The financial benefits of living with less shame
It’s very easy to think of something like shame as only affecting our inner world. But the reality is that, because it impacts how you think, how you see yourself and how you see the world, it will also control the way you behave. It can narrow your perspective, lower your expectations, and make you feel unworthy or too afraid to ask. It will tell you that your efforts are unwanted and embarrassing and that you shouldn’t even try something if you don’t know 100% that you will succeed.
The feeling of shame is bad enough – that sinking/burning sensation where you just want the ground to swallow you up (or similar) – but have you actually ever looked at how it might be responsible for the challenges that you have in your life right now?
Lifestyle coaching – money matters
One of the most significant challenges many people face in 2023 is finances. The cost of living is rising, as are interest rates and rents. It is a tough time to be anything but very well financially cushioned. Which most of us aren’t. When we’re facing this kind of challenge, we tend to look at only the ‘practical’ solutions. However, whatever drives your mindset is going to determine the range of opportunities for change you’re even able to see – as well as the risks you’re willing to take to make it happen. So, often, the best starting point is to look at the ways that you’re limiting yourself through perception (via something like lifestyle coaching) – and then start making practical plans.
Shame will place limits on your ability to earn
Because it will limit how much you believe you are capable of – and what you’re worthy of. It’s often the reason we find it hard to sell ourselves, post on social media, market directly, ask for a fee or salary we actually deserve, or question a status quo that someone is using to hold us back from prosperity. It makes us accept what other people tell us ("that’s non-negotiable" or "that’s your only option") and not believe in our own ability to carve a completely different solution or path, negotiate or demand more.
Shame can cause us to shrink, shut down and makes us feel like we can’t clearly state our needs or don’t have a right to ask for anything. Here are two examples of the positive impact of removing shame from the equation that might seem pedestrian but have actually had powerful results in my own life.
Example one - estate agents
I signed a contract to market my home for sale with an estate agent that did not live up to expectations. Two months later, no sale, and they tried to hold me to a 28-day notice period citing 'the market' as the whole reason for the lack of sale, rather than a contributing factor alongside their own mistakes (of which there were many).
Shame-filled response:When the agent says "It’s the market, I’ve told you that" I feel small and stupid – shame tells me I know less than the agent and he is right. I just want the conversation to end. I push the issue and my interests to one side because I just feel like I’m being a problem and I want the shame to stop.
Shame-free response:What is the full range of options here? What does my judgment tell me about how this has unfolded? Instead of feeling small, I remind the agent of the errors they made, that I’ve not heard from them for weeks – stating this as facts, rather than emotional weaponry. Acknowledge the challenges of the market but also that property is still selling and suggest that actually their agency and my property just aren’t a good fit. I am clear that I expect them to take responsibility for their actions and suggest that waiving the notice period would be a way of doing this – allowing a fresh start for me elsewhere. When there is resistance, I don't back down even though my heart is hammering because shame tells me disagreement reflects badly on me and this is somehow my fault.
Result: I am offered a compromise of one week’s notice instead of 28 days and am able to find a new agent much sooner who might be a better fit.
Example two – renegotiating a phone contract
I want a cheaper deal. I’m speaking to someone who is offering me a poor deal. I’m a long-time customer and I always pay on time.
Shame-filled response: I don’t want to be seen as pushy or greedy or grasping so I accept what I’m offered and just feel resentful later.
Shame-free response: I ask them to match a deal I’ve researched elsewhere because my brain is looking for solutions rather than marinating in fear and shame. They match part of it, I push for all of it. I’m not afraid of no. I get the deal. There’s a delivery charge to pay. I ask them to waive it. It gets waived.
These are two recent examples from my life when I beat my shame programming – but five years ago it would have been a very different story. I bet you can think of a few on your own. Moments, when your internal programming stops you from being assertive, saying no, asking for what you feel, is the right thing or simply not accepting a 'no' from someone. Where you may have lost out financially as a result, even if you didn't realise it at the time. These two situations have certainly saved me several hundred pounds, potentially a lot more.
