It was a conversation with a friend I’ll never forget. Her family was dirt poor. Mine was quite wealthy. Our childhoods were starkly different, but we shared a startling similarity.
Growing up, we both felt tremendous shame around our family’s finances. I hated being different from my friends. She loathed feeling less than her peers. I never knew if people liked me for me or my rich parents. She always suspected others pitied or looked down on her.
That’s when I realized: Money Shame is ubiquitous regardless of one’s economic status. But it’s not the money (or lack of it) that causes shame. Money simply magnifies the shame we’ve always carried.
Shame is the intense pain of feeling so awful, so flawed, so defective that we’re convinced we’re worthless and unlovable.
I believe unhealed shame is perhaps the major reason smart, capable women struggle financially. Because when shame is triggered, the logical thinking part of our brain virtually shuts down.
“It’s like our IQ drops 30 points,” Bret Lyon, founder of the Center for Healing Shame, told me. “We can’t think. We freeze. We feel stupid. We’re at a loss for words.”
I’m convinced the secret to financial security, for many of us, lies in transforming toxic shame (self-loathing) into healthy shame (self-compassion).
To demonstrate how to do this, Bret took me through a 2-part exercise. I suggest you try it too.
First, I adopted an exaggerated shame-based posture: head bent, eyes lowered, shoulders slumped, heart heavy. Honestly, I felt horrible!
Next, I thought of something I was proud of and visualized the experience. The difference was astounding! Recalling a past success quickly shifted my feeling horrible to happy.
“Yeah, I’m a flawed human being like everyone else,” I realized, “And I have strengths and skills I’m proud of.” That, in a nutshell, is the definition of healthy shame.
When you think about shame as either toxic or healthy, what experiences come up for you? Tell me about it the comments below.