Drew Elizabeth - Life and Health Coach

Are You Living With Money Shame?

Where has shame manifested and taken root in your life? Is it in your body image? Your history? Your self-destructive habits? For me, one of the greatest sources of shame throughout my story has been financial success.

As a child, I craved belonging and acceptance. But when I was placed in a new school district where scarcity was a common theme, I quickly became ashamed of my family’s financial abundance and chose to hide myself in fear of being discovered as “different” and therefore, unwanted.

Today on the blog, I’m getting real with you about my money story, how those childhood financial fears manifested throughout my adulthood, and helping you recognize ways that you too might be living with money shame.

Today, I want to talk about money and shame.

Disclaimer: as I write this, I still struggle with the fear of even talking about money and the shame that I personally hold as an individual with an affluent background. Truthfully, I fear that choosing to be open about my struggles with money as well as body image, dieting, success and perfection (things heavily influenced by my upbringing) will cause some readers, friends and/or family to have negative or judgemental thoughts.

But here’s the thing – this is a part of my story. It doesn’t have to make complete sense to everyone because it’s not for everyone. My hope is that it rings true with whomever needs to know that nope – you’re not alone in carrying shame surrounding the topic of money.

My money shame stemmed from an early age. While living in Palm Beach, I never noticed that my family was any different than the others. I went to a private school and most of my friend’s and classmate’s parents were wealthy. When my parents decided to move up to Illinois and place me into a public elementary school, the feeling of being “different” hit me. I stood out like a sore thumb. From that day one, I hid who I was. I rarely invited the other kids to my home and made my dad drop me off down the street from the school so that no one would see what kind of car we drove. I had money shame and a fear of being labeled as a “rich kid”.

One afternoon in 3rd grade we had show and tell. I was so excited for the teacher to call my name. I prepared the whole day before and I was going to show a photo of my grandmother. I was proud that my grandmother was part owner of the McDonald’s Corporation and when McDonald’s was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, she became the first woman to be a guest in the all-male NYE directors dining room since Queen Elizabeth.

But when my name was called I froze. I was terrified that if I told all the other kids, they would KNOW how different I was and then no one would want to be friends with me. Now I’m not so sure that would have been the case, but in my child brain, I feared being uncovered. So I chose not to share.

Obviously, this story has stuck with me because it represented the beginning stages of finding myself closed-off to being fully known and constantly struggling with guilt for having access to money and achieving success for all of the years leading up to my adulthood.

Money shame is an interesting thing to explore because it often manifests as two “extremes” – wealthy and poor. Both can shape different forms of money shame and contribute to various limiting beliefs and unhealthy thinking. Both can result in resentment and disempowerment.

My senior year of high school we had a voting system in which all the kids voted for someone in various topics like “Most likely to be on a reality talk show” and “Best personality”. Not everyone graduated with these unfortunate and somewhat shallow titles. I, however, came out with “Most Likely to be a Millionaire” which to a healthy individual would feel great but to me, it just felt like a high expectation that was impossible to live up to.

Just like Sigmund Freud, I was embarrassed by my inherited wealth.

Fast forward to college and shortly after, I began to directly correlate hard work (long hours, etc.) with success and success with how much money you could make. I believed that I needed to struggle and work dead-end jobs in order to prove my worth.

The toxic mindset I kept coming back to was the idea that money was “bad”. I never received guidance about spending or budgeting and I was not nurtured around my fearful feelings as a child, so it took years to uncover these unhealthy belief systems and fears.

So what exactly is money shame? It might be directly tied to different experiences in our lives or around our various upbringings in general. It doesn’t discriminate based on your background, how much you earn or whether you are a saver or spender. It sticks with you until you bring awareness to it and are open to work through it.

Money shame in your adult life can show up in all different ways. Here are just a few:

+ Constant self-criticism around money.
+ Procrastination around money-related topics like paying bills or setting up retirement savings.
+ Guilt that you feel shame around money when you come from an affluent background.
+ Anger towards family members that you have to deal with this part of your life.
+ Feelings of hopelessness.

I wish I had a magic wand and was able to tell you that conquering your shame around money is a quick fix but it actually requires a lifelong commitment to learning and growing. But once you are open to exploring more on the different ways you view, handle, and feel about finances and investigate your own money story, that’s when the shifts will start to happen.

And the biggest shift of all? Moving from a place of constant guilt to endless gratitude. Be gentle on yourself, brave one. It’s time to embrace all of who you are.

Self-worth equals net worth.” Suze Orman

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