Why Do We Feel Money Shame?

Money shame – the silent killer. Everyone suffers from it at some point in their lives. Having to experience financial difficulties all by yourself can be isolating and overwhelming. What makes it worse is not knowing how to talk about it. 

Shame is described as an “intensely painful feeling of believing that we are flawed”. Know that it is very different from ‘guilt’. Guilt is the feeling you experience when you’ve done something bad, but shame is feeling that you are bad. Understanding this distinction is necessary, as a destructive behaviour is the result of shame and with shame it’s hard not to fall into a downward spiral of feeling personally responsible for your situation.  

What’s shame got to do with money? 

Your relationship with money just might be the most complex relationship you’ll ever have. Money habits are formed when young and are hard to break free from. We’ve learnt to put a great deal of value on financial standing. We equate ‘success’ with money, career, and material possessions. Money is breeding grounds for shame. We blame ourselves when our peers are ahead in this race, we feel shame for our financial decisions. When career and financial success is the standard we measure ourselves by, we can feel incapable of taking any action. 

To move forward, you’ll need to learn to cope with the shame, understand why it’s so difficult to talk about it, and what you can do to make these conversations easier. 

Why is it so hard to talk about money?

You might think money is very personal and feel the need to deal with your hardships alone. It’s a topic laden with the potential for scrutiny and judgement. It’s never easy to talk about your struggles, especially when it comes to money. People feel paralysed by their shame, fear, and anxiety. Mostly, these individuals are in relationships and hide their problems from their partners. It’s easy to assume it’s a character flaw and blame yourself for the situation you’re in. However, there are a lot of forces working against you, which are not necessarily your fault – remember that. 

How to confront the shame?

The only way to get out of money shame is through it. First, decode the root cause of your spending habits. Accept your current situation and know it will change overtime. To manage the fallout, keep yourself busy with hobbies and avoid self-defeating thoughts. Most importantly, understand that success is not measured by how much money you own. Materials don’t make you more worthy or loveable. 

Start a conversation 

Before talking to your partner, consider reaching out to a financial advisor or your money-savvy friends. This will be a huge relief before confronting your significant other. The more you open up, the less isolated you’ll feel. Break the money taboo within your social circle, you will be surprised to see you’re not the only one with money troubles. They are more common than we think. 

Accepting your situation will allow you to be honest and vocal. After that, planning your next steps gets easier. Talk to your financial counsellor and keep your loved ones updated. Pushing your financial problem to the back of your mind isn’t the solution. 

Reframing the crisis as an opportunity 

Revisiting your relationship with money opens doors to greater peace and prosperity. Your current situation is an opportunity to take charge of things you’ve neglected. Rather than carrying financial baggage, learn from them. Be kinder to yourself and work on getting out of the hole. 

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Written by

Cheryl Toh

Last updated on

July 8th 2020, 5:02 pm

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