The Antidote to Money Shame

written by Bari Tessler November 7, 2013

This is the first post in the Golden Nugget Series: a collection of the sweetest, bite-sized tidbits of my work.  It’s all celebrating the The Art of Money, my year-long money school. If you’re new here, subscribe for updates and money wisdom at the bottom of this post!

Golden Nugget #1. Money Healing.

Today we’re going to talk about — dun, dun, dun — Money Shame.

Working with Money Shame is a cornerstone of Money Healing, the first phase of my conscious money work.

Let’s un-sweep this from under the rug and get to know this dark, illuminating, opportunity-filled and misunderstood beastie. First and foremost:

We all have money shame.

Women, men, young, old, short, tall, gay, straight, spreadsheet enthusiasts and number-phobes, billionaires and paupers, self-made entrepreneurs and trust funders. No matter how much money you make or where you’re from, everyone has money shame. Everyone.

Over the years, I’ve worked with people who earn $20K and people who earn $1M. I’ve worked with people from all different kinds of family and socio-economic backgrounds. Everyone has money shame.

In my recent Money Memoir Series, I interviewed 33 people from all different walks of life, at all different phases in their money journey. And guess what? Every single one of them shared a piece of money shame.

The specifics are always unique. But this thread shows up in stories and beliefs we all tell ourselves, like:

“I’m just not good with money.”
“I totally screwed up, made a mess, and now I can’t go back.”
“I still feel strong sadness/guilt/anger/anxiety around such and such money experience or memory or pattern… and I can’t move on.”
“I should be better at this by now!”
or … “I used to be so good with money, what happened?!”

Money shame can surface in many ways, at different times in our lives:

  • As old stories that are still tangled, waiting to be understood and honored and forgiven.
  • In your lineage, perhaps kept alive through a family dynamic of guilt, painful silence, or twisted communication.
  • Hidden in lost memories, triggered by sudden remembering or ah-has or a gradual waking up
  • Right here and now in your money relationship, as you play out familiar patterns that feel “off” or unconscious or un-aligned.
  • In little (or big!) moments where you feel unsettled with how you’re showing up in your relationship to money — perhaps you feel queasy or headachy or sleepy, as your body is telling you that something’s not-quite-right here.

Deep breath. How does it feel to know you’re not alone? A little better, already?

So. We know Money Shame exists.  And we all have it. But WHY?

Let’s back up. Way, way, back.

How many of us were taught skills and tools for understanding and relating to money? As young children, as adolescents — even as adults?

Were you given a financial education? On an emotional level? On a practical level? Dare I say, even on a spiritual level?

The crazy-ubiquitous answer? “Nope.”

We simply were not taught how to manage money, how to understand our feelings about it, or how to talk about it.

The concept of money is a huge territory, where so much is happening: emotionally, psychologically, practically, spiritually, inter-personally. And, whether we admit it or not, whether we love it or loathe it, we all live in this territory, every single day: earning, spending, giving, receiving, losing, borrowing, lending, investing, exchanging money. But we simply weren’t taught how to make sense of any of this in a conscious, healing way.

It’s time to give ourselves the permission, tools, and support we need to bring money back from the taboo-lands and heal our Money Shame — together.

There’s a conscious money movement afoot, working to bring money out of the shadows and into the light. It’s bringing awareness, forgiveness, alignment, and practical tools to the money conversation. And it’s growing every day.

How do we attend to our Money Shame?

We all have unique strengths and challenges and growing edges with money. Places to grow, steps to take, healing that’s ready to happen.

In my recent Money Memoirs Series, I asked each of my guests what they’re currently working on in their money relationship, and their answers ranged from healing old wounds to setting up QuickBooks to having conversations with their children.

At a certain point, we wake up and realize: it’s time to get in there.

Into the cobwebs, into the muck. Into the shame. Into the stuck places.
Into the sleepy, angry, anxious, guilty, overwhelm, paralyzing places.
Into the old stories and unhealthy habits. Into those tough conversations.

Many of us avoid this for a long, long time. Money tends to be the last frontier, even for the personal growth aficionados. But after the whispers, or the call, or the giant red flag screaming for attention — one day we decide it’s time to open. It’s time to be brave. It’s time roll up our sleeves and take a real look at our money relationships.

