I was talking to a family member last fall about an issue that had been causing her a great deal of anxiety. She was paying for a necessary service, and she had the option to either pay smaller, monthly amounts or one big ol’ chunk annually. She had chosen the latter, and in describing how she felt when this huge payment came due, she said, “Really, I’m generally a very happy person. It’s just this one thing that really stresses me out; I feel so much anxiety over this payment every year.”

Digging a little deeper, I learned that the choice to pay monthly or annually was entirely up to her–no one was mandating that she choose one or the other–and the only difference between the two was that the monthly payment incurred a $2 per month charge. So, over the course of one year, she would be spending an extra $24.

Twenty-four dollars over the course of an entire year.

Me of three years ago would have nodded in agreement with this “logic,” affirming her sentiment of “I’m not giving away my money like that–not when I can just pay in one lump sum. They’re not going to take advantage of me!”

Um, okay. So, let’s look at this from a slightly different angle. A stressor, which the person experiencing it is describing as a major obstacle to feeling generally happy and content with their life, is not worth $24 per year to alleviate.

After this conversation, I actually excused myself to go to the bathroom and furiously scribbled the details in my journal, because I did not want to forget this wonderful little learning opportunity. For most of my life I have chosen saving money in exchange for peace of mind or joy, and hearing these words come out of my relative’s mouth, and seeing how they were echoed in the lives of so many of my family members, it became clear that this is something that has been modeled for me since day one.

Who cares if you’re a miserable, nervous wreck? It’s better to save $2 a month!

From where I’m standing now, there is no amount of fancy math that could make this sensible. The only way this calculation makes sense is if loving myself is not a part of the equation.

But loving myself is the equation.

Who cares if I’m saving $2 a month if I treat myself like crap?

And it’s also interesting to note the other belief that is playing into this calculation: Other people are always out to get me. If I believe this, then I go around looking for all of the ways that people are trying to take advantage of me. And sure, those situations do exist, but with this belief, I’m seeing them everywhere.

And that’s my choice. No one is forcing me to look at the world this way.

I can choose to see the charge as a $2 sign that I’m being taken advantage of.

Or I can choose to see it as a happiness surcharge: For the low, low price of $2 a month, I can stop worrying about this hellish annual payment. Sold!

And through all of this, it also became clear to me how often we already know the answer. We just don’t want to hear it.

This person already knew how to alleviate her anxiety. She just didn’t want to challenge her beliefs about her own self-worth, money and value, and the motivations of others.

Give yourself permission to pause and listen to yourself.

Do you already know the answer?