“Cour” in Latin means heart and when it was introduced in English language it meant telling your own story with a whole heart. Hence, let your money tell its story. If you listen a little closely, there are perhaps more positive stories of profits as there are of losses. So be a little vulnerable and invest in risk laden stocks or funds if that is what your personal goals demand. An investment is all about risks as much as it is about maintaining the right balance. So put yourself in financially vulnerable situations and face it with courage. Your money has a story to tell and it could be of profit or loss. We cannot determine a course for your money but we can prepare for contingencies. Only if you dare greatly will you live greatly and invest greatly.
Dealing with Loss: Shame and Blame
Let us assume that you have put your money in high risk stocks. Then you suffer losses. How do people usually react to such losses? You feel ashamed and it starts to bother you that you do not deserve all the money if you cannot do what is right. You internalize shame and it starts to define you. Shame, peppered with secrecy and silence, grows exponentially. In order to avoid the shame, investors do the exact same mistakes which lead to the shameful situation. The reason is shame is internalized to the extent that they embody the shame they want to avoid.
The shame dominates and you start to look for other agents to blame. The markets were terrible, I hate my financial planner for having suggested the scheme, my neighbour did well, why did I not? It goes on and on, the list of blames and justifications. Except if you think for a moment, who is this helping anyway? The answer is, no one. It only gives you a hollow feeling and leads nowhere. So it is time to start questioning: is shame and blame the best way to deal with losses?
Guilt and Responsibility
It is often said hero and cowards feel the same way: fearful. However, how they react to the fear is what distinguishes the heroes from the cowards. Carl Richards in Behaviour Gap discusses the idea of ‘No Shame No Blame’ policy; where you feel no shame and blame no one for your personal financial losses. If you do not feel shame and blame no one, then how are you going to deal with losses? Replace shame with guilt. While shame is internalized and we blame ourselves, guilt points towards behaviour which needs to be rectified. ‘I have suffered terrible losses, I am pathetic’ is an example of shame. However, ‘I have suffered terrible losses, next time have to invest in moderate risk stocks’ that is guilt. Guilt is aimed at identifying behaviour and rectifying the same behaviour which caused losses.
Shame is a negative reinforcement. Reinforcement is a stimulus which is incorporated to make an individual feel unpleasant ensuring the behaviour is not repeated. This is shame, by making an individual feel unpleasant, unwanted and judged. A positive reinforcement is the absence of the negative stimulus, which removes the unpleasant factor and allows analysis of behaviour. That is what guilt does and ensures that the behaviour is not carried out again.
Replace blame with responsibility. Blame leads you nowhere. However, taking responsibility for your own actions helps you take better decisions. It makes you aware you are the only being in power of your personal finance decisions. Hence, take responsibility. ‘I made losses, I need to change my financial planner’ is an example of blame. ‘I made losses. I need to learn how to make better financial decisions’ that is an example of financial responsibility.
If it easy or comfortable, it is probably not worth it. Wear your no shame, no blame hat and you might lead a healthier financial life. Do not make investments because you are discontent with your current financial life. Then you start to operate from a place of ‘I am not good enough’ and you seek validation in your financial status. Instead of indulging in such self deprecation methods, operate your finances from a place of ‘I am good enough’ but aim for excellence. One can bet that you will lead a healthier life and your finances are going to start looking up. Don’t believe me? Well give it a try!