6 Ways To Heal Money Shame

Do you feel shame about the amount of money that you make?

Money shame is a feeling of guilt, inadequacy, or embarrassment due to having too much or too little money.

Everyone feels money shame sometimes. It deeply impacts your relationship with money. 

In this blog, we'll give you 6 ways of healing your feelings of shame when it comes to handling your finances and interact with money.

What is Shame?

There are three ways shame can show up in your life:

  • Shame about who you are (character shame)
  • Shame about what you do (behavioral shame)
  • Shame about the world and how the world works, or that “things should be different"

Money shame is often a combination of all three types of shame.

Money shame is primarily about your choices, but it can also be related to who you are and how the world should work.

For example, you may feel shame because of overspending or a failure to put enough into savings.

However, since money is so closely tied with your identity you may also feel ashamed of who you are because you can't spend as much money as other people do on expensive clothes or a nice new car like your neighbor.

Money shame can also crop up when you feel guilt for earning money the way you do. For example, you could feel guilty for easily making a lot of money on cryptocurrency when your hard-working good-hearted neighbor teaches 8-year-olds and barely makes ends meet.

What Causes Money Shame?

The causes of money shame vary from person to person.

Money shame can lead to many problems in your life and your relationship with money.

It impedes success at work, creates difficulty managing your finances, and causes people to feel like they don't deserve or know how to spend the money they have.

In the last blog on Money Shame, I gave some general examples of how it looks.

Let's explore some more specific examples of how Money Shame can look in your life to help you understand it on a deeper level.

Specific Examples of Money Shame:

  • A woman who was well known in her community for being a successful businesswoman felt ashamed when she found out that one of her employees made more money than she did. She also felt guilty because she hadn't been able to save anything from the last year's income yet.

 

  • A man with chronic illness had a hard time making ends meet because he was unable to work for most of the year and it began impacting his credit score. He felt guilty about taking financial support that his friends and family had sacrificed their lives to provide even though he was having a tough time. His difficulty receiving money and help from others made him feel ashamed and embarrassed.

 

  • A woman with low self-esteem tried her best every day to make herself feel more confident and successful like people she'd see on social media. So she would spend money very lavishly on clothing and expensive nights out to feel good about herself. She then felt ashamed because she was spending so much money and feared that she was spending unwisely.

 

  • A woman who came from an immigrant family saved a lot of her income but hid it from everyone she knew. In her home country, wealthy people were a target for gangs, theft, and corruption. She felt like money was dangerous and risky to have yet also felt as though she was unsafe without a lot of money hidden away.

As you can see, money shame shows up in a variety of ways that are sometimes surprising.

Healing Money Shame

So what do you do about money shame when you realize that it's a problem for you?

Understand Where It Comes From

The first step to healing money shame is understanding where it comes from. This means unearthing your money beliefs and understanding your money story. 

Money may make you feel ashamed because of your family's beliefs about wealth, or what has happened in your life that made you think having a lot of money would be bad for you. Your childhood experience and extended family views on money directly impact your approach to money. 

These are called "money beliefs" or your "money story". Essentially they are your underlying core beliefs about money.

Every belief that you've picked up in your life about money becomes part of your money journey. It 

Healing this type of shame can take time, but if done successfully will create massive shifts in the way you feel about money.

To learn more about unearthing your money beliefs, check out my course The Family Money Tree. It's a favorite tool in my toolbox as a financial therapist to help people overcome a challenging money relationship. 

Believe In Yourself

The second step to healing money shame is learning how to believe in yourself. You must have a strong foundation of self-love and a healthy relationship with yourself and your own self-worth. 

This is because it's very easy for people with money shame to feel like they are not good enough if their core belief about themselves is "I'm not worthy".

If your inner dialogue has been dominated by the idea that there's something wrong with you it's important to work on this so that you shift your beliefs about deserving to make money.

Give yourself healthy doses of compassion when you make money mistakes. Learn to use your money relationship as a means of personal growth.

