Girls Talk

Happy, Guilty or Shameful about Your Money?

Brenè Brown has had a massive influence on women everywhere. She first inspired me when she spoke about parenting at my son’s school many years ago. Brenè’s success has catapulted since her Ted Talk went viral. Brene’s book was required reading by my Episcopal priest, and she was brought up in my Course in Miracles class recently. She’s everywhere, and with good reason!

Shame: A Nasty Obstacle…

In this post we’ll apply some of Brenè’s core principles to women and money. Brenè’s many years of research on the topic of women and their emotions, especially around shame, offers us insightful avenues for personal growth as well as owning our financial power.

Shame is a nasty obstacle that frequently blocks the path to financial freedom. From my clients and the many women over the years I have spoken with about money, I’ve seen financially destructive actions driven by shame. It plays out as avoiding our money, under utilizing our skills, and giving away our power around money to the men in our lives. Here is how I have personally seen this dynamic in my own life, and how I broke free of unhealthy emotions negatively affecting my own financial power.

Under Utilizing Your Skills

Brenè Brown says that we need to risk being criticized as an outcome of being seen. She’s been criticized horribly at times. Somehow knowing that someone as dedicated and skilled as Brenè has been criticized makes it easier to accept my own criticism. This acceptance invites us to expand beyond our comfort zone. Expansion is required for creating and leading wealth beyond where you are right now.  

Brenè states that the world needs your gifts, and I wholeheartedly agree. Every woman has special and unique skills that can contribute to the world and enhance income. Those gifts are what I wrote about in the Give portion of my book, Earn, Grow, Give. Likewise, you also have the ability and gift of managing your money to create and grow wealth. Like most women, you probably just haven’t seen wealth leadership role modeled so it feels wrong deep inside. When something feels wrong, we just know we’ll face criticism for it.

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Fear of Criticism

Fear of criticism has certainly held me back in the past. Therefore, it’s kept me from speaking up when meeting with financial advisors, or when I had something meaningful to contribute to a financial discussion. In my thirties, I received a copy of a letter from my financial advisor to his management service stating that my fees should be raised, and they were. When I asked him why my fees increased, he said he didn’t know. I stood my ground on firing him. Finally, I subsequently learned that at a dinner party, he had labeled me as the “most intense” woman he had ever known. Really? I was criticized for standing in my power.

Hence, for years, this triggered shame for me. It felt bad, as though I was a bad person for having such a strong investing interest. Recently, it was crystal clear that what he did was wrong. I had a copy of the letter, and he had lied. I realized that what seemed intense to him was a woman who actually looked at the fees she was paying him, asked why they had increased, and made a decision to stop working with him because he was dishonest. (I could have lived with an explanation, but not a lie.) This would have been perfectly normal for a man, right?

Here the thing: Women strive to please everyone. This accommodating behavior has been role modeled since the beginning of time. We were told in subtle, usually unspoken messages: Don’t be strong. Don’t show your power, especially around money!

I have had multiple clients tell me it feels wrong to ask their financial advisor what their fees are. Yet, asking the price of a new purse feels as right as sunshine. We must own our right to manage our money!

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Ask Yourself…

Is risking criticism holding you back from creating the life you really want? Whether this means increasing your fees, asking for a raise, or confirming your wealth management fees, fearing criticism around change can definitely keep us stuck in our current reality. Are you happy with where you are now financially?

What Is That Icky Feeling: Guilt or Shame?

Dr. Brenè Brown points out that shame focuses on you as a person, while guilt focuses on your behavior. Shame triggers thoughts of  “I am bad”. Guilt triggers  “I did something bad.” Addiction, depression, aggression, violence, bullying, eating disorders and suicide are all highly correlated with shame. The interesting point is that guilt is inversely related with those negative experiences. Guilt is an emotional discomfort that you feel for something you’ve done or not done based on your values. In other words, guilt can hold you accountable, making it a helpful emotion. I sort of love that, don’t you?

How Is It Related To Money?

Now, take a deep breath and think about your top money mistakes. What’s the feeling you have related to them? Is it shame or guilt? My bet is that it’s guilt.

Guilt may be what you feel over not investing your money better, spending more than you make or not reaching your full potential. Think of the value in this awareness for creating and having wealth! What if it drove you to learn how to invest, maximize your monthly cash flow from purposeful spending and make more money? For most women, these are all things that you’ll need to do to create and keep wealth. Use your guilt to hold you accountable to your inner self that knows you can be and have more. 

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Furthermore, Brenè explains that we usually hide, blame or rationalize from a place of shame. When you have stepped into your power by asking for a raise, or making an investing decision not aligned with your spouse, have you ever had a deep feeling of wrongness about your action that led you to rationalize and back down? I have sure done this. It makes so much sense based on Brene’s explanation of rationalizing away shame based actions.

Guilt, on the other hand, leads us to try to make better decisions that align with our values. 

Is shame keeping you from reaching your financial potential? Does it feel wrong to have power around your money? Are you standing your ground with your spouse, financial advisor or other male in your life? If not, is shame at the core?

Confidence Is Key

Confidence is the first step in standing ground. The first step to confidence is knowledge. Besides, without knowledge, do you really have the right to stand your ground? It’s my belief that we get the right to stand our ground when we have the knowledge we need to hold that ground. Gaining that knowledge is laughing in the face of shame based behaviors.

By Camille Gaines

Source: Austin Woman, 2012

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