Healing Financial Shame

  • When you look at your bank balance, do you feel uncomfortable?
  • When you get a bunch of bills, do you want to just ignore them?
  • Do you tend to compare your earnings to the perceived income of others?
  • Do you usually think that your income or net worth is inadequate?

These are all symptoms of financial shame, and if any of these apply to you, I can assure you you’re not alone. When I first make contact with coaching clients or people on my programs, the most common feeling they express about their money is shame.

In our “more” society, finding personal satisfaction with your financial position is difficult. Advertising through all forms of media often perpetrates the message that you should earn more, own more, achieve more, and be more. For many people, this leads to feelings of inadequacy and shame

Shame begins early in life. A parent with a poor self-image will pass that on to their children, often criticizing a child in the guise of offering help rather than encouraging achievement with praise and reasonable expectations.

It’s Not about the Money

Financial shame keeps you from reaching your full financial potential. When you use your money to express shame, especially shame that has been with you most of your life, you will continue to create life stories that allow you to feel the shame that has become part of your identity.

Feeling proud of yourself financially becomes a threat to that identity and you will resist making financial progress. Not consciously, of course.

You might say that if you earned more, you wouldn’t feel shame. Not true. If shame is your habit, you’ll continue to feel it no matter what your income level. There will always be someone to whom you can compare yourself to allow yourself to feel the shame. Or you can always fall back on your family-of-origin story as a reason for your shame.

Recognize, Release, Replace

Financial goals that are set from a shame base are often unrealistically high and unattainable, given a person’s skill level or financial agility, thus allowing for the maintenance of a habitual financial identity.

Shame is a learned response that can be altered with some effort. When you learn to recognize, release, and replace your habitual shame, you will be able to develop healthy financial habits and gradually increase your income – or be satisfied with what you have.

If shame is expressing through your finances, I suggest that you use what I’m calling the 3-Rs of financial healing. Here’s how it works:

1. Recognize the shame you are acting out your money by noticing how you feel when you look at or think about your bank balance, open or pay bills, or do anything that has to do with your finances. Notice the feeling and where you experience it in your physical body. Notice too, the strengths of the feeling.

2. Release the pent-up feeling by making the sound of the feeling. This may be difficult if you haven’t done this before. It helps to put your hand over the body part where you are experiencing the feeling and allowing yourself to make the sound. Do this repeatedly until you feel a lessening of the emotion.

You can also use the Power Word technique or Be Set Free Fast (BSFF) with phrases such as:

  • I release my need for shame.
  • I give myself permission to let go of my shame.
  • I’m willing to give up my shame.
  • I want to give up my shame.
  • I can be proud of myself exactly as I am.

You can find additional suggestions for releasing shame on the audio Healing Your Financial Shame.

3. Replace habitual feelings of shame by developing new emotional responses to familiar stimuli. First decide what you would rather feel instead of shame, such as contented, grateful, or satisfied.

Look at your bank balance or think about your money and as the feeling of shame comes up, say your power word or cue word a few times, then think about something that allows you to feel contented, grateful, or satisfied.

This takes practice. Stick with it in order to develop new neural pathways so your response to your financial position or financial activities can become positive or detached. The more willing you are to let go the shame the more apt will be to generate a more comfortable income.