Mrs YFG: how my poor self worth costs me £10,000 a year

I have no doubt that we could cut our expenses drastically if I felt good about myself.

I’ve added it up recently.

My poor self-worth costs me dearly.

Clothing

With time comes change, and that applies to my body and clothing preferences. I’ve aged and my stressful lifestyle leaves little time for the gym or for nourishing my body. I can’t eat too little at work as my brain needs food to sustain 12-14 hours of straight thought (imagine sitting an exam for that long each day, that’s how my brain feels).

I don’t fit in some of my clothes I used to wear at 21 and that makes me feel awful. I know instinctively that it’s just a piece of fabric and a label means nothing. But that doesn’t make your gut feeling change.

I find it difficult to go to the gym as I don’t like the way I look in gym clothing. I don’t deem myself acceptable for public consumption. I prefer to hide at home where I’m not judged (except by my spoilt pets).

Sometimes I feel bad about my body. I think “if I wore X my body might look better”. Or I don’t like the way I look in a certain outfit. I’ll buy X online, try it on, get disappointed and then look for the next outfit online.

I can easily spend between £100-£500 per month on clothing.

No item of clothing will fix my body image. No amount of weight loss will heal the negative thoughts which inhabit my brain. I know that. I’m working on it. But the social pressures are huge.

Skincare

I had clear skin in my teens and early twenties. Bring on long hours, hormone changes, stress and lack of daylight, and my complexion drastically changed. With this change came a frantic obsession with my appearance. Society tells you that you need to have clear skin, and sells you all types of fabulous remedies to solve any issue.

Let’s break it down per month:

Professional Facial: £90 a time (every few months)

Facial products with various promises: £100-£150

Cosmetics and makeup: £50 – £60

Supplements: £20

Prescription medications: £8

I have paid for laser thread vein removal (£180 a time), hair removal (£270 for a course per area), light therapy (£40 a time) and that’s just this year.

All in all, my insecurity costs me about £6,000 a year.

Time and wasted energy and tears over my appearance: priceless

Note: I don’t pay for haircuts or for manicures or any other beauty treatments other than my skin.

Perhaps that’s the point

No amount of money can make me feel good about my appearance. There’s even a saying for it: “Money can’t buy you happiness”. I’ll have to find that happiness from within. That might take a while. In the meantime, my self-worth is still costing me.

39 thoughts on “Mrs YFG: how my poor self worth costs me £10,000 a year

  1. I so admire you for sharing this. Poor self-worth costs us on all fronts, not just financially. So it’s a double sting when the spending that tries to buffer our pains not only doesn’t heal those tender points but it also costs us and our financial goals. Instead I would urge people to spend or rather ‘invest’ differently and find the support and guidance they need to dive in to those issues (rather than cover them up) and heal from the inside-out. Books, courses, coaches, counsellors – these are the investments that I believe create the lasting change and negate the need for those ‘buffers’ that don’t truly, deeply work. But as a coach I would say that… ?

    1. Hi Georgie – thank you very much for your comment. I agree- I end up sabotaging my financial future in the hope I can fix my present insecurities! I believe therapy is well worth the investment for some people.

  2. I have never been very susceptible to spending on clothes for work as I think I look far better in jeans and t-shirt than I do in office-wear (where I always feel I look as though I am playing dress-up in my mum’s clothes however much I spend). But I do shudder to think at what I’ve spent on skincare and make-up over the years, which is my weakness, It doesn’t help that I always seem to get compliments on my appearance on the occasions I try out a polyfilla-esque foundation. And when I don’t wear eyeliner I always get people asking me if I’m tired or ill!

    1. Hi FF. I have spent eye watering amounts on cosmetics and skincare over the years. It goes completely at odds with the rest of my lifestyle but the habit is so hard to break. Especially as a woman you know how hard it is to reject societal pressure to be the “best version” of yourself!

  3. Yowch, I’m sorry to hear that you feel the need to spend all that money due to lack of self-worth. But your clothing budget – wow!

    Your post made me realise that my £100/month gym/sportsclub membership isn’t so expensive after all as I spend very little/hardly anything on anything else to make me look/feel better.

    Working out and keeping fit gives me (body) confidence. Do I have perfect hair and perfect skin? Absolutely not, but I’m comfortable with it, just don’t feel that I have to be Instagrammable (I don’t have any account anyway, haha!).

    Would you consider working out at home? A couple of my friends were in a similar situation, hated gyms and were able to work out at home using DVDs etc until they were confident enough to join local womens’ exercise groups. They’re now really hardcore, doing things like Bootcamp, which is too tough for me!

