Don't allow financial shame to hurt your future

Shame. The first time I was aware of it was in high school when all the other girls wore fancy clothes during Valentine's Day and I all I was wearing were hand me downs. We didn't have a lot of money at home, and I was acutely aware of that. 

Later as I started working, I thought I had the finance thing locked down. I paid my bills and saved. But I was struggling with money. I am not sure how or why. And I didn’t want anyone to know about it. I learned over the years that shame tends to lead us into an isolated bubble. 

I struggled with this huge disconnect with how I was living my dreams and how I was spending or not spending my moneyWhenever money came up I kept saying things like “I don’t care about it” or “money is not important" or money doesn't define me." And yes, money didn't define but I defined myself according to how much I had. 

Many of us have money shame. 

This emotion shows up when you feel guilty that you don’t have more money saved for your future, when you hesitate to look at your bills or bank balance, when you feel anxious every time the topic of money comes up, or when you feel pangs of guilt deciding how much to charge for your new product or service as an entrepreneur. 

Money shame feelings have deep roots in our painful childhood memories. When we think about money, it's not just about the bad financial situation we might be in right now: we are also reaching deep into our psychological and emotional past. The past that is coloured by lack, longing, deprivation, never enough, always struggling feelings. These are the same emotions we connect to as a lack of love, care, and appreciation we felt when we were growing up. On a so many level, money is associated with love, and if love is “tainted” the relationship with money will be too. 

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I have gone through this journey and am still dealing with some money shame from my past. I can tell you this, this journey has twists and turns' and at times it gets really messy. But it's possible to heal and be whole.

Since I started dealing with this part of my life, I have noticed clarity around much of what has held me back financially and creatively. I have developed a whole new awareness of my true values. I’ve been able to move beyond simply budgeting and managing my money diligently, to stewarding my life and finances with love. The key has always been self-love and being gentle with self. 

As women we are too hard on ourselves. We are constantly seeking perfection even to our own detriment.  And to struggle financially is a source of shame, a daily humiliation. Silence is the only protection.

Dr. Brené Brown — researcher, TED speaker and author of the book Daring Greatly — has spoken extensively about shame. She says the messages and expectations that fuel shame are organised by gender. For women, shame is a web of unattainable expectations that say “Do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you struggle.” 

In order for people not to see our shortcomings and faults, we cover up our shame with a false image. We use money as a way to try to build up our self-worth. We use money as the protective wall that shuts out vulnerability and leads to disconnection from others.  

And yes I get it, in this age of social media and the amount of public shaming that goes on, it’s no wonder anyone shares anything for fear of the public humiliation that might occur.

But as Brown puts it, "vulnerability is not weakness. And I've come to the belief that vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage -- to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be honest."

It takes courage to become vulnerable about our money challenges. It takes courage to admit that we need help. 

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By hiding our money problems from those who love us we’re isolating ourselves from the people and resources that could help us.  Additionally, we miss out on the opportunity to stand in our power, face our situation and resolve to make a change.

First be open with yourself and appreciate your journey-- this particular journey. I know that it can be very challenging when you are faced with a mountain of debts to do this. But if you want to move forward, this is necessary step. There is something about gratitude that is very reassuring.  

Then confide in someone. Someone you trust.  Let someone in on your inner circle know that you have these struggles. Pick someone who will be non-judgmental, supportive, and can relate to your feelings and journey. 

Don't try to cover up your mistakes and failures. Accept them. If you have credit card debt or no savings or maybe your investments have tanked stop beating yourself up over it. 

Learn to be gentle with yourself, especially in these tough moments. Learn new creative ways to respond differently, more lovingly to your money challenges. 

I highly encourage you to watch Brene's TED Talks and buy her book, as she gives you a step by step process for uncovering and working through the shame. The book will not only help you with the shame you feel around your money and debt but in other areas of your life too. 

If you complete the critical inner work, I am confident that you’ll experience profound shifts, in your money and beyond.  The more willing you are to let go of the shame the more apt you will be to generate a more comfortable income.