Close to $15,000. That’s how much my low self-esteem cost me, anyways – not including my student loans (or my parents’ loans) for the $70,000 tuition at the expensive private university I chose for fear of being perceived as “dumb.” But that’s a post for another time.
For three years, I ran a successful college lifestyle blog called Haley Marie Blog. I initially started blogging as an outlet to talk about my mental health, but quickly fell into the trend of blogging about beauty and fashion I couldn’t afford. Fast forward three years, and my hustling had landed me dozens of national brand partnerships, hundreds of dollars’ worth of free product….and, oh yeah: about $15,000 in credit card debt.
After I heard the powerful story of how one millennial drove herself into debt trying to become an Instagram influencer, I felt inspired to share another side of the die: how poor mental health played a role in my debt story.
More and more people my age are acquiring debt – and more and more of us are becoming brave enough to speak out about it. And as someone who’s always seen herself as smart, responsible and capable, I get it: debt, especially credit card debt, feels like a shameful secret.
Especially when the reason you went into debt wasn’t because you were buying a house, or a car, or because you didn’t understand how a credit card worked, talking about your debt feels like admitting, “Hey, I’m stupid and can’t be trusted to spend my money responsibly!”
Well, here’s a newsflash for you: smart people have credit card debt, too. The average American under 35 carries about $6,000 in credit card debt. We all have, or have had, debt at some point in our lives.
In fact, that was part of the reason I couldn’t face my credit card debt for so long. I was a Dean’s List student, with a prestigious scholarship, attending an expensive private university. Admitting I had fallen into debt would have shattered the “smart girl” image I had spent so long trying to cultivate – which, funnily enough, was how I got myself into debt in the first place!
Personally, I feel that if more of us spoke out about the burden of debt and the role it’s played in our lives, fewer and fewer Americans would continue to spend above their means. So, let’s talk about my credit card debt – because I’m NOT ashamed of it.
To me, my credit card debt is a marker of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown as a person. It’s a slow-healing wound from one of the most difficult times in my life, mental health-wise. But it also transformed my self-esteem, the way I view myself and the way I relate to others.
By no means do I recommend getting yourself into debt as a self-help strategy – but as I’ve started to focus more on paying down my debt, I’ve become far more comfortable in who I am.
Rather than acquiring “things” to make myself feel worthy, every item I own is carefully curated to fit the life I want. I no longer hang out with friends who need me to spend money to fit in, but instead spend my time with people who love me the way I am.
My self-esteem contributed to my credit card debt, but my debt also contributed to my self-esteem. Low self-esteem cost me close to $15,000 – but learning to grow my self-esteem as I’ve dug myself out? Priceless.