(We’re dancing out a new monthly feature here at R2B. More on that in a minute, though. Keep on reading!)
I’m sitting here typing this with my feet kicked up on the sofa. It’s raining outside, and I’m in front of a bank of windows that let in a lot of natural light. They also allow for broad views of our pretty, tree-lined street. My front door’s flung wide so that I can hear the rain sound itself out against everything it touches while I work.
It’s a good life, and I’m incredibly fortunate to live it. While I’m doing that, though, there’s a frequent nag at my middle saying all of it will implode at any minute and leave me scrambling to piece everything back together.
What’s a poverty hangover, anyway?
As someone who lived well below the poverty line for a significant portion of my formative years, I have residual feeeels that color my successes. They employ a sobering voice saying some form of, “That’s not enough. You can’t rest in this.” At times that voice is shrill and gets my nerves cranking in the wrong direction.
For all the resourcefulness a childhood of lack bakes in, there’s a sifting of dread pounded into to the dough. Bri and I often talk about the things that childhood poverty does to adults in general and the ridiculous posturing it creates in us personally. Things like:
- Subconsciously feeling unworthy of foods more dietarily complex than ramen (ask us the two of us 50 ways to fancy that mess up, and we will triumphantly produce a list)
- The feeling that if you dare to take time off for yourself, you’ll pay for it in more ways than one
- Keeping worn-in underwear well into what should be the ‘retired’ stage of their existence
That mindset is your basic poverty hangover. It’s a residue that bobbing through your childhood as a poor kid leaves in the crevices of your brain. Coincidentally, it’s kinda hard to scrub outta there.
Poverty hangovers are reflexive and manifest in dozens of more ways. Severe resource rationing, food insecurity, anxiety surrounding money, the constant need to overperform, and undervaluing yourself professionally are some of them.
The best way I know to sum it up is this: A poverty hangover is being unreasonably self-tortured rather than reasonably self-regulating, due to a lack of material and financial resources that you’ve faced previously. It’s not a stretch to call it a low-simmer version of PTSD.
Your struggle now is your shine later.
That’s the hope, right? That everything tough life throws at you will hone you and make you both sharper and more empathetic instead of just grinding you down. I think that’s largely been my experience, and I hope it’s been yours as well.
Being sharper doesn’t necessarily equal being surer, though. Enter the Poverty Hangover Confessions.
True to the purpose of this website, both Brianna and I want to be transparent about the ways that coming up as have-nots affects us as professionals and informs the way we do things today. We plan to do that by hauling our poverty-related junk into the spotlight. Once a month, we’ll post up a Poverty Hangover Confession.
Sometimes these little blurbs will be funny. Sometimes they’ll be painful admissions. We hope, above all, that they’re relatable. Helping others feel less alone in their struggle while the shadow of have-nottery looms over them is valuable to us. So we’re gonna discuss it and what it does to our lives and businesses.
Bri and I suspect there’s powerful medicine in that. We’ll test that medicine because recovering from the hangover is one of our biggest mutual goals. Join us?