The Relationship between Debt and Shame Part I: Becoming Your Own Super Hero

The Relationship between Debt and Shame Part I: Becoming Your Own Super Hero

In today’s guest post, John Dulworth, graciously shares how he’s handling the beast called debt – revealing what both prompted his inaction and what he discovered was necessary for targeted, empowered action. Read his story with an eye for your own (even if you don’t have debt). Enjoy!
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When Jacquette asked me to write a piece on the relationship between debt and shame my answer was an enthusiastic “YES!” You see, I am fascinated by the relationship between things and in my life shame and debt, but more specifically the behaviors that lead to debt, have a symbiotic kind of relationship. One depends on the other for its very existence.

But before I get to that, I want to talk about the other reason I said yes to Jacquette’s request. It’s a bit of my story and in it I invite you to listen for your own story.

Shame: The big, bad wolf

You see, I’m in the wake of having just processed four years of tax returns. All at once. And let me tell you, the news I received from the IRS and the State of New York was not an easy pill to swallow – not for this small business owner. Seemingly overnight I went from a man with manageable debt to a man with substantial debt.

Even as I write that, I can feel the tinge of shame and blame stirring inside of me. The narrative (and this is the tame version) goes something like this:

“How could you have let it get this far?” “How could you have been so irresponsible?” “How could you – of all people – just ignore what you knew needed to be done?” “What does this say about you as a coach and a business owner??”

Yup, there it is. Cleaned up for public consumption but you get the point.

You see, we always have a narrative running through our head. Always. And because we tend to give over so much power to it, this very narrative ends up driving our choices and actions. It’s not always self destructive, but it can be depending on what we’re up to in our lives. Listen closely and that narrative is where you’ll find your shame along with its cohorts, self doubt and blame.

Learn to identify that inner narrative, get a handle on it, do your work with it and you’ll stand a good chance of breaking its hold on you. Work with it and you can turn it from adversary to advocate. Don’t do your work with it and you and your life might just become a prisoner of it. (In part II of this piece I’ll outline specific ways you can do just that.)

The narrative that ultimately led me to my mess started back in the early days of being a first-time business owner. In my head was a little, nagging self doubt. “I don’t know how to do this tax thing on my own” ran through my mind a lot those days and, unattended, it triggered fear and with that fear came more doubt and more narrative.

“I’ve never really, truly been good with money” came next.

Because I didn’t turn and face this narrative, by default I cultivated it. Ultimately I believed it and acted out of it. I began to corroborate with it. Because of that, it took root and like one of those aggressive and invasive species of weeds eventually it consumed me.

Along the way the shame I felt about my situation began dictating all of my actions around that situation.

For four long years, I avoided the entire growing mess. And with each passing year I doubted myself more which made me act in ways that took me further and further out of integrity. The further I got out of integrity, the more I believed my worst thoughts about myself.

The shame I felt was actually fueling the behavior I longed to shift. It kept me stuck. And the longer it went on, the more I believed my darkest thoughts about myself. Ugh. Sound familiar??

Say, “yes!” to your super hero power

Finally…someone said to me: “John, until you turn and face this thing, you will always believe it is a monster in your closet.” Something about that statement got to me. In an instant, I got that this monster was an act of pure imagination and if I was imagining it, I could un-imagine it.

And so I did. I turned to face the monster. And in doing so, I was reminded of a lesson I’d already learned but had forgotten.

There is magic in action.

What I needed was a way out of this spiral. What I needed was a super hero to come and save me!! Turns out, that super hero was me and that super hero’s super power was action towards the very thing that I’d been avoiding.

And so I grabbed my cape and started taking action. With each act I took, I felt my fear subside. With each action I felt my sense of strength and confidence return. The way out of the hole I’d dug for myself took a lot of courage. But as my own super hero, I found I had a lot of courage and I found that every action gave me more.

I was soon going to need every bit of that courage I was amassing because my ultimate challenge was just coming over the horizon.

In part 2 of this article, we’ll get specific. I’ll introduce you to the steps YOU can take to address that narrative in your head. I’ll walk you through a process that when used consistently can turn a shame based mindset into one of support and advocacy.

Until then, over the coming days, I invite you to notice where and when your inner narrative turns shameful and how it drives your choices and actions.

About our guest blogger: John Dulworth is a Transformational Coach living in Manhattan, New York. As a coach, John blends the best of his professional life with his personal journey. He has a natural, fun and comfortable approach that respects the wisdom of the individual and the richness of each life. Clients who engage in John’s process will know fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced decision making skills, greater interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence as they move through their world. They can also expect to see appreciable results in the areas of productivity, personal satisfaction with life and work as well as the achievement of personally relevant goals. To learn more about John, click here.

p.s. ready to get unstuck? Ready to face your shame of debt head-on? Register for the free webinar – “Got Unmanageable Debt? Tackle it With Four Small Steps & Experience Big Wins.” To learn more, click here. It happens on 1/9 at 8pm EST.

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  • http://www.prospectrs.com Steve

    Very interesting. Often feelings of shame and condemnation can leave people sitting in a place of “drowning” in their debt rather than working to get out of debt and find financial victory.