Interesting Image

How Shame Impacts Finances

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.


Comments & Feedback

  • Karen Fitzgerald

    SG Barbara,
    You struck a nerve again. I have done the 12 steps in DA, then UA, and also Big Book Step study. I have dug deep and seen my many “defects of character”, and can even make jokes about them. But only recently have I hit upon shame. I am swimming in it, like a fish in water who has no clue that it is there.

    I have prayed, launched many things into the world, with accolades, but when they didn’t prove financially successful, I gave up.

    Yes, I teach public speaking privately to individuals and have had great success at it and I charge good money, but don’t have the network. And as you know from my emails, I am currently doing an MLM re: gold and silver, working under Ann Moller and Christiane Northrup. It is a good company, but I am full of shame whenever I ask anyone to even view it.

    And no, I am not asking you again to view it. I am stating this here, now, because I have just invited a few people to simply view it, and I was overwhelmed with shame. How dare I ask anybody for anything, or make a cold call. Your email came today, and so I had to respond.

    You have said in your books (and yes, I read all of them in a book group with Ayo, Abisola and Fab), that we should do something uncomfortable every day. Well, this is damn uncomfortable, but I am doing it.

    Thanks for all you continue to do.

    • barbara huson

      Karen, this is such a good realization you had…that you’re drowning in shame. It’s good, because shame can be tamed and it can be healed. I know this from experience. But it takes work. I really hope you’ll do the work to heal yours. I hate to see you live like this when you have soooooooo much to offer. Let me know how I can support you.

  • Lisa

    When it’s toxic, it usually starts with anger. When it’s healthy, I take some time to rationalize my feelings underneath the anger and really process if it has something to do with me or them or them, then I work really hard to twist my negative anger into a positive request.

    • barbara huson

      That’s a very interesting process you’ve developed for yourself, Lisa. It seems to work for you and I’m glad. But often shame doesn’t start with anger…at least for me, it’s much subtler, more like raw pain and takes me a bit of time to recognize. I guess everyone has their own unique reaction.

      • Lisa

        Hi Barbara,

        I think you’re right. Shame is more of a quiet burden. Talking about it to someone you can really trust is healthy, carrying the secret is unhealthy and getting a friend to help you remember times they remember you as extremely capable is healthy ❤️

  • Mandi Toutsch

    Thank you for the comparison. Everyone has a story, agree shame can impact each of us differently. I try to focus more on the healthy side of life. I do this by focusing on the ‘Hulu hoop’ around my life. If not in my ‘Hulu hoop’ it is none of my business.

    • barbara huson

      I can’t tell you how much I love your philosophy. “If not in my Hulu Hoop, it’s none of my business.” I’m adopting that!! Brilliant. Thanks so much for sharing this with me.

    • Lisa

      Hi Mandi,

      I see a lot of people financially struggle when they don’t stay inside their lane. Being that super loyal friend always available all the time for any small drama will sabotage your finances!

Use The Form Below to Share Your Feedback And Opinion

Meet Barbara Huson

When a devastating financial crisis rocked her world, Barbara Huson knew she had to get smart about money… and she did. Now, she wants to empower every women to take charge of their money and take charge of their lives! She’s doing just that with her best-selling books, life changing retreats and private financial coaching.

Top Back To Top
Site Design Rebecca Pollock
Site Development Alchemy + Aim