I am back to continue our conversation about the intersection of money and embarrassment. And, I want to thank you if you were one of the ones who completed the anonymous survey.

The number of responses pleasantly surprised me. What didn’t surprise me, though, were the range of situations people described. Here’s a snippet of what some people were embarrassed by…

  • not having enough (income, savings, assets, “toys”)
  • having “too” much (income, savings, assets)
  • having debt
  • spending too much (and in one case the spending makes them feel bad because their lack of financial discipline upsets their spouse)

And one person shared how they shifted from feeling embarrassed by the fact that they didn’t have the largest house, fanciest car, and such, when they discovered their friends who did were deep in debt. This person was no longer green with envy.

One of the reasons I am grateful for the responses is that I could feel how answering the survey question was not easy. I could also feel a sense of relief – like, “finally, I get to express this frustration of mine.”

As you read the response snippets above, you may have also felt relief – relief that you are not alone in your own embarrassment. Because rest assure, somebody, somewhere, has in the past or is currently struggling with the same thing. Sure the details are different, but the overall sentiment is the same.

Onlyness in this case is just one of the “costs” of feeling embarrassed about your money: it can cause you to feel alone and not understood (or misunderstood). The result: you conflate “hiding” (because you don’t discuss what’s causing you to feel embarrassed) with being private. There’s a difference…and it is huge!

Is it a Price Worth Paying?

There are other costs, too. Some are just more subtle than others, but they are all significant:

Connection and Stronger Relationships

When you feel embarrassed and “hide” because you don’t discuss what’s causing you to feel this way with those that matter, you end up giving more power to the judgment of and from others. (Think about that for a minute.)

Likewise, when you shut down because you aren’t initiating those awkward, yet open and honest conversations, you lose out on the opportunity the situation presents to deepen your connection and sense of togetherness with those “others.”

Let’s use “having too much money” as an example. And let’s say your family has grown accustomed to you footing the bill for family vacations because you’re the “rich” one. You do it, but it’s beginning to take a toll on your efforts to save for you and your immediate family’s future.

Can you imagine what level of family and financial intimacy might be discovered if you re-set everyone’s expectations and said that beginning in 2018 each person would have to foot 25% of their portion of the vacation; 50% in 2019; 100% in 2020?

Trust & Self-Confidence

Have you ever said, “I feel embarrassed because I know better, but am not doing better…”? If so, then you understand the internal friction this dichotomy creates, which gets amplified if your actions (or lack thereof) cause someone else to be disappointed in you. Not only do you lose their trust each time you don’t keep your word, but you also chip away at your own self-confidence in the process.

So, if over-spending is why you feel embarrassed, put a framework in place to be more intentional with your money for the next 30-days. Create a list of what you can and cannot buy each day or each week; note whether you’ll use cash or credit card and if you have multiple credit cards, choose to use just one card during this 30-day period.

Good, Smart Decisions

Whenever you and I feel embarrassed, it makes us feel uncomfortable. This unease can also prompt us to confront known and unknown feelings and expectations. In other words, the “perfect” recipe for making unwise decisions and choices.

As you consider what makes you feel embarrassed about 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 is impacting your ability to make good, smart decisions.

In some instances, feeling embarrassed about money literally costs you money; other times, it’s a combination of money and pride. Yet, those instances are typically teachable moments, too – for you and possibly the other people in your life. So don’t stay stuck. Push through your embarrassment by doing the thing that will make you feel the most uncomfortable. Because that’s the key to getting comfortable!


p.s. And if debt is the culprit and the reason why you feel embarrassed about your money, check this out.

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