Other ways in which shame might be hurting you financially
- Accepting the point of view of anyone who assumes a position of entitlement or authority – whether or not they are actually knowledgeable or credible – rather than trusting your own judgment and doing your own research. As a result, others define your worth and potential, not you.
- Shutting down creativity and ideas as embarrassing or not good enough because they’re 'just' yours so that you never pursue them or have a chance at financial success with them.
- Accepting less than you’re worth so that you don’t 'cause a problem'. Never entertaining the idea that you're worthy of more than the minimum. So, your level of wealth never really changes.
- Not negotiating because it’s not polite/feminine/makes you unlikeable, so you never get a better deal.
- Believing there are no options other than what you’re presented with, rather than allowing yourself to get curious and explore potential.
- Creating fear around new learning and change that could create options for earning more if you did it.
- Causing you to ignore situations that trigger shame so that they escalate (e.g. overdue debts or bills that then attract fees and charges), rather than facing up to what’s happening in a practical way.
The very best way to tackle shame
The best way to tackle shame is self-compassion, which you will have a lot of if you are resilient. Shame is something that comes up a lot in my kind of lifestyle coaching – it tends to be deeply embedded and we may not even realise it’s there at first. We can get so used to that burning sensation – and pulling away from whatever is causing it – that it seems normal. But it’s not. And it’s possible to live without that driving your life and forcing you to make decisions out of fear and scarcity.
Interestingly, one of the most powerful motivations I have seen for pushing yourself to overcome shame can be so that you don’t pass it on to younger generations, whether they are your children or younger relatives or people you come into contact with.
A few tips for dealing with shame
- Start noticing when it’s there. If you hear yourself using the word "should" this is often a sign that you are feeling shame in that moment. It also manifests physically – a tight chest, a sick feeling, a burning sensation.
- Speak it to someone you trust. Shame thrives in silence and isolation so you can defeat it by sharing it with someone you trust to respond with kindness. Most people will respond to shame with empathy or compassion and it’s amazing how fast it disappears when this happens.
- Work out where shame sits for you. For example, you may have negative core beliefs around debt being shameful that are triggered every time you try to think of solutions to a debt problem. Until you rewire that core belief – and change the feeling associated with debt – every attempt to think about how to change things is going to end in a shame spiral.
- Get a little bit of distance from that feeling. Shame is a very powerful emotion and, especially if you’ve been operating with a lot of shame for a long time, it’s not going to change overnight. The first step is getting a little bit of distance from it, rather than being stuck within it. That looks like observing your shame e.g. “I notice I’m starting to experience the physical symptoms of shame right now.” That might be all you can do at first and often it is enough.
- Challenge your narratives. Once you can hear those shame narratives you can start to challenge them in your head, is it true that debt is shameful, for example, or is debt something that many many people have and regard as just a tool for life, separate from their worth as human beings?
- Shake it off. Shame has a physical impact on your nervous system and will send you into fight or flight mode. In that place, it’s not possible to calmly make decisions and come up with solutions, as you often just feel terrified or numb. But you don't have to think your way out of shame, you can also turn it off through your nervous system too. So, do something physical when you feel shame descending – calm yourself with a hot bath or a cold shower, dance the frustration out or do some other exercise. Soothe yourself with a hot water bottle and a calming meditation.
Shame is toxic. It has no benefits. While guilt may highlight that you’ve said or done something wrong (which you can learn from), shame just tells you that you are wrong, you are the problem. Which is never the case. If you know that shame is an issue in your life and you also have money problems – or just aren't where you want to be wealth-wise – start to look at the ways it could be stopping you from being financially secure. When the full extent of its impact becomes clear, that might be the motivation you need to make some serious changes.
Shame resilience is a big part of what I do in my coaching practice – book an intro call if you’d like to know more about how this works.