High Net Worth, Low Self Worth

What is money? The reality is that it’s just paper. It holds no true value. However we, as a society, have given it its value. In this way it is symbolic. Money represents possibility and opportunity. For many, money and identity are intrinsically intertwined. People use it to measure their self worth. The more you are worth financially, the more you may feel you are worth socially.  A 2008 imaging study showed that we process both money and social values within the same part of our brain. According to Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist in New York City, when discussing the link between salary and feeling successful, she says “There is a natural biological basis for this association in how we are wired to be social creatures and to perceive ourselves as part of a group.”

This idea that we are born to compare ourselves to others is problematic. There will always be someone who earns more than you, has achieved more than you. If you are a person who is fiercely driven to be successful but can only measure success through what you earn, and are constantly comparing yourself to others in order to have a yard stick by which to measure yourself, you will struggle to find peace. This can also be the reason why we often see people of extreme high net worth, having very little self worth. They have been conditioned to constantly compare themselves to others who are better. A great tool to strive to achieve more, but a very rocky foundation for self acceptance. By constantly comparing yourself to other people, you will find that your own identity is never truly stable.

Clayman also highlights another reason those with a lot of money can have such low esteem. Those who are measuring their self worth by their net worth are actually “unable to ever earn enough to truly feel good about themselves,” Setting your sights high and wanting to achieve incredible things is admirable, but not if it comes at a cost to your mental health. If your targets are unachievable because every time you achieve them you move on to the next one and the next one, without stopping to celebrate what you’ve already achieved, then you are essentially constantly setting yourself up for failure. You need to take stock of where you’re at and allow yourself to revel in your accomplishments for a good amount of time before you run after the next goal, set by someone else that you are comparing yourself to.

You may also find that if you are so focussed on money and your net worth as being the epitome of your social worth, you may struggle to form or keep intimate relationships with others. If you are measuring your worth on how much you are able to earn, you may sacrifice the relationships you have in your need to earn more money. You may also struggle in relationships because of the way you constantly compare yourself to others. You might find that you are removing people from your life who care about you because you feel “less than”. Because humans are relational, physical, mental and emotional beings, sacrificing relationships in the quest for money will ultimately do extensive damage to your self worth, even if it temporarily feels like it’s boosting it.

Those focussed on money as a measure of success may also sacrifice both their physical and mental health. Working long hours, sleeping little and often eating food that is too rich or not eating enough, are common occurrences when people are fixated on earning more and more money in the race to nowhere. This can all have a detrimental impact on your physical and mental health. Researchers from the University at Buffalo conducted a study recently which found that those who were basing their self-esteem on financial success were more stressed and anxious than those who weren’t. They also felt much less in control of their own lives than the others.

If any of this sounds familiar, and you feel like your mental, physical or emotional health may be suffering because of a low feeling of self worth that may be linked to how you compare yourself to others and how much money you have, you may need to reprogram the way you think. The good news is that it is totally possible to do that. With professional help you will be able to readdress the balance in your life, reconnect to the relational, physical, mental and emotional sides of yourself and realise that, although money is a tool and has its value and its place, its value should not be placed above the value of your own health. Don’t forget – “The best wealth is health”.