How the glorification of struggle is both a symptom and cause of financial trauma
Addressing the "Got It Out The Mud" Mindset
Recently I was asked for feedback on the ‘got it out the mud’ mindset and how that ties into financial trauma.
See nepotism: - nep·o·tism - the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives, friends, or associates, especially by giving them jobs.
Somehow the devaluing of credibility, experience, and expertise of others is easier when we know that they had help. We hear the stories of those who received a loan, an inheritance, or were put in a position to be successful via education or some role at a company.
My story is not unique. The odds in so many instances have been statistically against me.
I’m the product of two teenage parents
I grew up experiencing poverty
My parents didn’t have a college education
I was less than one degree of separation from gang violence
So when *I* discuss poverty and overcoming, I’m telling the story of my life not to glorify it, but to demonstrate what’s possible for someone to beat those odds. But my success is also tied into a lot of sacrifice, pain, sometimes resentment, and a pressure to perform for myself, my family, and my greater community at large. It’s also the result of an intangible or spiritual form of nepotism where relatives, friends, associates, teachers, coaches, etc. have breathed life into me, my potential, and my dreams.
Although I may joke with a line from the famous Drake song “I started from the bottom now I’m here,” there never truly was a bottom for me to start from as I stand on the shoulders of those who sacrificed and came before me. I don’t believe anyone is truly self made, some just apply what is it they were given in different ways.
Status Does Not Equal Wealth
When we look at this fascination with achieving status we tend to automatically assume that someone is doing well financially. They make an effort to be seen—in designer, in the foreign cars, on vacation to exotic locations, drinking expensive alcohol, etc. The portrayal of success via these elaborate demonstrations become exponentially more impressive when tied into this narrative of having started from nothing or ‘getting it out of the mud’, which can entice onlookers to wonder what did they do to get all of that?
It feeds a fantasy lifestyle that also makes those onlookers prime targets for being taken advantage of through the lifestyle marketing into doing whatever needs to be done to make that fantasy a reality.
Behind the scenes however, that status may not be tied into real wealth—that is, wealth already present. The wealth comes from those who will willingly hand over their own money to fund these lavish lifestyles in an attempt to emulate or achieve them for themselves.
The Nepotism Baby
Curiously, those who didn’t necessarily start from the bottom are met with a sort of disdain. They are deemed “unrelatable” and terms like “trust fund baby” or “born with a silver spoon” are used as insults rather than celebratory feats. Curious because of the simultaneous fixation on concepts like generational wealth that are also used as marketing ploys to instigate action via the purchasing of complex financial products not backed by an awareness of how it works or how to use them, buying into coaching/mentorship programs, courses, etc to be the person who changes the trajectory of wealth in their family forever—And that’s not to say that none of these items have a place or are ineffective by default but moreso that the marketing of this term to gain clients is predatory given someones experience and urgency in escaping it.
This disdain for the ‘nepotism’ baby makes hypocrites out of us in this instance because how can we champion generational wealth and turn our nose up at it at the same time?
From Rags To Riches
The rags to riches story of success is impactful because it creates a path for someone who is currently struggling, or has always known struggle to be successful in their mind. Because we often don’t see in our own communities the passing down of wealth through inheritance, life insurance, and real property, we can’t connect to that experience and therefore dissociate from it. Accepting that instances like those “are not for us” and therefore we must follow the path of those who demonstrate that they are indeed like us. But what happens once they arrive and we don’t? Do they then become the subject of our criticism?
I think about the viral success of my article on Ja Morant recently. How 28,000+ people viewed that article and how so many more chose not to because it didn’t fit the narrative they wanted to believe. I watched as people tore into his character under the guise of “concern” and made fun of the media’s chastisement of him, when the reality is likely that they were envious.
And whether his success came from a place of privilege or hustle (or both) many felt entitled to making judgments of his character based on what he has and what they do not.
The Glorification of Struggle
We glorify struggle because struggle is what we know. But the perpetuation of that struggle—and it’s overcoming— is also the infliction of financial trauma onto generations to come who feel they have to look, act, and experience a certain way to be taken seriously.
It invalidates the sacrifice and prayers of our grandmothers and our mothers. The back breaking labor of our fathers. The pain of fragmented families, empty bellies, and survival techniques passed on from generation to generation. My grandfather use to say “The Struggle Continues” as a metaphor for life and so acknowledge struggle, but we don’t glorify it.
As a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI®), Registered Financial Consultant (RFC®) and Accredited Financial Counselor candidate (AFC®) I have the skills you need to improve your knowledge, relationship, and behaviors around money. I help you overcome financial trauma and accomplish your financial goals.
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Thank you always,