How Basing Self-Worth On Financial Success Can Be Detrimental

relationships self-worth Dec 22, 2021

Self-worth can be based on a variety of things. Some people base their self-worth on their achievements, others on their physical appearance and others on their moral or ethical standards. There is another group, however, that bases their self-worth on how financially successful they are and views money as the root of their self-worth. 

However, research is beginning to note that basing self-worth on financial success can have many detrimental impacts throughout a person’s life. 

Self-worth and Social Connection

Basing self-worth on financial success actually leads to a greater sense of loneliness, fewer social connections, and more isolation. 

This may be because feeling pressure to meet financial goals in order to feel good about oneself makes them put everything else on the backburner. Focusing self-worth on financial success may spend less time maintaining relationships. 

This can include spending time with their partner, participating in family functions, limiting time with friends, or spending less time on hobbies and self-care. 

This may be because those with financially dependent self-worth are more focused on spending their time generating income. 

Romantic Relationships

Research actually shows that those people who base their self-worth on financial success tend to have lower satisfaction in their romantic relationships. 

They may also experience more financial conflict in their relationships. 

It's suggested that when people pay more attention to finances they may pay less attention to the needs of their partner. 

What's most interesting is that this is the same regardless of household income, financial security, materialistic values, and economic hardship. 

Why Might Tying Self-Worth To Financial Success Be Damaging? 

We’ve already established that those who base their self-worth on their financial success may have their relationships suffer. But they may also rely less on others for help. 

Although some of this may be due to the fact that these individuals are more focused on making money than on maintaining relationships, it may also be due to social comparisons inherent in financially contingent self-worth. 

What is the definition of "financial success"? 

There is no definitive amount of money that equates to being financially successful. 

For someone from a more challenging background making 100,000 per year may feel like being incredibly financially successful. However, for someone whose parents were millionaires, this yearly income may feel like being a failure. 

Financial success is subjective, which means that people are only able to gauge their financial success by looking at those around them and making social comparisons. 


Social Comparison, Trust, and Pressure to Earn

When self-worth is based on finances people end up comparing themselves to others, which means that they may actually feel worse when other people do better than they do. 

By making continuous social comparisons in order to gauge their self-worth these individuals may feel more stress and anxiety related to the success of others. 

When they experience others as becoming successful or achieving a high degree of financial success they themselves may actually take a self-esteem hit because of their social comparisons. 

They may also experience challenges in trusting others to help them succeed because they may believe that others feel the same way about their financial success. In other words, the person who bases their self-worth on financial success may actually feel in constant competition with others rather than coming from a place of collaboration and community. This may be one of the reasons that those who base their self-worth on financial success have a harder time asking for help. 

Additionally, when people base their self-worth on their financial success they may feel more pressured to achieve more and more financial success. They become trapped in a never-ending cycle of needing to make more money in order to continue to achieve the same levels of self-worth. 

Perceived Control and Social Comparison

When people make social comparisons with others to gauge their self-worth, they may end up feeling less control over their lives and less autonomous. 

And as we've discussed in another blog, those who feel less control over their lives feel less life satisfaction and emotional well-being than those who feel more control over their lives. 

Feeling on a never-ending treadmill of needing to make more money inevitably takes away a feeling of autonomy and control in their lives since they become trapped in this cycle in order to feel the same degree of self-worth boost. 

In addition, those who are basing their self-worth on financial success may actually end up experiencing more stress and negative emotions when confronted by negative financial events or a financial challenge such as a market drop or a job loss. 

These types of events may cause the person's self-worth to drop dramatically and for them to feel unable to cope with the stressor in a productive and proactive way because their sense of perceived control and autonomy is challenged. 

How Can You Change What You Base Your Self-Worth On?

There's some research that suggests that what we base our self-worth on is based on what we inherently value. 

If someone values making a lot of money, then they will base their self-worth on making a lot of money. 

What you base your self-worth on may change over time with new experiences and the formation of new beliefs. 

This is why understanding core money beliefs, and where they come from, is so essential in understanding your own financial well-being and intimacy with your partner. 

This is exactly what I’ll be covering in my upcoming course The Couples Guide to Financial Intimacy. Enrollment opens for founding couples on January 26th. Be on the list to be one of the first notified and receive special bonuses for early enrollment. 

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