Confidence through Self Reliance
Being frugal has taught me self-reliance. A sense of practicality became a “learn how to do-it-yourself” philosophy. Why pay someone else to do something if you can do it? I have made clothing, doll apparel, pillows, curtains, costumes, toys and teepees, sanded floors, painted and repaired walls, designed my house and garden, hand dug trenches, holes and garden beds, planted, pruned and landscaped my property while tending my vegetable garden with the satisfying benefit of fresh nourishing produce. As a child, I built play structures out of bark, snow, and scrap pieces of wood or any available material. Making things is fun. There is a sense of groundedness and accomplishment in knowing that I am capable of figuring things out, using my imagination and creating what I want. Self-reliance has served me well and given me the inner confidence to know that I can learn to do anything.
This self-reliant confidence along with a fascination with design took me through a span of jobs designing printed circuit boards, electronics, mechanical equipment, aerospace launch vehicles, and originating a landscape design business. My interest in psychology, spirituality, biology, the arts and people has cultivated my pursuit of creating a healthier and more humane world for all of us. Through following my aspirations, I journeyed with metaphysics, meditation, teaching children, facilitating adult vision retreats, workshops, counseling and therapy and found fulfillment in giving to others.
The Myth of Giving being Better than Receiving
What I have discovered is that frugality and self-reliance are not in opposition to generosity. Frugality is being thrifty, economical, prudent, and careful with resources. This quality has lost ground over the last fifty years and we can see this in our economy and care for our environment. One image that people may have is that if one is frugal then one is stingy but these are two different attributes. I was taught to depend upon myself and to be generous and giving to others. One story really sticks in my heart. Friends of my parents had a large family with thirteen children. Every time we went to their home, we were to take one of our toys and give it to them. That was hard when I was a kid because we didn’t have many toys and each one was precious. Yet, it felt so good to see the happiness the gift of my toy brought. What I learned was unselfish charity, “It is better to give than receive.”
It sounds like such an admirable truth and it shaped my life. Yet, there are consequences to thinking that giving is Better than receiving. Of course, giving to others is valuable and worthy. I give of my time and energy. I’m a good tipper, a generous gift giver and will happily spend money on friends and loved ones, give the “better” or “bigger” piece to another, give things away for free, give discounts and go overtime with my clients, do pro-bono work, think of others first and go out of my way to do for them and put my needs last. Being generous feels good and research confirms that giving to others enhances mental health, reduces stress, lends a sense of purpose and increases life expectancy. I won’t give up Giving. What I needed to ditch was putting myself last or forgetting my needs entirely. The attitude that giving is better than receiving cost me.
Being Needless and Wantless Creates Guilt and Shame
For a long time, I was reluctant to spend money on myself. Growing up, my family was not just frugal, but also quite poor. We were taught to do without and to be needless and wantless. Guilt would succumb me whenever I bought something for myself that was not a necessity. Somehow, it was not okay for me to receive. It showed up in big and little ways. Inside of me was a secret chamber filled with shame that I kept hidden. Judging myself, I would hide things I bought, which also meant that I was not enjoying their use. I had to justify my purchases, “it was on sale, someone gave me a gift certificate, I needed it for work, it will be useful.” It couldn’t be that I simply desired it. The shame would churn inside and eat me up. “Am I being irresponsible? Am I being selfish?” There was a lot of fear and worry that I locked inside.
“Without Giving there can be No Receiving and Without Receiving there can be No Giving"
Abundance in the form of being “given to” was not a part of my belief system. It was fine if it happened through work. I was self-reliant to an extreme. I would not ask for help even if I were sick. I would not pay for a service if I thought I could do it on my own. I wasn’t allowing myself to receive the joy of sharing abundance. What I now know for sure is that without giving there can be no receiving and without receiving there can be no giving. One is not better than the other. It is a balance. They go hand in hand. What I left out of the equation was Me. I wasn’t receiving the joy of giving to myself or allowing others to give to me. Deprivation is not a virtue. If I truly believed in an abundant universe then I needed to adjust my scarcity thinking. As I receive, I am filled and able to give in return and so are others.
I remember my Grandmother Dixie putting her finest and most cherished dress in the back closet only to be worn occasionally at very special times. Did those times ever occur? Not often…perhaps not at all. Am I going to put my life on hold or am I going to allow myself the joy of the abundance in my life? Letting go of guilt and shame about “having” nice things is such a relief. I’ve learned to take those clothes out of the back closet, wear my jewelry, use the china and “special” dishes, and purchase things for my home that delight me. I’ve decided to take trips to visit my daughter, my sisters and to go on outings with friends. I have realized that I am a resourceful and responsible person and will still be frugally cautious with my money. I can rely on myself and also ask or pay for help. With the consciousness of abundance, I have genuine gratitude for my possessions and have the ability to share my resources in Joy.