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Money Shame and How to Overcome It – Money Psychology
Money Shame and How to Overcome It – Money Psychology
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Money Psychology

Money Shame and How to Overcome It – Money Psychology

Njenga Hakeenah
August 18, 2021

We are living in a culture where above everything else, money is taken to be our worth.

As such, there comes a lot of conflicting emotions in regard to how we make and spend it and also how others regard us depending on how much we have. 

This has created an uncomfortable element of shame in our relationship with money - when people feel they are not making enough or they are spending too much or feeling one has too many responsibilities and money can never seem to be enough.

When one is feeling guilty, inadequate or embarrassed because they have too much or too little money, this is a sign that they are suffering from money shame.

The reality is that everyone has felt money shame at one time or another. When going through this, one’s relationship with money can be significantly impacted.

Signs that one is suffering from money shame

Some of the indicators that one could be ashamed of their money situation - what they owe, their wealth, spending, inadequacies etc. include;

  • Living beyond one’s means
  • Playing the big shot to be noticed
  • Constantly rescuing others when they need money
  • Avoiding talking about money
  • Lying about one’s money situation 
  • Avoiding looking at bills or bank balance

Financial therapist and author of The Financial Anxiety Solution, Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, says that people are not born with the knowledge to manage money. This leads to everyone making mistakes when it comes to their finances.

In addition, many other factors that we have no control over may lead one on a path to making financial mistakes. For instance, when Covid-19 broke out in December of 2019, many people were rendered jobless and thus had to rethink their finances. This is an event that is beyond anyone’s control and which has changed fortunes for many. Others include industry trends, shifts in the economy and unemployment rates.

Money shame comes when people feel there is something wrong with them if they are struggling with their financial wellbeing. In such instances, Lindsay says that they may feel stupid, or that they are bad with money.

The cascade effect of money shame is that it can lead to other problems in life and one’s relationship with their money. This could be impediments to success at work, difficulties managing finances and feeling that one does not deserve to have money.

In a previous article, we looked at how fear, guilt, shame and envy affect your financial goals and interestingly, shame is one of the most powerful emotions when it comes to personal finance. Money shame can be a hindrance to one’s ability to accomplish what they need to with their money.

Just like with shame in other aspects of life, money shame is intensely painful but the good news is that it can be overcome. But for one to win, they have to be honest with themselves and admit that they are suffering from money shame.

Wondering how to overcome money shame?

Among the surest ways to help you overcome money shame is by understanding where you are financially.

1. Start by creating a budget that you can faithfully stick to. Ensure that you take into account all of your income, fixed and variable expenses and everything else that takes your money. This way, you will have a place to start by having a good view and perspective of your finances.

2. Adapt to a better way of handling money by making small money choices that you are happy about and which you can defend. Well thought out money decisions which are within your budget give you a better chance to be more comfortable and honest in case a conversation regarding them comes up.

3. If you avoid discussing money, find people you can comfortably talk with freely. This could be a group that will not judge you but which will help you on your financial journey towards gaining the confidence to be more open.

4. Since everything we know and believe about money is shaped by the environments we grew up in and where we are in life, it is good to start offering lessons to those within your circles, especially children who look up to you as a role model. You can start by helping them count money, encouraging them to save or having them accompany you to pay the bills.

In addition to these steps, we can learn from our mistakes which is a good way of teaching us to be better. Using past mistakes as a guide will help one change their financial behaviour by picking out the things that cost them the most and avoiding a repeat of the same.

Again, make small, incremental changes towards your financial goals bearing in mind that none of us was born with the knowledge to handle money. Cut yourself some slack and keep walking the path towards your financial wellbeing.

Healing from money shame

The last bit in the struggle with money shame is healing. To do this, start by:

  • Understanding where the money shame comes from

You have to unearth your money beliefs for you to understand your money story. It could be that your money shame is because of what your family's beliefs about wealth are. It could also be due to what could have happened to you in your early life that could be making you feel ashamed of the money you have or lack.

Understanding this will be a step closer to healing from the money shame.

  • Believing in yourself and your capabilities

To get better from money shame, you have to believe in yourself. Build a strong foundation of your own self-worth to start appreciating yourself more. Build on the foundation that you are good enough. This way you will be able to overcome any doubts and thoughts of you being not worthy. For more on this, consider reading our earlier article on building financial self-efficacy

  • Be comfortable with making your money

There is no one who is talented or blessed in the same way and this too applies to making money. Regardless of whether you make more or less than your family, colleagues or peers, be comfortable making money.

Work towards breaking any "money ceiling" which could hold you back from making more money.

  • Comfortably receive money

You could be feeling uncomfortable receiving money because you fear being taken advantage of or that someone could give you money and then take it away from you. It could also be driven by the fear of being indebted to someone else or the embarrassment of asking for help. Whatever the case, understand why you are not open to receiving money.

All in all, the fact that you are able to identify money shame as a factor impending your financial growth is an important step. After acknowledging this, you should then start taking steps towards being comfortable with your current situation, and then scale upwards to build on what you already have. 

Njenga has over 8 years experience in multimedia and business journalism both as a writer, editor and producer. He has over 5 years of experience in radio broadcasting as a news reader, reporter and presenter. He is also a 2012 Earth Journalism Network-EJN Fellow.

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