    1. Hi weenie- yes, the amounts involved are ridiculous in context. I blog about FI and yet spend all this money (granted this is all I spend on). I tried to build a home gym but without spending a lot of money on equipment I wouldn’t get the same experience, and I feel I should force myself to go to the gym to confront my insecurities. I also do not enjoy exercise, I do it because I feel I have to lose weight to be acceptable or to be happy. It sounds sad but most of the women I know feel exactly the same!

  4. Brave of you to write this and quite saddening to read, MrsYFG. I don’t think you’re alone in your profession in feeling a lack of self-worth. You may not be ready for this observation – but most people are so self-obsessed that they truly do not pay anything like as much attention to us as we think they do. Once you are able to genuinely internalise that – it is wonderfully liberating in lots of ways.

    1. Hi gc66 — I agree: the issue stems not from what people think of me but what I think of me. I wish I could be like Mr YFG and not care about societal pressure or feel I have to be a better version of myself. Women feel this pressure a lot more than men and when you grow up with these messages thrown at you you start to internalise them. It’s hard to break out of this obsession, but doing this blog is helping me confront some of these issues.

      1. I agree, women are under particular pressure appearance wise (although men have others cf toxic masculinity). One thing that helped me a lot in my late 20s was changing my self-talk. I found “What to say when you talk to yourself” by Shad Helmstetter really helpful.

  5. This is rather a bold comment, but is some lifestyle change in order? I relate intensely to you, as certain years of my life yielded similar results due to professional stressors (2008-2009) or personal ones (2009-2011). In each case, when I was able to change the situation, my self-worth increased and the physical signs of stress (acne, illness, weight gain) decreased significantly.

    As a Type-A person myself, I have found that while I can easily ignore how I feel in my mind, my body forces me to pay attention. Usually, that meant I had to change some things about my life.

    During that period 2009-2011, I spent exorbitant amounts on clothes (sums I am still repaying today). I am glad that your spending is not adding to future suffering through debt, and as Georgie said, that you are acknowledging this so publicly. I suffered in silence, so your vulnerability is hugely inspiring.

    It is so nice to know I am not alone in having been through this. I hope that some relief comes your way soon…and again, thank you for your honesty.

    1. Hi there and thank you for your insightful comment. And yes of course a lifestyle change is needed, this is part of the reason I wanted to post this! I feel a lot of pressure to look a certain way, and this pressure is external and internal. I’m intelligent enough to know it’s all made up by advertisers and that the beauty industry makes a lot of money for a reason, but that doesn’t stop me. Insecurity is insidious and eats away at you and you want to try the next fix to try and make yourself feel better. I’m trying to accept myself and how I look rather than try to change it, as there’s kind of nothing wrong with me! I’m hoping as I get older I will just care less.

  6. I second @greencat66. This was such a brave post. I see more of myself in it than I’m brave enough to admit! Another thing that bothers me is the TIME spent/wasted on all of this. The evening before an interview a few months back I was straightening my hair and trying on clothes: you know what the average man/high-self-esteem woman was doing? Reading through their notes and having a good night’s sleep.

    If you can find an activity that you enjoy that could be a gateway drug to more exercise. Anything active you enjoyed as a kid that you could start up again?

    1. Thanks Playing with Fire- I hadn’t thought of it as anything brave more something embarrassing: we write about FI yet I spend all this money on stuff I don’t need! I like exercise when I’m in the mood, but I’m often not in that mood or I’m feeling too down about myself to bother getting dressed and going out!

  7. Just to echo what everyone else has already said to congratulate you on being brave to both put this out there and also on being honest with yourself to be able to write it in the first place. I wonder if writing it down might be a small step to being able to face down those demons?

    The other thing that I, and I’m sure others, can relate to is your point about the key to unlocking it being in your head. When I’m happy I exercise, eat well and get enough sleep…and those things then contribute to keep me happy. When I’m not happy I do none of those things and add the fact that I’m not doing the to list of things to berate myself about.

    I have no solutions – but I can offer empathy!

    1. Hi Caveman thank you I agree you have to be happy to be able to practise self care, and if I’m low it is more difficult! I am an honest open person and don’t see the big deal with admitting this kind of stuff as I know I’m definitely not alone!

  8. Hey! Long time reader/lurker who enjoys how both of you write for completely different reasons!

    I agree with the sentiments above and feel it’s really brave to write this down.

    It feels from the outside looking in that the thing you value quite highly in your life (career/job) is actually impacting your health, well being and ultimately your happiness. 12-14 hour days aren’t the norm and it’s very difficult for someone to sustain that level of work without burn out or another area of their life having being impacted. I can only go by what I read but it looks to me as if you require a lifestyle change on a more dramatic level.

    I also think you should see exercise as a mental health fix and not a weight loss fix. Weight loss, body composition/posture and a bi product of how exercise makes you feel. For me personally if i don’t exercise I feel anxious and have self doubts similar to what you are experiencing. Exercise removes these and makes me feel far better about myself.

