The Inner Bottom Line ® ..where Choices & Values meet

“Out There On My Own”

May 13th, 2015   •   no comments   

Dear Olive,

I like the columns you write, especially the recent one about how hard it is to get rid of stuff when selling a house. I’ve got the reverse problem. I’ve never been married and have been independent since college. I don’t collect stuff. I’ve done without a lot of things my friends take for granted, focused instead on saving my money with one goal in mind: to own my own place.

olive gallagher

Life Coach & Ethicist Olive Gallagher

A place just for me, on my own, door shut, away from the noisy world. I admit I missed a lot of fun including trips to Mexico and concerts I didn’t attend in order to have enough money to buy something. The problem is, being as stubborn as I am, I can’t seem to pull the trigger and buy anything. Every time I start to look online for a little house of my dreams, my stomach gets upset, my palms sweat and I walk away. I can’t commit to working with a broker because every time the conversation gets serious and they offer to get going, I freeze. What’s wrong with me? This is what I’ve dreamed about since I’m six but it alls feels bad instead of good. I live alone and work alone. I’m stuck in a rental apartment not sure what to do next. There’s no one I can talk to. Can you help? Sara

Dear Sara,

I’m so sorry you’re going through this. From your description, it sounds as if you feel isolated and alone in your life right now as you wrestle with this big topic and all the attached emotions. And that’s not an easy thing to do. With your heightened case of nerves, no wonder you’re having difficulty with moving forward.

So let’s deal with a few basic issues. First, commitment and anxiety. It’s often a horse and cart puzzle. Does your inability to commit to buying a home of your own come from a deeper source of anxiety than it appears or is it the other way around?

Along with commitment, I also suspect there’s another key, often misunderstood and troublesome element present: Control. You’ve been saving forever. Now, in contemplating paying for a home, there may be a yin/yang battle going on over letting the money go, spending it and reducing or eliminating the account and all those funds.

Whether this is about commitment, control and/or a whole bevy of other challenging issues, please know you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon to find myself dealing with prospective real estate clients who, while at first glance, seem completely committed to buying or selling their home, end up imploding in indecision or inability to commit or agree with one another on the basics. Given that buying or selling a home is one of the major decisions we’ll make in our lifetime, it makes sense that the mere prospect of spending a bundle and then taking on the responsibility for something valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars can be overwhelming, even on a good day when we’re feeling strong and filled with self-confidence.

So before we delve into that emotional landscape, let’s give credit where it’s due. Congratulations on doing such a great job of saving. And for having the strength and maturity to choose saving for a larger goal over smaller doses of gratification that travel or social fun provides.

But that in itself offers us a helpful clue to this “stuck” moment. Values. Choices. While saving money for key purchases is important, recognizing and investing in the value of building friendships and relationships based on shared memories and moments is equally important in creating the balanced life for which most of us strive.

Since it seems as if you’ve choose to live alone and work alone, all of the questions and uncertainties about life’s challenges fall on your shoulders to clarify and resolve. That can be rough when huge decisions loom and we have to produce all the answers and make all the choices alone.

So perhaps that’s a good place to start. I doubt you are completely alone. I bet if you look around, there’s someone, possibly others – old friends, a family member, perhaps even a professional or spiritual person, who’d be happy to listen and even provide some objective guidance or perspective.

After all, you wrote to me and asked for help. That was a brave thing to do, and indicates an openness and willingness to consider alternatives and a maturity to acknowledge you need help and support. We all do. It’s the person who’s convinced they need no one and can go it alone who falters most.

Remember, Sara, you always have choices. Even if the choice is to do nothing. And finding a fresh, new way to frame the idea in your mind and heart of what owning a place of your own represents as well as looks and feels like could also be another project for your imagination to mull and consider. Readiness is a quality that only time and self-awareness can summon. Only you can know when and if you’re ready to do anything.

So let’s move on to the issue of control and a possible reluctance to spend those hard-won dollars by reframing what purchasing a home represents. Consider this. You won’t be spending the money, not really. Not like you would if you handed over the cash for ten tons of perishable food. In that case, once the food was gone, that would be it. In this case, you’d be converting your dollars into a different, tangible form, defined as equity, in an item that hopefully increases over time in value, thus growing your money which can then be converted back into actual dollars down the road. It won’t be gone. And while the value of a home rises and falls and can’t be predicted or guaranteed, I suspect it’s more the idea of the money disappearing that summons deep emotions, even fears.

Additionally, instead of visualizing a home that symbolizes your independence and solitude, with the “door shut, away from the noisy world,” you might consider picturing a place with the look and feel of a cozy, warm, inviting cottage. A place not too big and not too much to care for, but possessing an open door with comfortable furnishings and an environment that invites friends and loved ones in to spend happy moments with you.

Once imagined, see if that’s a possibility that offers you a fresh sense of comfort and security as well as excitement rather than dread.

This isn’t really about buying a home. You have the money saved to do that. I suspect this is more about the values or dreams the home represents to you emotionally. Will it be a place to hide away from the world, door shut, alone, or a place to live and thrive where you can grow and learn and love as well as pick and choose to invite the gifts that life offers us in at your choosing and on your own terms.

Good luck!


The Inner Bottom Line syndicated column is found nationally here and on where you can submit your questions and ethical dilemmas or book consulting appointments and private and group coaching sessions with Olive.

Olive Gallagher is a life coach, ethicist, national speaker and columnist, and OR real estate broker and can be reached at

Hard cover, Kindle and audio versions of Olive’s book, The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life™, are available on




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