How Money Can Serve As Self-Reflection

Leisa Peterson discusses what it means to be a mindful millionaire and to use your money to reflect how you feel about yourself. 

Leisa Peterson
6-minute read

While it has probably felt like your financial challenges and frustrations are about money, money is rarely the real issue. Instead, the problem is your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about money. The common thread running through them all requires you to look inside yourself to understand them, so you can identify the inner conflicts that are causing the outer frustrations. For many, this may feel like you’re taking a giant leap into the unknown, because it’s the opposite of how you’ve been trained to think. Normally, we’re told that if you fix your finances and create wealth for yourself, then everything will work out fine.

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As a certified financial planner (CFP®) who has worked in the money business for over twenty-five years, I saw how traditional money management solutions work for some but not for everyone. During my career I’ve witnessed countless people, myself included, struggle with the emotional aspects of money far more than the financial part. My suspicion is that many people know it has something to do with their past, and yet, without a guide or process to go through, it is just too intimidating to dive into. Then there’s the fact that, for many of us, we’ve got a ton of pain wrapped up in our money stories, which means we’d prefer to never have to revisit it.

For many of us, we’ve got a ton of pain wrapped up in our money stories, which means we’d prefer to never have to revisit it.

Unfortunately, avoiding pain is often the exact challenge that prevents us from improving our lives. And, if you’re like me and my clients, we were experts at avoiding unwelcome feelings that the past could bring about, especially regarding money. We’d rather have stood on our heads, chanted a gazillion mantras, and run a marathon than explore what was happening under the surface.

Yet living without uncovering the story beneath it all causes us to live with a lot more fear than when we understand and release it. The more fear we have, the more likely we are to live in one of two ways with money: either apprehensively or aggressively. When we’re apprehensive about it, money remains elusive and hard to come by, and when we’re aggressively pursuing it, even though we may earn a lot of money, that pursuit can be riddled with problems. In either case, our fears cause us to play life in such a way that prevents us from losing rather than truly thriving. This is why you can have all the money in the world and still be operating from a lack-oriented mindset.

Perhaps you’ve asked yourself the following questions and at the same time were afraid of their answers:

  • “What’s wrong with me that I can’t make my money work?”
  • “Why does it always seem so easy for others and so difficult for me?”
  • “Why can’t I stop worrying about money?”
  • “Why does it never seem like enough?”

The good news is that I’ve written The Mindful Millionaire for those of you who can relate to what I’m sharing. If you’re currently living paycheck to paycheck, feeling the pressures of having debt, and not sure how to turn your finances around, you’ll be learning new ways to shift how you think and act so you can you earn more money, get out of debt, and better manage your finances while feeling greater ease.

Or, if you’re doing okay with money but have found that no matter how much you have, your feelings of disappointment and lack of fulfillment won’t go away, you’ll be learning new ways to transform how you think about yourself so that you’re able to live with greater peace of mind and contentment.

To become a Mindful Millionaire does not require you to have $1 million but to feel like a million.

While you may or may not want to become a millionaire, it’s true that when you have a net worth of over $1 million, you are a millionaire, but let’s be clear: that’s all it means. To become a Mindful Millionaire does not require you to have $1 million but to feel like a million.

How you get there is up to you. The freedom that comes by knowing yourself and treasuring how you feel is better than having all the money in the world. Becoming a Mindful Millionaire is about having confidence in your ability not just to cope with the basic challenges of life but to thrive in any and all situations that come your way—with your money, your health, and even within your relationships.

The Mindful Millionaire book is not a magic pill. Nor is it a get-rich-quick scheme that is going to tell you how to become wealthy in no time at all, or how to solve all your problems by the time you finish the book. Instead, it’s a proven process you can carry out from the convenience of your home in about thirty minutes a day over the course of a few months’ time. While it is not easy, as long as you show up and do the work, you’ll be learning how to reinvent your financial future along with transforming how you feel about yourself.

How you feel about money is often a reflection of how you feel about yourself.

The reason this work can be life altering is because it helps you clear out the guilt, shame, and regrets of the past, so you change the running commentary in your head and feel greater confidence in yourself and your potential to create the life you really want to be living.

If you’re looking for a book that tells you to think positively and to visualize and affirm all the things you want in life, my book isn’t it. Research tells us that positive thinking alone is actually detrimental in most cases because it decreases your motivation to change your behavior [1]. Instead, The Mindful Millionaire is about digging into self-understanding—the “why” behind what you do with money—so you can consciously and proactively shift your behavior going forward.

How you feel about money is often a reflection of how you feel about yourself.

Excerpt from Chapter Two


Money has been given so much power that even if we try to ignore it, we can’t for long. It affects our relationships, our lifestyle, our health, our environment, and even how we think about ourselves. Many of us have placed it high on a pedestal, hoping that it will do us right. The problem is that money was never supposed to be given this type of power.

Money is a tool that was created to help us live in the world more easily. Rather than exchanging a cow for a horse for transportation, now we have money that gets us access to a car, as well as to
food. Something that was meant to be simple and straightforward has strayed far from its roots and has attached itself to our ideas of value, self-worth, and beyond. This has played with our heads quite a bit, including the fact that many of us believe that money is bad in some way. However, this simply isn’t true. Yes, it can serve as a reflection of the people and societies who are using the money—for better or for worse—but the “badness” of money is not inherent. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

Money, at its core, is about trust, the trust between human beings that says money is worth what we think it is worth based on the stability of the systems we created so we can cohabitate. To me this means money is the ultimate form of connection, love, and cooperation.

While the external value of money is what we pay lots of attention to, and what we can often idolize, it is the internal value and how we feel about it that carries even greater significance. Here again, the perception of money changes depending upon who has it. When money is used to support values and beliefs that are oriented toward service, cooperation, and growth, it reinforces a healthy and positive feeling about money. Conversely, when money is used to perpetuate fear-based beliefs or to manipulate or harm others, it results in negative feelings toward money. Not that this covers all the possible scenarios, but hopefully this gives you an idea of how money merely reflects the intentions of its users.

The process of understanding money and your relationship to it is far more complicated than most people realize. For that reason I am here to help you unpack what’s going on under the surface so you can get to the root of where your money challenges are coming from.

It’s not all that different from the process an arborist would use to understand what’s wrong with a tree. She knows that to understand why the leaves are turning brown she must explore what’s happening at the root level—especially because roots are vital to the health and longevity of the tree. In the same way, in order to diagnose what’s happening for us, we must dig deep into the roots of our money story to be able to transform it, reviewing and resolving whatever issues we find along the way that are diminishing our own vitality and longevity. We begin this process by understanding how our beliefs affect our roots, and vice versa.

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1. Gabrielle Oettingen, Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation
(London: Current Publishing, 2014).