Money shame is the focus of our conversation today. First things first, let’s bring our monster forward and examine him a bit, shall we?
What is Shame?
Shame is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior”. It is important to note the difference between guilt and shame. With guilt we get a relationship that looks a bit like this:
Guilt = I did something bad = Let’s do that better next time
Now, shame, on the other hand, looks more like this:
Shame = I am bad = Paralyzing
Money and shame are, unfortunately, rooted very closely together. The paralysis that shame provides is particularly detrimental to our money health because, as we learned in our lesson on the time value of money, money needs time to do its magic. Shame causes us to continue to stall and that robs money of the very thing it needs to grow. Then we feel more shame. It is a powerful downward cycle. Money shame also does not discriminate. We are all victims of money shame regardless of gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, financial literacy, or socio economic status. We may have different experiences with our money shame, but we all have it. Guaranteed. Want some examples? I’ve got some examples:
- Shame creeps into your mind and makes you doubt your own worth. For those that are employed it is found in taking a salary offer without negotiating for your full value in the marketplace. In entrepreneurs this is seen in those that have trouble charging customers what they deserve.
- Shame is that spark found in a couple’s disagreements about money. When I am the most honest with myself, the frustrations I air with my husband about finances are really just a catalog of my own fears and shames.
- Shame is also passed one generation to the next when a parent projects their shame onto their children when they scold them about money choices. If you want to find the parents that have the highest levels of money shame, then just listen to the ones screaming the loudest at their children in the grocery store.
- You even find shame in its projective connection to the way we treat those living in poverty. I often refer to this as “poor shaming” for a reason. Poor shaming is really nothing more than us projecting our own “I am bad with money” feelings on to another person in an effort to silence our own shame monster. Those that are already living in the poverty that we fear so much are the most obvious targets for our money shame projections.
Trust me when I say that projection is not the remedy to money shame. Let’s find out what is.
Killing the Money Shame Monster
While projection does nothing but pass money shame around to others like a bad virus, money shame is healed through a process of forgiveness. One great guide through this forgiveness process is “financial therapist” Bari Tessler Linden. She provides us guidance in the first three steps:
Step 1 – Money Healing: The first thing that you need to do is understand your “money story”. Based on your past experiences with money, through childhood and beyond, seek to understand your strengths, challenges, and relationship with:
You are ultimately trying to learn what may have happened years ago that you still have not forgiven. Challenge your experiences and, most importantly, understand what made those experiences occur.
Step 2 – Money Practice: Just like your practices around studying, exercise, or meditation, you can build a practice around money. Here you set up a regular routine of reviewing your finances and making necessary changes. Money practices include reviewing billing statements, paying bills, transferring funds into savings, etc. Keep in mind that money practices need not be boring. In fact, when I am reviewing my credit card statements I like to turn to my early 90’s gangsta rap playlist and get down with my bad self. You may be the “lighting candles” type. No judgement.
Step 3 – Money Map: This is the stage where you get to be a daydreamer. Go into your phone and schedule a life vision session every six months. This will ultimately give your money practice a direction.
Step 4: Money Forgiveness: This is not in Linden’s approach, but it is in mine. This is that moment of healing where we remember that many of us are not taught the skills we needed in the first place. We were not taught how to manage money. We were not taught how to understand our feelings about money. We were not taught how to talk about money. However, we are making strides to learn these things, and, for that reason, we deserve to release our shame.
So, the next time you hear that money shame monster nagging at you, use the word “shame” to describe it. Giving it a name disarms the shame monster of its power. Then face your shame through the process of healing, practicing, visioning, and forgiving. This is your life, and your money deserves room to grow. There is no shame in this game.