You and I don’t just learn from the consequences of our own choices, successes, and failures.
We also learn from bearing witness to other people’s choices, successes, and failures. How you react to what they do (or don’t do) can give you greater clarity about what you would or wouldn’t do. How you react to their situation and circumstances can solidify your preferences regarding what you need and want (or don’t need or want).
I believe this to be true and applicable to almost every aspect of the human experience. But I really notice it when it comes to money. (I know…what a surprise?!) 🙂
This observation is one of the reasons I intentionally included the stories of a variety of people and their relationship with money in my book, “Financial Intimacy: How to Create a Healthy Relationship with Your Money and Your Mate.” It’s also one of the reasons I listen to and LOVE NPR’s – “This is Uncomfortable.”
As the show describes itself, TIU is “about life and how money messes with it.” Here’s a link to an episode that left me speechless (which, by the way, rarely happens): click here.
The episode takes a plot twist the likes of the ending of the movie, “The Usual Suspects.” I certainly didn’t “see” it coming! And, I won’t give away the ending here. But suffice it to say, the episode taps into a spectrum of emotions. In fact, all of their episodes do. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much; the people they profile and the stories they tell reinforce what I’ve been saying for years:
It is emotional, too.
And if you listen closely, what you hear in almost every episode is a bit of embarrassment or shame.
In some episodes, the embarrassment or shame expressed by the guest is pretty clear; it’s due to common money “culprits” like:
- not earning enough
- not having enough in the way of savings or assets
- not having enough knowledge to make wise decisions or to avoid being hoodwinked
- not having adequately planned, in general or for the unexpected
- not being as far along as their peers and friends
- having (a lot of) debt
- having purchased “more” house then they could really afford
- feeling guilty about having “too” much (income, savings, assets) – (as compared to close family and friends) – and feeling pressure to do more for others because of what they have
- spending too much
- being too optimistic
In other episodes, the reason for the embarrassment or shame is a little less specific. It’s expressed as a more ambiguous, “I should have known better…” or “I wished I’d known X…”
Just as I listen to my clients without judgment, I listen to each episode in the same way. Because being non-judgmental is a core value of mine.
Something else that is important to me: Ensuring people don’t give away their financial power.
Regret & Power
What often accompanies the mistake, misjudgment, or lack of preparedness, though, is regret.
Regret can lead to you giving away your financial power in obvious and less obvious ways.
To guard against doing so, regardless of the situation or circumstances behind why you may feel regretful, here are five (5) questions to ask yourself:
#1 – Are you letting the embarrassment or shame linger long past the teachable moment?
This often happens when you keep the choice, situation or outcome on a continuous loop in your mind and/or heart. And there’s no self-forgiveness.
#2 – Are you focusing more on the judgment of and from others – rather than making sure you’ve invested the time to internalize the lesson behind the lesson?
#3 – Are you conflating transparency with discernment?
Despite the behavior you may see on social media, everyone doesn’t need to know all your business. Yes, it’s important to have someone to talk to about whatever is happening. Especially since silence and secrecy can cause a lot of unnecessary damage. But be discerning about what you share, with whom, and where. (And if you work in the online space, just because person “A” shares their revenue, it doesn’t mean you must do the same in order to validate your work.)
#4 – Are you focusing more on how much further you have to go – rather than how far you’ve come?
As I like to remind people, success with money is not about perfection (it’s about being consistent doing the things that serve you). Similarly, success with money is an evolution – not a singular event.
#5 – Do you believe you’re a unicorn?
Whenever you feel embarrassment or shame, you are not alone.
Because rest assured, somebody, somewhere, has in the past or is currently struggling with the same thing. Sure the details about the mistake, misjudgment, or lack of preparedness, will likely be different, but the overall sentiment is the same.
And to state the obvious:
This unease can bring up and prompt you to confront known and unknown feelings and expectations.
So, as you consider what makes you feel embarrassed or ashamed when it comes to your money, whether it is something you’d define as “small” or “large,” think about how the manner in which you’re handling that embarrassment or shame is impacting your ability to make good, smart decisions moving forward.
Here’s why: In some instances, feeling embarrassed or ashamed about money literally costs you money; other times, it’s a combination of money and pride. Yet, these instances are typically teachable moments – for you and possibly the other people in your life.
Feel your feelings, but don’t stay stuck in them.
Push through your embarrassment or shame by doing the thing that will make you feel the most uncomfortable. Because that’s the key to getting comfortable, (re)claiming your financial power, and making sure you’re not giving it away!