Why do we reward our own bad behavior?

I suppose that you can ask this question for anything – be it dieting, working, or otherwise – but this recent article puts it in the context of personal finance. If the general idea is spend less than you earn, why are so many people in debt?

The article has a few reasons that come from a clinical psychologist – some of which include:

  • money buys happiness
  • old habits die hard
  • we get it from our mama (and/or papa)
  • we’re depressed (related to the first reason given)
  • we’re trying to impress others or play a role

Granted, there are some who have legitimate emergencies happen that are very expensive and force them to go into debt, or they lose their job and can no longer afford the lifestyle to which they were accustomed.

The problem is, though, that if you are living out some of the aforementioned reasons for your debt – simple fixes like freezing credit cards in blocks of ice or shredding credit cards simply won’t work. If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to get it unless you change the way you think about it. You probably know your credit card number, security code, and card expiration date by heart. That makes online shopping a snap. It’s why addictions are generally hard to break, and many people consider them to be a disease. Spending money and driving yourself further into unnecessary debt on purpose, in my opinion, is an addiction to spending money.

You have to get to the root of why you spend – whether it is being a product of your environment, trying to be someone you’re not, or medicating some other area in your life that makes you sad and you feel is out of your control to fix. Usually that maps to some deeper root – whether it’s affirmation, approval, security, or control. If you understand that, it can be easier to begin to change the surface behaviors that fuels what lies beneath. So, if you spend money that you don’t have when you’re out with a significant other or someone who you want to like you, it could be because at the root you have a need for affirmation and approval. There is so much more to life than that – and I choose to believe that people can’t give you all the validation you need. You have to get it elsewhere.

If you have bad spending habits, what is it that drives you to continue doing them?

2 thoughts on “Why do we reward our own bad behavior?

  1. Wow this was a really deeply powerful and insightful post. You hit the nail on the head – unless you get to the root and change your thinking – it will never change. I see it all the time with weight loss and it is true of any other addictions.


  2. Is it just like any other addiction and folks do it for the same reason, it makes them feel good? That temporary feeling of goodness without having something tangible, something real, and something that lasts forever has been the demise of many.


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