How to Overcome Financial Shame

Financial shame

When I was growing up my mom used to tell me that poverty was a curse by the devil and that to show my head in public I had to appear like I had money.

I've spent most of my 20s trying to overcome shame and guilt about my financial problems. 


How shame affects behavior


We feel shame when we believe there’s something we should be or should be doing, which leads to self-criticism and disapproval. 

James Shultz argues that shame is an emotion that kept us from being cast out of our tribe thousands of years ago.

Shame alerts us when we’re behaving in a way that's not socially acceptable and could get us cast out from the tribe.

Shame forces us to introspect and change our attitude or risk being isolated (which meant certain death).


How feeling ashamed about money affects your financial behavior


1. Undercharging for services


Shame causes us go inward and attack ourselves, which lowers our self-esteem and robs us of the ability to see our self-worth.


2. Inability to follow a financial plan


Shame affects our belief in ourselves.

Shame about your current money situation, gives rise to self-doubt which makes it difficult to follow through on your actions and financial plans.

This theory ties into the Eastern belief that shame shuts down the third chakra, which affects our ability to take action.


3. Bad investments


Lack of self-confidence or shame about your ability to make money becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and leads to loss of money in other spheres of your life including investments.


4. Change in attitude about finances


If evolutionary psychology is correct then shame can cause us to introspect on our financial behaviour and cause us to question ourselves which leads us to change our negative financial behaviour.



How to Overcome Shame


1. Become aware of the shame you’re carrying


In his book on Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman states that the first step of emotional intelligence is self-awareness.

In order for you to overcome shame you have to acknowledge it, sit with the shame for a few minutes, see where it sits in your body, accept it and then release it.


2. Question your view of yourself


Shame arises from the belief that we’re falling short in some way and that we should be something either than what we are.

Write down all the qualities and things you’re ashamed of about yourself and question if they’re true.

Finish the statement: I feel ashamed of_____________ because___________

Once the mind sees what it believes to be true is indeed false, it'll start to release the need to feel shame.

It’s also important to question your “should” - who do you believe you should be or should have done by now?

Shame arises when we believe that we should be something or should have achieved something and find ourselves falling short of these standards.


3. Question the reality of your failures


Failure is all in the way that you look at a situation. As Walter Wintle says,

“If you think you’re beaten, you are,

If you think you dare not, you don’t,

If you’d like to win, but think you can’t,

It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost,

For out in the world we find,

Success being with a fellow’s will;

It’s all in the state of mind.”


4. Focus on your victories every day


We feel shame because we believe we’re doing something wrong. The best way to overcome shame is to see all the things you’re doing right and celebrate them, which will increase your self confidence and self acceptance.


I would love to hear your story about overcoming financial shame

Let me know in the comments section below.