When was the last time you did or said something that left you feeling slightly embarrassed?

Maybe you ran into someone you’ve met before. They remember your name; but for the life of you, you can’t remember theirs.

Or, maybe you congratulate a woman on her pregnancy…only she isn’t expecting!

Or what about this: you’re taking a yoga class and someone in the room passes gas. You aren’t the culprit of the odorous smell, but you feel embarrassed for the person who is.

Examples are aplenty, and my point with the above scenarios is that you and I bump up against embarrassing moments, often – either of our own doing or when we bear witness to others’ cringeworthy moments.

Although feeling embarrassed rarely feels good at the time, research conducted several years ago by Feinberg, Willer, and Keltner (2011) argues that your mortifying moments can actually serve you well.


When Do You Feel Self-Conscious?

My non-scientific observation says that it seems more acceptable to feel embarrassed about what you say, do, or don’t know when it comes to everything else – except money.

When it comes to history, science, politics, arts & culture, technology, medicine, human behavior, business, etc, no one is expected to know everything there is to know about these disciplines. (Even if you’re the smartest person in the room!) And more likely, a lack of awareness tends to ignite curiosity.

However, the general expectation (and perhaps yours) seems to be different when it comes to money.

Have you ever felt self-conscious about your money situation? What was the trigger; was it because…

  • Your card was declined at the checkout, and there’s a long, impatient line behind you.
  • You don’t have as much money as you’d like or as much as your inner-circle of friends do.
  • You believe you have “too much” money. (Yes, some people feel this. If you can’t fathom it, believe me, it’s real. I worked in the Private Bank for many years, which gave me an insider’s view that goes against the typical narrative.)
  • You are drowning in debt and a low credit score…but no one really close to you knows.
  • Your business is struggling to stay afloat.
  • You can’t buy your children the things and experiences they want…or maybe you can, and you feel embarrassed about being able to give your children what others can’t.

With money, if you say or do the “wrong” thing or lack a degree of knowledge or self-awareness, this tends to invoke shame first…and then (hopefully) curiosity.

Why? What makes money so different? Why is a financial mistake or lack of knowledge about what to do with one’s money seen as a character flaw – instead of as a teachable moment.

After all, isn’t learning a life-long endeavor?

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Is there anything about your finances, right now, that makes you feel slightly embarrassed? If so, what is it, and how are you handling it?

Or, have you borne witness to what’s going on with someone else’s money that makes you feel embarrassed for them? Have you said anything, or did you choose to silently observe from the sidelines?

According to Dr. Christine Harris, “Embarrassment is pretty easy to trigger, which speaks to how powerful a force it is for almost all of us.”

Has the powerful force of feeling self-conscious about your money situation ever stopped you from asking for help? Has it ever stopped you from doing something you really wanted to do? Has it ever stopped you from asking to be connected to someone who can help you get a new job, project or client? Has it ever stopped you from asking for the sale? Has it ever stopped you from offering to help?

I am really curious about the intersection of money and embarrassment because I see, almost daily, just how powerful a force it is in the lives of my coaching clients, workshop attendees, dinner guests and blog readers. And, I also know what role it has played in my own life.

So why do I want to gain a deeper understanding of what affect the emotion of embarrassment has on the choices you and I do (or don’t) make? Because as important as knowing what triggers your embarrassment and why, is knowing what is it costing you.

With your help, I’d love to continue this conversation. But first, I’d love it if you shared when you’ve ever felt embarrassed about your money…and what you did next: click here to do so anonymously.

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