This story is a part So, moneyan online community dedicated to financial empowerment and advice, led by CNET Editor at Large and host of the So Money podcast, Farnoosh Torabi.

Social media tells me I’m not #fearless enough.

After a few minutes of scrolling through Instagram posts, I’m told, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

How rude.

Financial fears are a topic that my So Money listeners have been asking about regularly over the seven years I’ve hosted the podcast. If they want to know how to ask for a raise, it’s because they’re afraid to discuss their accomplishments with their boss. If they decide to leave their jobs, it’s because they fear economic uncertainty. If they don’t know how to approach finances with their partner, it’s because they’re afraid to start an argument.

Fearlessness suggests that you can let go of your fears, including money worries. But with all the psychological and social implications of the pandemic, more experts on my show are discussing the connection between money and mental health. Fear, they say, shows itself for a reason. And they agree that it’s worth being patient with what we feel.

Anxiety isn’t something we should pathologize—it’s actually normal and necessary, according to Dr. Ellen Vora, author of The Anatomy of Anxiety. She described our society as “emotion-phobic” because we view emotions like panic or grief as burdens to be blocked. Except that sometimes anxiety tells us something important about our personal lives, our values, or the world around us. “It’s really here to say, ‘Hey, slow down.’ Shut up and pay attention to it,” Voro told So Money earlier this year.

She is right. Ignoring emotions about money can be costly. If you’re only focused on not being afraid of your expenses, you can skip ahead and suffer the consequences of being in the red later. Or if you refuse to face your fears about budgeting, you can just shove your bills in a drawer out of sight, all the while incurring late fees.

When we don’t address our financial fears, it can lead to avoidance and extreme behaviors like overspending, said Chantel Chapman, co-founder of an online financial literacy program called Trauma of Money, on my podcast last month. She said it can also prevent us from taking any financial risks at all, including important ones like investing for retirement.

Roxanne, a So Money listener, recently wrote that she is afraid of losing everything. She grew up “broke” and never made more than $30,000 a year until she built a successful business 15 years ago. However, even though Roxanne had accumulated more than $1 million, she worried that she could not support herself. “No matter how much I procrastinate, I don’t feel safe enough,” she explained. “Why do I still feel like I could blow it all up and go back to square one?”

My advice to Roxanne was to explore her fear and ask key questions about what he might be telling her. The exercise can help her, and anyone else facing their own financial fears, take the next right step.

Find the roots of your money fear

The first question has to do with the history of the origin of your fear: is it an inherited fear?

Fear tends to come into our lives because of outside influences – our families, cultural expectations, and social pressures. For Roxanne, her fear of scarcity stems from her experience growing up in poverty. Because money is equated with safety, security, and value in our society, people who have been economically marginalized often struggle with financial trauma. But is it fair to believe that Roxanne will repeat the financial reality of her childhood when she couldn’t control her money?

Maybe – life has a way of throwing us curve balls. But the truth is that as an adult, Roxanne has made a lot of smart money decisions and has managed her finances extremely well. If she can focus on acknowledging and appreciating her efforts and successes today, and continuing to use the tools that have gotten her through, she can begin to address some of her worries about financial loss.

Chapman said that when certain thoughts arise around fear or shame, it’s best to pay attention to what’s happening and come into the present moment so you can interact more clearly with your finances.

Walk through the worst case scenario

When you start worrying about anything in life, from paying your medical bills, mortgage payments, and childcare to saving for retirement, my advice is to be specific. What exactly are you afraid of?

In describing her anxiety, Roxanne spoke in abstract words such as “shave” and “lose everything.” Sometimes regulating your emotional response means going deeper into the darkness, like imagining losing your home in a fire or having to sell your business. This exercise is not meant to cause more anxiety, but to help you better analyze the current strengths and weaknesses in your financial life and take an appropriate inventory of what you need.

Take action

After imagining the worst-case scenario, the next question arises: What can I do to feel less afraid and more empowered and secure?

Let’s take a common fear related to the economy: dismissals. Although the thought of being out of work for six months is stressful, when faced with the possibility, you may realize that you actually have more than enough savings to support yourself. Or you may find that you’re going to have a significant financial shortfall, so to be better prepared, you’ll start cutting back or start a side gig to supplement your savings.

Money or anxiety can push you to have a healthier relationship with your finances. In that case, the next best step may be to work with a financial coach or financial therapist.

I can’t tell you how many times guests have used this exercise as a catalyst for change in their financial lives. As Voro said, “mental health issues don’t mean we’re broken. It’s that we’re responding appropriately to a set of incredibly difficult circumstances.”

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