DebtSafe Blog

Reframe Your Thinking Retake Control: How to Shift Your Mindset for Financial Freedom 

Let’s face it: dealing with debilitating debt is overwhelming, and getting caught in a riptide of negative thoughts, feeling helpless, and losing sight of hope is super easy. In times like that, your mindset plays a crucial role; either an ally that helps you overcome the challenge or a saboteur that beats you down.

It’s true! How you think about your situation can significantly impact your ability to manage debt and achieve financial freedom. Today, we’ll explore two primary negative mindsets, how they can hinder progress, and offer practical tips to cultivate a more empowering and resourceful approach.

1. The Fearful and Helpless Mindset

Intense negative emotions like anxiety, fear, and shame characterise this mindset.

You often catastrophise, meaning you blow up potential negative outcomes and assume the worst. So, your mind is set on the worst-case scenario ALL THE TIME. That is exhausting! This mindset also makes you constantly dwell on past financial mistakes (all those could’vewould’ve, and should’ve). On top of all that, it makes you feel like a loser, leading to social withdrawal and isolation. 

If you are constantly battling the following, you might be stuck in a fearful or helpless mindset:

  • Emotions: Anxiety, fear, shame, frustration, anger.
  • Cognitive Distortions: Catastrophising (“I’ll never get out of debt”), dwelling on the past (“It’s all my fault, I should’ve done this… I could’ve done that…”). 
  • Behaviours: Withdrawal, isolation, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and extreme difficulty making decisions.

Why it’s not helpful to have this mindset on constant repeat:

  • It demotivates you into non-action, preventing you from taking necessary action to improve your situation. 
  • It enables isolation and secrecy, preventing you from seeing support or help. 
  • It hinders self-compassion and forgiveness, preventing you from learning and moving on from past mistakes. 
  • It can lead to self-destructive behaviour as a means to cope with negative emotions, which worsens your situation further, digging the hole much deeper than it needs to be. 
  • It can distort self-perception, preventing you from seeing your strengths, potential and worth.

Shifting to a Hopeful and Empowered Mindset:

  • Acknowledge your emotions: It’s okay – and entirely normal – to feel scared and frustrated. Validate your feelings without judgment. Whenever these emotions arise, try to observe them as if you are watching a movie. Like a movie, the emotions are separate in that they do not define who you are. 
  • Challenge negative thoughts: Ask yourself, “Are my fears realistic? What are some alternative perspectives?” We know this is a hard one to do, so we recommend the four questions by Byron Katie as a practical guide to bringing that change. In short, the four questions are as follows: (1) Is it true? (2) Can you absolutely know it’s true? (3) How do you react? What happens when you believe that thought? (4) Who would you be without that thought? Please go check it out; this approach will help you turn those negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself around. 
  • Focus on what you can control: You can’t control job loss, inflation, or loadshedding, but you can control your actions. List down things you can influence, like budgeting or upskilling.
  • Seek support: Talk to trusted friends, family, or a debt counsellor for guidance.

By acknowledging your emotions, challenging negative thoughts, and focusing on your control, you regain a sense of agency and hope. This mindset empowers you to take action, do your best without judgment, and move towards a brighter financial future

2. The Overwhelmed and Stuck Mindset

When this mindset is predominant, you might engage in all-or-nothing thinking (fuelled by perfectionism), believing you are either a complete financial failure or destined for success with no middle ground. This distorted thinking hinders your ability to make sound decisions and leads to procrastination and avoidance. You might dodge important financial tasks like budgeting or seeking debt assistance, feeling paralysed by the situation’s complexity. 

If you are constantly battling the following, you might be battling with an overwhelmed and stuck mindset:

  • Emotions: Frustration, anger, depression, hopelessness.
  • Cognitive Distortions: All-or-nothing thinking (“I’m either a success or a failure”), perfectionist.
  • Behaviours: Procrastination, avoidance, difficulty making decisions.

Why it’s not helpful to have this mindset on constant repeat:

  • It leads to paralysis, where you are so overwhelmed by seemingly insurmountable challenges and details that you cannot take action or even make a decision.
  • It makes you despondent or defeatist. Ironically, thinking the battle is already lost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: This stops you from looking at the situation rationally and severely hinders your problem-solving capability. 
  • It promotes harsh self-criticism, where any perceived mistake or setback triggers self-loathing, leading to further avoidance.
  • It discourages you from seeking help. The fear of being judged as inadequate or failing to meet unrealistic expectations can prevent you from getting professional support or accessing valuable resources for managing debt effectively.

Shifting to a Resourceful and Proactive Mindset:

  • Reframe negativity: Replace negative thoughts with more empowering statements. Instead of “I’ll never succeed,” try “This will take time and effort, but I’m determined to make progress.” Once again, we recommend the four questions by Byron Katie as a practical guide to achieving this powerful mindset change.
  • Focus on What You Can Control: Don’t dwell on things outside your control. Make a list of what you can control; start small and attend to something on that list. One step at a time; your focus is on effort and progress, not perfection or outcome.
  • Replace perfectionism with effort-focused resilience: Embrace the learning process by viewing setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. Remember that setbacks and failures are not a testament to your character but rather impersonal and natural parts of the learning process. 
  • Practice self-compassion: Be kind and understanding towards yourself. Everyone faces challenges. Treat yourself with the same encouragement you would offer a friend in a similar situation.

By incorporating these steps, you cultivate a resourceful and proactive mindset, replacing defeatism with a belief in your ability to take control and make progress, one step at a time, towards financial freedom.

We all struggle with these mindsets – be it one of them or both – at some point. And they can become a vicious cycle, distorting how you view yourself and your challenges, unable to see your strengths, resilience, and ability to overcome these challenges.

Try your best to counter the negative mindsets with ones that build you up, encourage you, and allow you to attend to what is needed to tackle your financial challenges. Remember, that’s all you can do, and that’s all you control. Over time, negative thoughts will quiet down while encouraging one’s begin to roar.

In time, you will have developed a mindset that is a powerful ally on your journey to achieving financial stability and freedom.

If you are in a mental space where you are ready to tackle your finances but need help figuring out how to do that or where even to start, then this blog is for you. It provides a practical step-by-step guide to help you take control of your finances.

At DebtSafe, we understand the emotional toll of debt, and we’re here to help you find the debt solution for your financial freedom and to do it with compassion.  
Together, let’s break free from the cycle of debt and build a brighter financial future.
Contact DebtSafe today for a free quote and take the first step towards financial freedom.