Under-Earners Anonymous

A lot of people call me a f***-up. One woman I dated called me a chronic under-achiever. I’ve never earned more than $50,000 in a year.

From TheFix: For those eye-rolling readers ready to dismiss compulsive under-earning as yet another wannabe addiction, listen up: compulsive under-earning is a disease with specific characteristics and a specific solution. It’s a way of using money (or lack, or fear of money) like a drug—a subconscious strategy for keeping yourself at zero, thereby avoiding taking full responsibility for yourself and for not facing life on life’s terms. “While the most visible consequence [of under-earning] is the inability to provide for one’s needs, including future needs, under-earning is also about the inability to fully acknowledge and express our capabilities and competencies,” the Under-earners Anonymous (UA) website reads. “It is about underachieving, or under-being, no matter how much money we make.”

Like all addictions, under-earning is cunning, baffling, powerful. And like all addictions, it’s toward death: a true pathology, based on shame and fear, that leads if nothing else to spiritual death, and in many cases—as with, for instance, people who are unable to bring themselves to see a doctor—actual death. Here’s under-earning at its starkest: I once heard a guy describe his job of 30 years—rodent exterminator. He said, “I’m maxed out on my credit cards, I’m in terrible financial insecurity, and I just don’t understand why my business keeps going down. I have the most reasonable prices in the market. I try to be kind to my clients, often spending a few extra hours talking to an old lady or a guy in a wheelchair.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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