Let’s Talk About Financial Shame and How to Overcome it.
You’ve probably told yourself you need to stop wasting money a million times. And maybe just as often you’ve shamed yourself for your spending choices.
If restriction and financial shame worked, we’d all be fine. Read on for some ways to stop shaming yourself about your money and build a healthy relationship with your finances.
Approximate read time: 6 minutes
I know you’ve probably seen the video about the latte factor, read articles about avocado toast, read books that focused on a “tough love” approach to finances, and see the math on how much smoking cigarettes costs.
While all of those approaches may not be technically wrong, they will not help. More than likely this approach will harm the very people it aims to encourage. (You)
We’ve known that smoking causes cancer for almost 100 years. Yet people still smoke.
We all know eating too much of the wrong things is pretty much guaranteed to result in illness and a shortened life, but ice cream is so, so delicious.
Even before our first meeting, every single one of my clients knew they needed to spend less and save more. We all know that. We don’t need click-bait articles or economists to tell us that, thank you.
Knowing the Facts May Not Help You Change Your Behavior: But it Will Increase Financial Shame
A really smart guy named Leon Festinger called this cognitive dissonance and it’s simply the disconnect between knowing what we need to do and doing it.
Do you know what doesn’t counteract cognitive dissonance? Judgment, shame, and guilt.
Financial shame is like telling people (and yourself) what they should and should not be spending money on. Sure you might cancel a gym membership or an online subscription you aren’t using, but 95% of us will not make long-term positive changes to our money habits and behaviors. Why? Because no one gave us the tools.
Just Being Miserable is Not Enough
If all it took was a slick video, an angry podcast from a millionaire, or an article to change the way we relate to our money, all this would have been solved a long time ago.
Setting a vague requirement like “I need to stop spending money on unnecessary things” only results in self-doubt. Expecting yourself to magically spend less and save more without an adaptive tool will only result in failure.
Forcing yourself to stick to a budget that doesn’t change with your life is a great way to just make yourself feel like garbage.
There’s a point where you have to wonder if it’s not you
Yes, I teach people the mechanics of money, but understanding how compound interest works never changes anyone’s life. It’s the other side of what I teach that gives people what they need to change their lives.
“Stop Spending Money on Unnecessary Things” Isn’t a Financial Tool
“Save $5 a day” is not a tool. It’s the result of a well-built, well-implemented tool.
“Spend less and save more” is not a tool. It’s the natural, almost accidental result of a customized, adaptive tool built just for you.
If you want to save money, build financial resilience and trust in yourself.
If you want to kill your debt, learn about the hidden, sneaky cycle that feeds procrastination and leaves you constantly in reaction mode.
Want to learn how to invest? Teach your brain the skill of future thought, and make decisions from a place of intentionality.
Want to make better decisions? Realize that restriction IS emotional decision-making.
Fuck Financial Shame
Stop shaming others for their spending choices.
And stop shaming yourself too. If judgment, guilt, shame, restriction, or punishment worked, we’d all be fine by now. (Yes, I’m repeating myself)
One of the first things I disabuse new clients and coaches of is that any kind of judgment is going to work. Self-judgment and shame are the most lethal enemies to change because they destroy awareness, resilience, and motivation. Judgment feeds crisis.
I know that my clients are trying to use the judgment of a past choice as a way to make better choices in the future, but it’s not working.
In microscopically small ways and in big ways we heap shame on ourselves. Until I point it out, some people I work with don’t even hear it.
Here’s What I Hear as a Financial Coach:
“I can’t believe we bought the car, it’s just eating us alive. It’s always breaking down and the gas mileage is terrible.”
“The people you work with just need to get their shit together.”
“NOW I know it was a bad choice, but how else am I going to learn, right?”
When I push back on comments like this I frequently hear that they are just trying to hold themselves or others accountable. I believe that. I understand that we use judgment and shame about a past choice to hopefully make better decisions in the future… sadly it just does not work.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” -Louis Brandeis
Shame is a potent enemy. It feeds crisis and it infiltrates, infects, and corrupts attempts at change and self-reliance. The solution to disarming this guerrilla enemy is disproportionately small, though, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Fight Financial Shame With Awareness and Financial Coaching Services
My curriculum is infused with awareness tools. The simplest of which is the tally.
Tally how frequently you judge yourself or others. You can journal too if you like, but even quickly scratching out a hash mark when you hear yourself think or speak shame is powerful, with one caveat.
If you shame yourself for shaming yourself YOU MUST STOP USING THIS TOOL.
This is an awareness tool, not an implement for compounding judgment on judgment. Come back to it at a later date if you can.
As You Begin to Tally Look For:
Are you heaping on the shame when you feel a certain way? Or when you’re in a store, at home, or at work?
Escalation or De-Escalation
Did you notice shame increasing or decreasing as you tallied?
What jumped out at you as you tallied?
At what point did you think “I don’t want to do that.”?
Want to Quickly Achieve Your Financial Goals? Begin Working With a Financial Coach!
The one thing you can do if you want to resolve the financial struggles you’re in right now and get to what you want for the future is to be gentle with yourself.
Picture me holding your face in my hands. I’m looking right into your soul. I’ll say it again…
Be gentle with yourself.
Next Recommended Article: Reduce Holiday Spending Without Feeling Restricted
Last updated: July 2023
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Embark on a transformative journey towards financial empowerment today! Join forces with a seasoned financial coach at Pacific Stoa, who specializes in compassionately guiding individuals through overcoming financial shame. Together in financial coaching services, we’ll build a judgment-free space to explore your financial history, cultivate healthier money habits, and pave the way toward a future of financial resilience. Break free from shame, embrace financial confidence, and start your personalized journey to lasting financial well-being now! Follow these three simple steps to get started:
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At Pacific Stoa, I want to make sure you have everything you need when it comes to managing your finances. So in addition to helping individuals take control of their finances and overcome financial shame, I also provide Financial Coaching for Couples, Financial Coaching for Divorce and Separation, and Financial Coaching for Families. I also offer Financial Consulting for Nonprofits and Businesses to help create a customized strategy built specifically for you, your organization, and those you serve. Check out my FAQ to learn more about Financial Coaching and my Blog!