Here’s some good news:

That thing you’ve been avoiding looking at? It may not be that big, hairy monster you imagined it was. You may realize that you’re more on top of things than you thought — and, yes, you have areas that still need loving attention.

Remember: we all have aspects of our money relationship that need ongoing growth and continued exploration. Want to hear some of mine?

Each year I update my systems or add a new person to my money support team.
Each year I understand more and forgive more.
Each year I take new baby steps on this money journey.

When you make the decision to start working with your Money Shame, soon (sometimes immediately) you will start to see a teeny glimmer of possibility, a path into the other side of Money Shame.

Into joy. Into ease. Into clarity. Into power. Into choice, consciousness, and awareness. Into forgiveness.

Word to the wise: we need to add big doses of gentleness here. “Tough love” is not the M.O. for healing emotional wounds.

Shaming ourselves is an old pattern. Telling ourselves, again and again, that we are not doing it right, that we’re not good enough, that we’re unforgivable? It’s self-directed violence. It’s unhelpful. And, actually: it’s flat-out inaccurate. We all make mistakes sometimes in life and in money.

Let’s be gentle with ourselves, especially in these tough moments. Let’s learn some creative ways to respond differently, more lovingly, next time.

Are you ready to begin? Ready to get in there?
Start here.

If you’ve been in my world for awhile, you probably know about my favorite trusty tool: The Body Check In. It’s a simple, fast, and elegant way to work with Money Shame (or any challenging emotion) when it arises.

Just for you, my dear community: here’s a guided meditation to introduce you to the Body Check In. It’s super-short (less than 10 minutes), and it’s the best way to understand and experience The Body Check in.

Grab a cuppa, silence your phone for a moment, and press play:

Not an audio type? Here’s the short run down of how to do a Body Check In:

Pause. Listen. Notice. . .
. . . body sensations
. . . emotions
. . . the state of your breath
. . . any thoughts that are passing through your mind.

Gather data. Info. Clues. These are the keys that open your access deeper into your money relationship.

Be open and curious. Let yourself get in there, into your body, into your Money Shame. Pull it apart.
Name some of its tentacles.
Add more doses of compassion and curiosity.
Move it to the side. See it next to you: “Hello money story/money pattern/money shame. Who are you? What do you have to say?
Breathe. Add another dollop of compassion, and two more teaspoons of curiosity. Breathe.

What to do next:
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Before, during, and after . . . everything. In every possible moment. In tough times, when you’re triggered, when you’re stressed, when you’re simply feeling “off.” For example:

  • In the grocery store.
  • In the parking lot of the mall.
  • When you are going online to look at your balances.
  • When you are going to your mailbox to get your bills.
  • When you are reviewing your income and expenses at the end of the month.
  • As you are about to have a money conversation with your honey, your parents, your client, your children, your business partner.
  • … and so many more itty bitty money interactions throughout your day.

The Body Check In is extraordinarily simple — and extraordinarily difficult. It’s my favorite tool because of its simplicity, elegance, and profound power to uncover your money story and open you into so, so much more.

And, it is utterly life changing + supportive. Pinky swear.

Your Turn.

This Money Shame stuff is big and beautiful, tender and taboo, personal and universal — and bursting with potential. It’s at the very heart of the Money Healing phase of my Art of Money Program.

What you’ve read here is just one, tiny, Golden Nugget from a huge body of work. The tip of The Art of Money iceberg. And yet this powerful tool, all alone, can transform your money relationship. Right here and now. If you let it.

Has this touched something deep within you? Do you feel a stirring, a whisper, a calling to follow this thread and see where it leads you?

If you loved this Golden Nugget and think you might be ready to welcome this kind of conscious money work into your life, in a big, supportive, love-fest kind of a way, consider joining us for my upcoming year-long program, The Art of Money. You’ll be held within an *incredible* community of Money Adventurers from all over the world — with tender support, tremendous tools, eclectic guest teachers, and so, so much more.

Art of Money details and registration are here.

If you’re serious about wanting to work through your Money Shame, you can get a FREE Money Shame workbook to help bring more awareness around this common roadblock.

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