    I think your attitudes towards gyms is experienced by many. Your schedule also makes it incredibly difficult for you to get to a gym. I strongly recommend exercising at home. I personally do mostly body weight exercises or exercises with limited gym gear and have been able to maintain a lean physique while no longer having the barbell and excessive gym gear.

    Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Body weight exercises, HIIT can all be done with limited equipment. I promise you once you start exercising you will watch what you eat and everything else will improve as a result of this. If you want some tips to get started please do not hesitate to contact me.

    1. Hiya Ryan thank you for your comment. I agree that 12/14 hour days aren’t normal, but I work in a very abnormal industry and I’ve been used to it for years. I could move job but that will not fix a lot of my problems as most of them are controlled by my internal thoughts rather than my eternal environment. I agree though that I need to make more effort to exercise and get the endorphins flowing! I would rather do this in a gym or at home rather than a lunchtime at work. I will try to get back in the gym more in the new year!!

      1. Hi Mrs YFG,

        Amazing that you’ve written this down and put it out on to the internet… I’m not sure I’d have the guts to do that!

        Have to say I agree with Ryan, you know your situation far better than any of the commenters here of course, but going on what you’ve written it sounds like the main problem is the amount of hours at work, and although you say:

        “I could move job but that will not fix a lot of my problems as most of them are controlled by my internal thoughts”

        But internal thoughts are controlled by chemicals in your brain and body, exercise changes the type of chemicals that are flowing around, and your job is 12-14 hours a day which leaves little time for exercise, so indirectly it is actually your job that is causing these type of thoughts.

        Can you have it all, the job, the exercise, the healthy mind and body? I guess so but it would take a very special kind of person (Elon Musk 1 in a million type?!)

        I know for a fact if I was working those kind of hours everything else would go out of the window. I’ve done it for short periods of time in the past and it made me almost instantly miserable, which just goes to show how strong a person you are to stick it out for so long!

        You say you are not near FI yet but if you quit the job and cut your clothes etc spending by say 75% so only £2,500/year, which is still very reasonable and would buy you lots of nice things, that makes your required stash drop by £187,500… would that move the dial much on how close you are to FI?

        If not, I hope you find a way to balance the work/life/health stuff a bit better in your current job

        All the best and I hope you have a bit of R&R time over the Christmas period with Mr YFG and the pets 🙂

        1. Hi Firestarter thank you so much for your insightful comment and for sharing my post! I agree that you can’t have it all in that respect, and that’s something I have to just accept. I am trying to carve out time for myself to be kind to myself.

          I think my difficulty with just quitting (as you suggested) is that my job gives me purpose. It can negatively affect my life but right now I don’t know what else I would do instead! It gives me an intellectual challenge which keeps me happy, but I acknowledge it can deplete my quality of life. Part of my journey is working out what else I would do instead of my job: quitting would help me spiral downward rather than upward. What I really want is part-time (this job or a different one) and that’s my aim.

          In terms of FI I think if I cut out that spending yes that would definitely help as you say. Part of cutting out that spending is acknowledging this on this page! Mr YFG and I are aiming for “Fat FI” so to speak and so our FI number is based on a luxurious (by some standards) expense level. I could quit tomorrow and we would be “Lean FI” but again judged on a higher expense lifestyle than most people on this path. My aim is to keep my current salary, reduce my excess spending, and for us hit that Fat FI number! I can then decide what I want to do: keep going, quit, or go part time. Reducing my expenses will definitely accelerate that trajectory.

          1. I’m also a lawyer in the City and agree that the hours can sometimes get in the way of happiness. But like you I’m not sure what else I’d do. And not in a blinkered “I don’t know how to do anything else” way, but rather there isn’t another job I think I’d enjoy more that pays an actual salary. The only things I’d rather do are non-jobs that no-one’s going to pay you for, so the best compromise seems to be doing the well paid job that (most of the time) I actually quite like. I would also rather be doing it part time, but I feel like that isn’t really possible at my firm unless you can justify it by childcare responsibilities. At the moment my plan is to stay where I am, perhaps until I get to my “Lean FI” level, and then move to a firm with kinder hours to build up to my desired FI goal. But I constantly think about whether to just make that leap now.

