‘Them’ and ‘Us’

We’d crouch wide-eyed on the sand, our hands cupped under our chins, and watch with wonder as the Land Rovers filed past, towing behind them shiny, white speed boats containing excited, blonde-haired children in colourful swimsuits.

We’d watch as the tanned, handsome men at the wheel reversed the jeeps towards the water’s edge, deposited their cargo, then drove back up the slipway.

We’d wander around the smart caravan park, pointing out our favourite sports cars and picking out the chalets we wished we owned, the ones with the lovely decking and the steps down to the sand, before being treated to a very expensive, naughty-but-nice KnickerBockerGlory.

This was Abersoch, North Wales, in the 1970s, where wealthy Liverpudlians and Mancunians had their holiday homes and where we holidayed for a week or two over the summer, staying in the caravan we rented from my dad’s firm.

I loved it there, making shapes out of the sand, floating on a lilo, playing beach bowls, but those holidays also helped crystallise some very unhelpful ideas about ‘them’ and ‘us’.

The kids in the ‘them’ camp had speed boats, comfortable holiday homes and flash cars and they had a secure family unit with two parents still in it, or that’s how it looked on the outside. The girls were pretty with long, brown legs, glossy hair and gorgeous clothes.

We were in the ‘us’ camp, renting a caravan for a week, wondering whether our car would actually make it there, holidaying with mum but without dad. And I always felt wrong – dressed in the wrong clothes, too big or too small, my hair never quite right.

I see now that we were fortunate to have holidays at all. Lots of kids never went to the seaside. But my child’s mind couldn’t see that – it only saw the differences, what they had and what we didn’t.

This idea of ‘them’ and ‘us’ continued through school.

“Hands up all those pupils on free school meals,” the teacher said in my junior school.

I gingerly put my hand in the air, hoping nobody would see.

Then I went to a private, fee-paying senior school on a scholarship. Free school meals again and a top-notch education for free, while most other kids’ parents were paying. What a privilege. But I felt like the odd one out.

Oxford University didn’t help with my ‘them’ and ‘us’ complex. I was fortunate to fall in with a fabulous group of friends, many of them Northerners, which helped me feel more like I belonged. And although plenty of my pals came from families with lots of money, they weren’t the bragging type. But Oxford was a place of privilege – students whose parents were politicians or diplomats, academics, financiers, doctors or lawyers; students whose mums and dads lived in exotic places. Obviously this didn’t mean their lives were perfect, but my teenage mind struggled to see beyond the wealth, the outward confidence and the differences between their backgrounds and mine.

Then I ended up working in parliament, with a host of other Oxbridge types. I had the education, I had the Oxford degree, I had the Reuters salary and the flat in Islington, but I still didn’t feel like I belonged. I still felt like that girl crouched wide-eyed on the Abersoch sand. I still felt like the child who was terrified the money would run out and we’d end up hungry and homeless. I still felt like the 10-year-old who was ashamed she had a nice coat from C&A because she knew, she’d been told, we couldn’t actually afford it. I still felt like there was an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ and I’d never cross the great divide.

Now I’m living my dream by the seaside in Poole, which just happens to be brimming with wealth, yachts, fast cars and tanned, long-legged women in beautiful clothes.

And here I am, still with that chip on my shoulder (I used to call it my ‘northern’ chip but that’s a cop out – it’s just mine). Still with that ‘them’ and ‘us’ mindset. Still with the feeling you people with money are a different breed, despite the fact some of you are my friends. Still with this ingrained belief I’m one of the ‘have nots’, despite my relative wealth (flat in London, part-owner of a house in Poole, now driving a Mini Cooper S). Still struggling to make a decent, consistent living despite a considerable array of money-making skills and still searching for a way to stay on top of my finances and all the papers clogging up my office.

It’s clear to me now that it really doesn’t matter how much I earn or own, what needs to change is my mindset, that deep-ingrained belief that I’m not part of the ‘them’ crowd and never will be, as well as those other self-limiting beliefs I carry around: that it’s shameful to ask for money; it’s shameful to ask to be paid for my work; I don’t deserve to earn a decent wage for what I do; writers and creative people are always broke; I don’t understand money; I haven’t got a clue how to run a business, and so it goes on …

Something has to change.


In fact, something is changing.

I’m aware of my crazy money stuff and I’m so over it. I’m ready to get rid of that old mindset and build a new one. I’m angry now. And fed up.

I know it’s not going to be easy. Old habits are hard to change. But I know I need to try to take the following steps:

  • When someone offers me work, pause and reflect. Think very carefully about whether it fits with my values (more on values another day); think what purpose it serves (purely financial or if it’s taking me in the right direction); think carefully whether I am being fairly compensated for my time and talents
  • Follow the same process with how I spend my time – is this activity or event in my best interests? Does it serve a purpose or am I just running around trying to stay busy, clutching at straws or looking for the answers elsewhere when I know I’ve got them myself?
  • Spend more time connecting to my spirituality and faith – reading, writing, meditating and connecting to like-minded souls who are on a journey of self-awareness and self-discovery. Spend time working on affirmations and changing my mindset around money
  • Get clarity around my income and expenses and come up with a system I can maintain consistently. Plan what I need to earn as well as what I’d love to earn
  • Declutter, declutter, declutter – my clothes, my shoes, my office papers and my mind
  • Keep writing down my dreams, which for the immediate future, include: having enough spare money to buy my share of a campervan; buying a kayak or Stand Up Paddleboard; having a wardrobe of clothes that I love; managing my time so I have a good mix of work, play and holiday; publishing my book and getting coaching and writing work on the back of it around relationships and going for your dreams

That will do for now!

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it,” Albert Einstein said.

It seems I can’t rewire the part of my brain that formed when I was very young – the fear and shame will always want to kick in and hold me back. But I can lay down new wiring alongside it and then channel as much good stuff down those new wires as I can so the new beliefs start to shout louder than the old messages.

I am enough. There’s no shame in asking for money or having money. I deserve to live a happy, abundant life. I deserve nice things. There is no ‘them’ and ‘us’. I’ve already arrived. I belong. I have a right to be here. We are all equal.

Yes, it’s time to change my mindset.

What’s helping right now? Well, I’m reading Barbara Stanny’s book, ‘Overcoming Underearning’ and loving it. I’m doing the exercises and some of them have me in tears. Lots of lightbulb moments.

I’ve also just taken part in a visibility challenge via a Facebook page with the wonderful Nicola Humber that’s got me moving out of my comfort zone and doing a few more videos. I’m actually starting to enjoy video now, have fun with it, play with it, so I’m planning on doing more.

Here’s one I did this morning with a few basic tips on blogging. Enjoy!


About Katherine Baldwin

I am a writer, coach, midlife mentor, motivational speaker and the author of How to Fall in Love - A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. I specialise in coaching women and men to have healthy relationships with themselves so that they can form healthy and loving romantic relationships and lead authentic, fulfilling lives. I coach 1:1, lead workshops and host retreats.
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