Belief in yourself is one of the biggest sources of profound power in your relationships with money and is one of the biggest determiners of your money behaviors. 

Get Comfortable Talking About Money

The third step to healing money shame is to learn how to feel comfortable talking about money.

Shame thrives in silence. It thrives when you're unwilling to communicate and connect with others.

Money shame can be particularly isolating because most people fear talking about money. Brene Brown talks about this in her TED talk
 
That's why it's important to talk about how you're feeling with others who are invested in your success.

This especially applies to being able to talk to your partner about money so that you can create a closer intimate relationship and depend on one another more deeply. A healthy intimate relationship includes being able to have a money conversation with your partner. 

You must be able to talk to important people in your life like your boss, your family members, and friends about money unhindered by shame or fear.

Get Comfortable Making Money

The fourth step to healing money shame is to work on feeling comfortable with making money.

Although most people want to be wealthy, I'm always surprised at how many people become uncomfortable once they start making more.

They will often feel bad for making more than their parents or their best friends.

This can create a "money ceiling" where people hold themselves back from earning too much because of this money pattern.

In order to combat this, it's important to be able to imagine yourself making more money before you begin.

A good way to start is by tracking your spending for a few weeks and then create a budget that reflects how much you are currently spending in various categories.

Then make another budget and see how you'd spend your money if you were making more money to help you feel more comfortable with the idea first.

This will allow you to see just how much it would take each month before you have more than enough money. It will also permit you to feel good about the money you make and the money you will make in the future.

Get Comfortable Receiving Money

The fifth step to healing money shame is to work on feeling comfortable with receiving money.

This step is about:

  • The fear of being taken advantage of
  • That someone will give you too much and then take it away from you
  • Fear of owing something to someone else
  • Embarrassment with asking for help

When you feel this way in your relationship to money, receivership can be a challenge.

It's important to discover how you've been closed to receiving money in your life.

After all, every time you get money, you're receiving money. Whether it's from a job or an inheritance.

Everyone needs help from others sometimes, especially around their finances. Realizing that you're not alone on your money journey can be a powerful experience when it comes to money.

Getting comfortable with this process is essential to healing money shame.

Create A Safety Net

The sixth step in healing money shame is to create an emergency fund.

Money is a powerful tool to protect against many kinds of emergencies. Plus, knowing that you have money in the bank can serve to help you feel more secure about money.

Everyone needs to have access to some money at all times in case anything happens.

Money Healing Experience

Just as I write this and stepped away for a moment I had a money healing experience around money shame and my relationship to money.

I have remembered for some time going to Disneyland as a kid. It was during the second grade for me. So I was seven or eight years old.

I have a memory of wanting a large stuffed Disney character. Honestly, I can't remember which one I even wanted, but I had this memory or sense that I wanted it but couldn't have it. Evoking shame.

In the process of writing this blog and stepping away for a moment, it just became clear to me the emotions about money and the emotional reality of money shame with this experience. Of wanting so badly as a child to have this large Disney Character for sale in the gift shop and not being able to have it.

I remember being met with some misunderstanding by my parents and my natural limits as a child to be able to understand my parent's perspective or have a real concept of money and our family's financial situation.

I can now bring compassion to myself for the situation and to my parents.

No harm was intended by my parents, it was a misunderstanding but one that was significant to the child version of myself.

I wept for just a few moments over the grief of not getting what I wanted and in the next moment my memory served up a forgotten memory of getting a Mickey Mouse watch.

Instead of shame, I was filled instead with the body sensation of relief. 

The memory continued and I remember wearing that watch proudly to second grade and telling everyone what time it was. Telling time was a big skill for a second-grader.

Now on the other side of this experience, I feel lighter.

This example, while benign in the grand scheme of life and disappointments, is relatively small.

However, these many cumulative experiences can create a broader sense of shame around money.

In working with money shame memories it is not from the adult experience where we must understand it to relieve it, but rather from the view of the child that experienced it. What they could know about the world at that point in their lives.

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