          2. Hi Fretful Finance – thank you and wow I think we are very much on the same level! I’ve never seen a comment which speaks to me like yours does. I don’t know what other job could give me the mental workout I need where I am maximising the efficiency of my time: if I did the same job somewhere else for less pay per hour I’d be doing myself a disservice. If I did a different job which bored me, no matter the salary, that too would be inefficient and unappealing. I’m trying to find the right balance. Right now it makes sense to maximise a well-paid role(which I mostly like) and then like you say try to tone it down later on. I think part-time is a possibility where I am but as you say with no children you kind of have to beg to be given the flexibility! I’m going to head over to your blog and have a nosy around 🙂

          3. Totally empathise with you on many points there… I could probably quit my job right now and be fine (I’d stil have to work in some capacity but I could re-engineer my life quite a bit I would think) but I am just not sure any other situation would actually make me any happier right now. As much as I sometimes hate the commute and rat race in London, most of the time I really like working there, for example. If I quit to run a lifestyle business from my spare bedroom I am not sure if that would be actually good for me!

            FatFIRE sounds good, shoot for the stars 🙂 good luck again!

  9. Mrs YFG – if I can just recommend one book: The 4 Pillar Plan by Dr Rangan Chatterjee – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pillar-Plan-Relax-Longer-Healthier/dp/0241303559

    It’s straightforward advice for looking after yourself dispensed by an excellent communicator – covering exercise, diet, sleep and stress management. Chatterjee is a GP who was motivated by (a) the need for a more holistic approach to contemporary lifestyle problems (b) the dire need to make his recommendations fit into people’s (and his own) busy lives.

    1. Hi GFF I think that’s a great way to put it. A lot of women, like me, spend on beauty to try to not feel bad about themselves, rather than to make themselves attractive to others. I don’t give a damn about attractiveness, I just want to feel adequate!

  10. Hi Mrs YFG, this is very sad to read. It sounds like your job really has a negative impact on you, but please don’t internalise everything. Some of it will be externals!

    There is always a price to pay for a high-paying job, and I could never have paid it. In science/tech, nobody cares what you look like or what phone you have. I have never worn make-up for work. Once you start, then stop, that’s when people say you look ill. If you never started, that’s just how you look! But in your career, I think the requirements are a lot different.

    I hope you get chance to relax over Christmas. Best wishes 🙂

    1. Pendlewitch I agree entirely. Mrs YFG, it’s not you, it’s them! When you talk about ‘societal pressure’ I think that’s just the bit of it you inhabit…There are entire work sectors where women don’t have to wear make up or heels unless they really really want to (heels not exactly practical anyway if you are on your feet all day in health care or education sectors). In my sector (HE) there is very little weight put on external appearances, and I don’t wear make up or impractical shoes at work, ever. Maybe it also helps to be in the second half century to gain some perspective….certainly my biggest worry about my body is how it’s going to last another 30 or 40 years given that it’s already degenerating at the age of 50 something….it’s hardly going to be beautiful if I get to 80!
      12-14 hour day are also not helpful or healthy. But I guess you know that ;-).

      1. Hi RK – yes definitely I think if I worked as a primary school teacher or something I might feel very different! I suppose you just absorb what’s around you. I hope that with time I also care less and my 30s might bring a bit more perspective!

    2. Hi PW yes I’m unfortunately in one of those industries where women are expected to wear heels, blow dry their hair and wear makeup. Don’t get me wrong sometimes I want to do that, but it does make it difficult to accept your appearance “as is” and people think you’re ill if you don’t “put in effort”. The devil works hard but the beauty industry works harder….

  11. Hi – I would second what Ryan has to say. You’re always going to be up against it with a job like that. Hard to see it as sustainable, even in the short-term. If you can get out for a cycle, a run or a swim (or even a walk) I would be really surprised if that didn’t have a positive effect on your mental well-being. If you’re working 14 hour days its not really possible that you’re getting enough sleep either. Maybe get ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matt Walker out of the library to get an insight into the range of issues that insufficient/poor sleep can cause. Best of luck.

  12. @MrYFG – haha what are the chances!
    @PW – I’m in that sort of industry and have never had to wear make up either.
    @MrsYFG – as seems to be the case with mental health, its something to be managed rather than a problem to be solved – so stuff like exercise, diet, sleep etc. isn’t going to fix things but hopefully it may just tilt the scales in your favour a bit? best we can do to a certain extent?

    1. Thanks Rhino: yes, like a bad back, you have to try and do things that don’t aggravate your mental illness! I am working slowly to getting into a better routine.

  13. I’m a bit late on this, but want to add what a great post this is, and one that many wouldn’t be brave or honest enough to write. The other thing I really like is seeing the comments, and a constructive debate from so many women. I sometimes feel that the finance blog thing is rather dominated by geeky men (certainly the Monevator (n.b. a blog I love) comments feel like that) so it’s really refreshing to have a dialogue on subjects that are important to the ‘other 50%’.

    1. Hi and thank you for an insightful and kind comment! I try and aim my posts at the women in the FI community, as I agree it’s oversubscribed by geeks like my husband and software engineers!!

Have some thoughts or comments? Please share! (comments are subject to moderation and might not appear immediately)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.