Essential Self: A Touchy Feely Post About Accepting “the You”


Go grab your patchouli people because this is going to get a trifle New Age-y. But, while it is  not precisely a financial concept, it does form the underpinnings of my Journey to Financial Independence, and might even be able to help you.

The only concept to grasp really is the Essential Self. I think each one of us benefits from knowing the real, boiled down to the basics version of ourselves – warts and all. Once you know about your warts, you don’t have to accept them. You can hack them 🙂

My Essential Self, for instance, doesn’t work out. It doesn’t matter if I invest several hundred dollars in a gym membership to financially guilt myself into going to the gym, I just fall off the wagon after a few months. In the 33 years of my existence and after several false starts (I will have to tell you about my love affair with Veganism some time), I have never been able to make the “lifestyle change” that everyone insists is the only way to get a burgeoning mid-section under control. This wasn’t really an issue for me for most of my life because youth and body type meant that I was lucky enough to hover at a relatively healthy weight. Post-Baby Grasshopper, however, I was surprised to receive the squint eye from my personal physician, who insisted that I drop a few pounds. Well! What a conundrum for someone who knows she will weasel out of exercise if left to her own devices. Obviously, I had to hack my own personality.

For someone who is all about saving money, and is in fact writing a pseudo-financial blog, it’s a little embarrassing to confess that I am not money-motivated. Nor am I susceptible to peer pressure. While that is occasionally a good thing, it doesn’t really help incentivize myself with the carrots/sticks that work for others. I do like people though. And while I have no particular affinity for a crowd of humans, I care a great deal about the individuals in my life.

Through this rather tortured mental gymnastic I concluded that a personal trainer may succeed where other avenues have failed me. Someone who I could develop a one-on-one relationship with. More importantly, a person I am sure I would grow to like, who would not get paid if I didn’t go to the gym. It’s like all those action movies where the good guy doesn’t flinch when the baddies hold a gun to his head, but crumbles like baklava when his friend is threatened. Now, I’m no hero, but I don’t like hurting my friends, or their livelihood.

And, rather shockingly, it worked! Almost a year and a half later, I trot to the gym every week day and dutifully work out while enjoying some friendly chit-chat with my trainer.

Yes, it is EXPENSIVE. It is my single greatest outlay of funds per month. At $25 per half hour session and five times per week, it costs about $500 per month. Much muuuuuch more than the average gym membership. But I do not really spend any other money on myself during an average month, and could not tell you when I last bought myself something to wear. Instead, I view this as a long-term investment. If I have to spend $500 per month ($6000 per year; YIKES!) to avoid weight-related illnesses later in life, it is something I am willing to pay. Far better that I expend that money on the relatively pleasurable purchase of personal fitness rather than on medications, surgery, or long-term care. Sure, it is a little maudlin to think like this, but it is nonetheless realistic.

It is also worth continually experimenting to determine if your Essential Self has evolved. I do this by trying to task myself with working out – yoga – on weekends. But, more often than not, I simply don’t do it. Whatever the excuse I find – and some of them are extremely believable – it doesn’t shake the ineffable truth that I have not changed. I still require the incentive I have created around my relationship with my personal trainer to keep me exercising.

Now, your Achilles heel may not be getting yourself to work out, and that is surely not my only wart. But, knowing thyself, is the first step in the long journey to anywhere.

Socrates said that people make themselves appear ridiculous when they are trying to know obscure things before they know themselves. Plato also alluded to the fact that understanding ‘thyself,’ would have a greater yielded factor of understanding the nature of a human being.

I should mention that all my expenses come entirely out of my own earnings. Mr. Grasshopper is not expected to contribute to my lifestyle, and I am not expected to support his. Our compact is that we contribute heavily to our retirement accounts every month before we engage in any personal expenses. We try to live reasonably with what each of us has left in our discretionary funds for the rest of the month, but we are free to do with that money what we please.

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