What Does Shame Have to Do With My Financial Well-being?

financial well-being shame Sep 22, 2020

        I can tell you as a Financial Therapist one of the key barriers I see to my clients’ financial wellbeing is SHAME. Professionally speaking, I consider shame to be the most destructive psychological forces we deal with as humans. The intense negative emotions it causes makes us feel unworthy, which affects our self-esteem, our relationships, how we generally show up in the world, and our financial wellbeing. So where does shame stem from?

What causes shame and how does it become chronic?

        Shame comes in many forms and can be initiated in many ways. As humans, we are social animals. We rely one hundred percent on our relationships to maintain our mental health. We are wired for relationships. So when an influential person, someone whose opinion matters to us, like a relative, significant other, friend, spiritual leader, or even an employer, says something about us it affects how we see ourselves and, in turn, impacts our mental state. For example, your father being proud of you hitting a home run, or your significant other bragging about what a great cook you are, or your boss acknowledging the excellent report you wrote, builds us up. If we feel loved and appreciated, if we feel that we are doing what’s right and are acknowledged for our actions, our self-esteem soars.

        On the other hand, if we feel disapproval or disappointment from those same people, it threatens the relationship we have with them and with ourselves. Consider that over-the-glasses look from Mom when you misbehave; or the way you feel when a friend says your dream is too big and you won’t succeed; or the grandparent who may tell you ‘What a pretty face you have…’, but really insinuates you should go on a diet. These are just examples and I assure you I’ve heard much worse things in listening to my clients’ personal experiences. Imagine experiencing these types of comments or feelings repeatedly. Every day, even, or maybe several times a day.  These comments have the power to create a state of shame. This psychological event brings on emotions of being unworthy of being accepted, and make one feel unloved, and uncared for. This results in low self-esteem and high self-doubt.

How will shame impact my financial future?

        We all suffer from shame at times in our lives. Hopefully, we can address it, and move on. But what happens when the shame is not addressed? By not dealing with it, we find ourselves in a state of chronic shame. When shame is not addressed, it grows, leaving us feeling worthless most of the time, if not all of the time. Feeling not good enough or less than can lead us to sabotaging behaviors. Anything from being fearful to take the risk of going for that better job you want, to overspending on a self-indulgent lifestyle and not saving for the future, or simply not keeping enough funds for paying your bills on time. By these actions, or non-actions, you create a sense of financial insecurity and therefore you cannot reach a level of financial wellbeing.

The value of addressing shame to your Financial Wellbeing.

         When living in a state of chronic shame, you not only are damaging your personal situations but that of your partner and family. Unfortunately, you may not realize how this chronic shame is happening, or that you are living in a state of being sad, anxious, guilty, obsessive, or even avoidant. Your living this way cannot help but affect those around you. Eventually, the shame becomes a barrier to your financial wellbeing and a future of happiness and joy.

        In my therapy practice, when in discussions with my clients, the feelings of anger, anxiety, and hurt can be palpable. Their worst fears of being unlovable, not good enough, and the resentment of their partner is exposed. While difficult, exposing the shame, talking it out, and working through it, is necessary. As Brene Brown says, “Releasing shame is the ultimate game-changer.” Once you can release shame you can move on to reach a level of security and financial wellbeing and move toward creating the future you’ve dreamed of.

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