money health weekly


Distorted Beliefs Can Negatively Influence Us


"Our core beliefs about ourselves and the world impact our mood, our behaviors, and our physiology."

-Mind Over Money, by Brad Klontz and Ted Klontz


Talking with a friend, he asks me what I do for a living. I tell him I work at the intersection of psychology and money, which kicked off a discussion about how the two are related. That leads to a conversation about apply mindfulness techniques to our finances and how it's beneficial to observe and feel our feelings without judgment, rather than try to push them away or ignore them.

Interested by that idea, he asks about our inner-critic. Specifically, he says he believes we all have an inner-critic that nags us to always do better. We have to embrace the critic, he believes. This is the critic that always tells him he's not good enough, he's not ready, things aren't going to work out, or he's not special - he just got lucky. He believes our goal in life should be to learn to dance with our inner critic.


I believe many of us feel this way, but I want to offer a different point of view. I do believe we all have an inner dialogue (well, not everyone). While it's true that our default setting is to partake in negative self-talk, with practice our inner-thinker doesn't have to be a critic.

Our Core Beliefs Matter

What and how we think matters. Our core beliefs impact our mood, our behaviors, and even our psychology. If we see the world in a negative way, we'll see things much differently than if we see the world in a positive way. These core beliefs act as the filter through which we see the world and how we see the world dictates how we react.

Distorted Beliefs

It would be one thing to simply say that our beliefs drive our behaviors and leave it at that. For most of us, some of our beliefs are distorted. Unfortunately, from our seat, we have no reason to think anything is wrong. When we carry around beliefs that are distorted, we can find ourselves under emotional distress and that stress is part of what leads to our problematic money behaviors.

It's important to note that this is not our fault and we don't do this intentionally. By showing examples below my hope is to bring awareness, not judgment.

Automatic Negative Thoughts

The belief that we have an inner-critic, or that our self-talk is usually negative, steps from something I've learned of as ANTS. ANTS stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts. That is, when something happens our first reaction is that something bad is happening. Often we can talk ourselves out of that after we think it through, but sometimes the negative thought is all we have. Negative thoughts feed the inner-critic and lead to negative beliefs. Negative beliefs lead to negative emotions and feelings like anger and fear. That, in turn, leads to survival mode; where we automatically engage in a fight, flight, or freeze response. Modern-day versions of this are criticism, eye-rolling, name-calling, pouting, leaving, ignoring, or changing the subject.

It's as though there are both positive and negative thoughts out there, but negative thoughts run a lot faster.

Once the negative thoughts get into our heads the door slams behind them. There is only enough room at one time for one type of thinking. Positive thoughts are left outside all alone - and we suffer because of it.

It's not just automatic negative thoughts that distort our view of the world. There is a concept called negative filtering, where our minds filter out all the negative aspects of what's happening in front of us. As a reminder, this is not something that we consciously do. When we look at a situation and only the negative enters our mind, we literally don't see any positive.