Shame is a tricky beast.
It sneaks in. Unannounced and uninvited. Through cracked windows and doors you thought you’d shut.
It can slip in, just when you’re celebrating. That’s when your guard is down, after all.
I’ve seen it happen in our community. Just when you learn a new money skill, shame sneaks in and beats up on you because you didn’t know it before.
You get all set up with your new personal tracking software. After a few weeks, you start catching “money leaks”— that old gym membership you didn’t realize you’d forgotten to cancel, and some late fees you can avoid now that you’re keeping closer track of things.
In this moment, you have a choice. Will you celebrate your new awareness? Or shame yourself for not noticing before?
Or perhaps you finally hire an accountant, after years of fighting with your taxes yourself, with gritted teeth and pots of coffee. When she shows you all the deductions you’ve been missing (and how much money you’ll be saving), you have a choice. Will you celebrate yourself for getting this expert support? Or shame yourself for waiting so long?
This is the double-edged sword of learning, my friends. We can wield it wisely — and cut through confusion, opening a trail ahead of us. Or we can use it against ourselves.
That’s why I always, always, always lay the foundation of Money Healing before moving into Money Practices. We need to do this emotional, body-based work of forgiving ourselves and learning self-compassion first. Then, when we set up our bookkeeping systems or reach out for support — and encounter emotional choice points like this — we have the inner resources and emotional capacity to choose compassion.
As you get more savvy and aware about money systems, you might find yourself looking back and past decisions and behaviors and shaking your head.
Why did you let yourself get pressured into that pricier car, when you knew the monthly payment was uncomfortably high? Why didn’t you negotiate a higher starting salary? How could you have been so careless about spending and racking up credit card debt, in college?
Please, I urge you: have compassion for your past decisions and behaviors. Even the “mistakes.”
After all: what’s the point in trying to update your financial life if you feel aggressive and critical toward yourself the whole time?
We’ve all made money “mistakes.” We’re all works in progress.
Every single one of us has unique gifts that we bring to our money journey, and we all travel through challenges along the way. We’re only human, and we’re bound to make mistakes.
So, how do we learn from our money mistakes with grace and compassion?
The answer may surprise you. This isn’t about “right” or “wrong,” self-flagellation isn’t going to make us feel better or release us from the shame and frustration we feel around our money mistakes.
We learn from our missteps by bringing gentle and intentional awareness to them.
The next time your inner critic starts lamenting the mistakes you’ve made with money, or something in your daily life triggers feelings of regret, shame, or anger around the money choices you made in the past; stop what you’re doing.
Please add a dose of compassion for your past financial mistakes.
Do a body check-in.
Notice the feelings that are coming up for you, without judgment or getting lost in “I should have’s” or “what if’s.” Simply allow yourself to be present and aware of how you feel in this moment.
And get savvier each money decision you make. Learn from your past mistakes. Set up systems and get the support you need. Yes, yes, and yes.
As you do this: return to self-compassion and forgiveness, over and over again. Let emotional intelligence light the way for practical change. Let self-love be the foundation for your money self-care practice.
Learning isn’t a reason to beat up on yourself for what you didn’t know before.
Celebrate your progress. Forgive your past. Move forward with awareness and love.
You’ve got this.