I unashamedly love watching America’s Next Top Model. To me, it’s not mindless entertainment. I have learned a lot from Tyra Banks’ timeless wisdom over the years (although I still haven’t perfected “smizing”) and from watching the contestants talk to themselves in their confessionals. It’s easy to see the patterns because the formula for how ANTM picks its contestants always stays the same: they pick stereotypes.
There was always the one who struggled with doing “girly” things (yet wanted to be a model). There was the one that struggled with her age. There were others who thought they were too heavy, too thin, too short, too tall, too pale, too weird-looking, too foreign.
And every model thinks that, of all the models, she was the one that fit in the least.
I always wanted to take them all home with me and tell them, can’t you see that everyone else is as insecure as you? But I don’t think the ladies would believe me. The producers don’t feed these stories to the women; instead, the producers pick women who have these stereotypes deeply ingrained inside themselves.
At some point in their lives, these women had interpreted things about themselves based on their situations. And no matter how wrongly they had interpreted the previous set of circumstances and no matter how things had changed since their initial investment, they keep looking for facts to confirm these ideas to themselves. This is known as confirmation bias.
So the lady who thinks she only likes boyish things – that has become her identity no matter whether she actually still likes stereotypical masculine things or not. It doesn’t matter that she is trying to become a model, which is one of the most stereotypical feminine activities ever after, say, giving birth. She is, in her mind, boyish.
And perhaps it wouldn’t matter if this belief wasn’t holding her back. But she tells herself that she can’t wear a dress, which is a big problem if you’re a model. She can’t have long hair. She can’t even act the part of a pretty lady in photographs, which, again, are basics of the job of being a model. These are thoughts that come from the past but they’re ruining her present and her future.
I remember listening to a woman talk about manifesting success and I was ready to tune out. She said, she was manifesting a call from Oprah to be on her show. (eye roll). But then she said something that made her belief seem normal.
She said that she had spent years creating a great product, a great company, a great story, and that she had applied to be on the show and had been networking with the producers. It wasn’t like she was sitting on her couch dreaming of being on the Oprah show – she had put in a tremendous amount of legwork to get on the show and, when she basically had nothing left to do, she was thinking good, positive thoughts. Any bit of further contact she had with the producers or anyone connected with the show, she kept this thought in her mind – I’m going to be on this show. And what do you know, she got on Oprah.
I don’t want to get all hippy-dippy on you, but I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that you’re more likely to achieve your dreams if you believe you can and you’re less likely to achieve your dreams if you believe you can’t. Both Ms. Manifesting and Ms. Tomboy Model both had the raw skills it would take to achieve their dreams. But one of them used her thoughts to move herself forward while the other used her thoughts to hold herself back.
And now, how this applies to money.
I can tell you all sorts of reasons I would be bad at money.
I never had any financial education in school. My personality type makes me a likely victim of financial abuse and overindulging. I’m a minority woman. I like being generous. I didn’t grow up rich.
I could tell myself all these things, which are all true, and come to the conclusion that I am bad at money. In fact, I could believe that I have to be bad at money and there’s nothing that I can do about it.
But I could also look at some other facts. I have very simple tastes. I don’t “get” FOMO. I have good financial role models. I earn a salary that far exceeds what I need.
So what happens if you have a bad story? I think the thing to remember here is that we are all telling ourselves a story, every minute of every day. I’m this kind of person. I’m not that kind of person.
Maybe these stories are based on past events. Maybe they’re aspirational. Maybe people have told you things and you believed them. Maybe you think you’re like your family or your spouse or a certain TV show character.
The important thing to realize is that 1) the story you tell yourself might not be true and 2) the story you tell yourself can change. Maybe you were a big spender before, but you aren’t necessarily a big spender now and you don’t have to be a big spender in the future. Maybe you were a responsible kid, but that doesn’t mean that all your decisions now come from that same responsibility framework.
So I would question the stories you make up in your minds. You can ask if the stories are rooted in truth, but perhaps the more important question to ask is are they serving you. I have this belief that I’d rather lie to myself to get what I want then to tell myself the truth and miss out. The dirty secret of Asian American success is that everyone expects Asian Americans to succeed. Asian American C-students become A-students merely because the students are inundated with the belief they will succeed. (Based on this, I’m wary of all the reporting on minority underperformance because I think it’s creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure for other minorities).
Are you good with money? Don’t look at your bank statements. Tell yourself you’re good with money. Think of the reasons that you should be good with money. Envision yourself being good with money. Envision everyone believing you are good with money and watching you. Create the story that you are good with money. Then act like you’re good with money. See what happens.