Never Let Debt Define You

By Shannon McNay on in Category Debt
Never Let Debt Define You

When I was suffering with credit card debt, I felt like it defined me to the core.

Every decision I made was impacted by the debt. Should I apply for that job? Mmmm…better not. It’s too risky to even consider a career move when I’m still paying off debt. Should I go home for Thanksgiving? Hmmm…would be nice but that’s money that I need to pay the debt off. Should I buy that slice of pizza? Well, it’s only $3, but wouldn’t that be better to apply to my monthly payment – I mean, what if I keep buying $3 slices of pizza?

No question was too big or small for me to relate it back to my credit card debt. It felt like my life wasn’t even my own. Instead, my life was owned by credit card debt, indebted to that horrible little card and with nothing to show for it. Everything felt like it had to be on pause until the debt was gone for good.

That’s seriously no way to live life.

Note that I chose the word “suffering” when describing my affliction with credit card debt. I chose that word because that’s exactly how it felt: like I had a painful disease that I knew the cure for but couldn’t seem to get my hands on. And that suffering defined me for a long time.

But it didn’t have to. Here’s how you can avoid the mistake that I made – a mistake that led me to a great deal of pain and frustration – and never let debt define you.

What It Means to Be Defined by Debt

If you have debt yourself, you probably don’t need me to explain what it means to be defined by debt. Nearly everyone who has debt hanging over their heads can feel this way from time to time.

But it is so, so unnecessary. And it makes the pain of debt a lot worse than it has to be.

Here’s the thing: if you feel like I did, like you can’t make any decision without it impacting your debt, then you’re letting it define you. If you feel like you want to keep your debt a secret from the world, then you’re probably letting it define you. If your debt is the most pressing issue on your mind all the time, then you’re probably letting it define you.

If you feel like debt is a black cloud that follows you everywhere you go, then you’re probably letting debt define you.

Here’s what happens when we let debt define us: we lose ourselves to the debt. But why? We were fully fledged humans before the debt, we’ll be fully fledged humans after the debt. So why not act like fully fledged humans during the debt?

Yes, debt can be so overwhelming that it can take over our every thought. But that’s no way to live and that’s certainly no way to beat it. No matter how much debt you have or how much stress it brings into your life, it’s still just a part of your life. It is not your whole life, it is not reflective of who you are. It’s something that’s happened in your life – and you can either succumb to it or beat it. But if you let it define you, you’re already in the process of succumbing to it.

So what do you say, why not beat debt instead of letting it define you?

Why Changing Your Perspective Is the Key to Debt Payoff

It took me a long time to pay off my credit card debt – much longer than it needed to. And I didn’t start making real progress on my payoff until I changed my perspective.

The day I decided to stop being a victim to my debt was the day I created my winning debt payoff plan.

When I was feeling overly burdened by my debt, when I was letting it define me, I wasn’t thinking clearly about it. My emotions were guiding everything I did (and didn’t do).

But when I took a step back and looked at my debt as something outside of me, something that’s in my life but that doesn’t define who I am, then I was able to think logically enough to create a plan of attack.

Thinking logically about debt as much as it’s possible to do so is crucial. It’s what can help you view the situation as something you can overcome, not as a hopeless thing that you’re fated to for the rest of your life. Once you realize that you can overcome debt, then you can figure out how to beat it.

For me, that came down to changing my focus from feeling bad about myself to attacking my debt monster with every tool I had. I looked at the situation with new eyes and realized I could find ways to decrease my interest rate and increase my income – and then I created a new bill payment schedule that would keep me focused on an accelerated payoff path. Through this, I was able to pay my debt off months earlier than my new plan even dictated.

And then it was gone – and I never had to even come close to feeling defined by it ever again.

You Too Can Achieve Freedom from Debt

Do you want to break free from the chains of debt? First you have to remove the chains you’re putting around yourself when you let debt define you. Then you can think clearly and create a plan to pay it off once and for all.

Debt never has to be insurmountable – all it takes is logical thinking, targeted and focused planning, and a relentless pursuit of the goal. These are things we’re all capable of, you just need to find the fight within you to make it happen.

And then you too can achieve freedom from debt – and never let debt define you again.

About the Author

Bio: Shannon McNay is personal finance writer who loves to talk about the emotional side of personal finance. Her work has been published in Business Insider, DailyWorth, ReadyForZero, and more. Learn more about Shannon at

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