How to move past the guilt of self-investment

The phrase ‘invest in yourself’ gets thrown around a lot, especially around New Year. For many of us, it conjures images of making decadent purchases that promise to change our lives. Marketing teams don’t help matters by latching onto this idea and hoping by phrasing a purchase of their product as an ‘investment in yourself’, you’ll be more likely to buy it.

Woman looking thoughtful

So before we get into the idea of losing the guilt that can come with investing in ourselves – let’s unpack what investing in yourself really is. Investments can come in various forms. It may be an investment of money, but it may also be an investment of time and energy. 

At its heart, I believe investing in yourself is all about investing in your personal growth. This could be dedicating time to listening to a self-help podcast or hiring a coach (and everything in between). In an ideal world, these investments should be internally motivated – i.e. they should come from a deep desire from yourself to change, not as a reaction to targeted marketing or you not feeling ‘enough’. Understandably then, these particular investments can be tricky to navigate emotionally. 

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As Emily Wysock-Wright notes in her article, why you should invest in self-improvement, for many there is a sense of shame when asking for help. 

“Many women, and men for that matter, can feel shame in asking for help. Whether the shame comes from a fear of being vulnerable, fear of disconnect or fear that they are being judged for ‘failing’, this deep-rooted feeling of shame is the very breeding ground which we have created within ourselves in order to protect us. What we need to understand is that by fearing judgment and vulnerability, we are blocking our personal path to wholehearted living and inner love and fulfilment.”

Some of us may even believe deep down that we don’t deserve to invest in ourselves. Or perhaps, we let pride block our path as we defiantly say ‘I can do this alone’. It may be that we’ve picked up limiting beliefs around the subject of money and therefore we can’t bring ourselves to spend it on ourselves, even if we can afford it.

How we can move past guilt

Whatever form it comes in, any guilt or shame you feel when it comes to investing in yourself is likely to be holding you back. If there’s an area in your life you’d like to work on, whether it be your confidence, your career or even your spirituality – some sort of investment (whether time, energy, money or all three) is likely to be needed. 

Personal growth takes work, and getting support is key. When you know what it is you want to invest in, work your way through these steps to help you move past guilt. 

Identify your guilt’s roots – where is it coming from?

Sit down somewhere quiet with a notebook and pen – close your eyes and take some calming breaths. Try to bring these feelings of guilt to the surface and question them, where is this guilt coming from. Try journaling about this and see if you can unpick where your guilt might be stemming from.

For a lot of us, limiting beliefs stem from childhood where perhaps we picked up behaviours and actions from our parents (or other authority figures). For example, if your father drilled into you that your family doesn’t have enough money to get by and can’t buy ‘frivolous’ things, this can seep into your unconscious mind. This could mean that now, even though you’re an adult and earn good money, you still don’t feel comfortable spending it on non-essentials.

Once you’ve identified the roots of your guilt, ask yourself if they’re true now. The chances are, they’re probably not. Once you’ve questioned their validity you might find it helpful to create an affirmation or mantra to help reprogram your thinking.   

List the benefits for you

The next step is to really get to grips with why you want to invest in this thing – whether it’s a book, a course, or working with a professional. Make a list of all the ways it might benefit you if you invest. Try to go deep here and think past the obvious answers, what impact will it have both now and in the future?

This list will help you identify your ‘why’ behind the investment and will serve as a reminder that this isn’t frivolous or unnecessary. If it’s important to you, it’s worth your attention.

List the benefits for those around you

Once you have your list of benefits, it’s time to think about the ways this investment will benefit others. A common reason we feel reluctant to spend time/money on ourselves is because it feels ‘selfish’ when in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Life coach Alison Muir explains.

“There is a reason why the safety briefings on an aeroplane instruct you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others – if you don’t do it you risk not only being unable to help others because you’ve run out of oxygen, but you may become a burden to others too. Investing in yourself is in fact the most responsible and caring thing you can do not only for yourself, but for everyone else in your life you care about.”

With this in mind, make a list of all the ways this investment into your personal development will benefit those around you. 

What are the costs of investing?

At this point it can be helpful to get a little practical and honest with yourself. What will it cost you to make this investment? The cost I’m talking about here may be money, but it may also be time and energy. This step may feel counterintuitive if you’re trying to overcome the guilt of investment, but it’s important if you want to get the most out of your investment.

Not all investments are created equal.

If buying a certain course puts you into debt, will it be worth it? If hiring a certain coach will involve hours of time and energy which you’re already low on, will it be worth it? Sometimes the answers to these questions will be ‘yes’. Other times the answer will be ‘no’ and you’ll be saved from making an investment that will ultimately leave you worse off. 

Here you can revisit your ‘why’ and see if there’s a different avenue to take to get what you need. Perhaps there’s a self-led course at a lower price point that won’t put you into debt. Perhaps you can find a different coach who is more flexible and can work with your schedule. 

What are the costs of not?

If you don’t make this investment, if you stay where you are – what will the cost be then? Think about how it may affect your life, your career, even your relationships if you don’t. Something that often helps me is to consider what my life would look like in five years if nothing changed. The only thing I fear more than change is, apparently, not changing.

Ask yourself the same question. If you never took any steps towards improving this area of your life, if you never invested in support, what would your life look like in five years? 

Hopefully the combination of all of these steps will leave you feeling clearer on what investments you want to make and move past any guilt you may be feeling about doing so. I’ll leave you with this beautiful quote from Mary Oliver to muse over, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Ready to invest in coaching? Use our search tool to find a coach that’s right for you. 

Article updated 21/02/2023

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Written by Kat Nicholls
Kat is a Senior Writer for Life Coach Directory and Happiful magazine.
Written by Kat Nicholls
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