My Big Shameful Secret
I have been ashamed to admit something huge. Something I’ve been hiding. Something I don’t want anyone to know. I do a good job hiding it, masking it, pretending that it’s not there — even from myself. Most people would be shocked if they knew. “Really, her? But she is so smart, educated and put together!” My clever, self-reliant facade is masking something lurking underneath — something hiding in the background. I’ve intellectualized it, studied it, and analyzed it, so as to distance my feelings around it, convincing myself that it doesn’t exist.
But the truth is I feel SHAME. My best guess is that a lot of other people do too.
There are two sides of the shame game. On one side, you have shame or guilt and on the other you have blame, judgement or arrogance. We judge and blame people for things for which we feel shame or pride — whether or not we participate. The most outspoken homophobes are often masking shame around their own homosexual feelings. Our biggest judgements hide our deepest shame. I believe that unless we have healed it, we all carry some sort of shame trigger and store it in our bodies. I have only met a few people who have truly healed shame — they speak truth in a way that doesn’t shame or blame anyone (including themselves).
I have found shame to reside in my second chakra, around my sacrum. The second chakra is our creative and sexual center. Many people in our culture carry sexual shame — caused either by trauma, unhealthy cultural beliefs or both. Our creative shame is our expression in the world and how we receive for that expression — often represented by money. I have healed most of my sexual shame, but I hadn’t healed my creative shame — or my shame around money until I broke down and broke through.
It often takes a breakdown to get to breakthrough. I broke down this week. Not only did a racist, bigoted, bully get elected and it feels like our country is falling apart, but my personal life fell apart too. Some of my closest friends got into a crazy conflict of epic proportions. I am going through a divorce and had a heart-breaking argument with my ex. To top it off, I had a kidney infection and had to pay out of pocket for doctor visit and antibiotics — as I don’t have health insurance right now.
In the middle of all this I completely ran out of money.
It is scary. It is scary to not know how to pay bills or buy groceries when you have kids. But worse is the feelings of shame and guilt — for these two emotions can be paralyzing. I judged myself for “not having my shit more together” or “being on top of things” better, or predicting my cashflow. “I should know better, I have an MBA, after all.” My big fear was that if anyone knew, they would see me as incompetent — or worse; lazy.
I work as a consultant, helping my clients with business and marketing. I also teach people about money systems. I am seen as an expert on money and business. I felt like a fraud. My judging mind has rambled self-blame with: “I’ve studied money for years. I know a lot about money, so why am I in this quagmire? How can I talk about money and business when my own money life is in shambles?”
Yes, I have made a lot of money in my career. Between what I have earned in income and raised for my various past ventures, I have probably brought in over $3 million over the past decade. Last year my gross income was over $300,000. I felt proud of myself, accomplished. I felt that because I had this money, I had “figured it out” and was winning at the money game. The truth is, I still operated in the shame and blame paradigm. While never outwardly so, I subtly shamed my husband for not bringing in as much money. I made myself feel superior because I made more money. I didn’t heal my relationship to money by making more; I merely moved from shame to judgement and blame. I was on the other side of the same coin. My husband bought into it too, working insane hamster-wheel hours to earn more and ‘make me happy.’ By both of us playing the shame-blame game, we destroyed our marriage.
Nobody wins in the shame-blame game.
The truth is that life is messy. Sometimes we make choices that don’t pan out, sometimes things beyond our control happen, sometimes we are too busy or distracted (with things like moving, kids or divorce), that areas of our life get neglected (like exercise or managing unpaid client invoices). Sometimes things get so out of control, it feels like the world is spinning too fast and we don’t even know where to begin. It can be so overwhelming that we don’t even want to look at it sometimes — especially if there isn’t anything we can do about it. Sound familiar? Thought so.
The need to bring in money is real. I have kids, a mortgage, and a full life. Because of this I have been taking consistent steps toward bringing in the money required to make my life work. In this experience, I am finally admitting that I carry shame around money and releasing it. I have a choice. I don’t need to participate or buy into this paradigm.
It’s time for me to acknowledge without guilt or shame that while my business supported my family for nearly a decade, it isn’t working for me at the moment and it’s time to change. I have been applying to jobs and have had two very promising interviews. As a white woman with a graduate degree, I have options. I have an array of skills and qualifications. I own a home, have money in my retirement account and three clients that owe me money. It is highly likely that my financial situation will improve very soon and when it does, it will be more challenging to stay out of the culturally agreed shame-blame paradigm around money. It’s easy to see something when it is screaming in your face.
I am making a commitment to remember this moment and etch it into my memory. I want to remember what it feels like to be afraid around money so that I will always have empathy and compassion for those struggling with finances. In letting go of shame, I get to sit very peacefully with what is so. In being honest about my shame, I release it.
My kidneys have been harboring the anxiety and fear around admitting my money shame for years — it is probably both cultural and inherited. My grandfather died of kidney cancer. I believe this ‘weakness’ is why a bacterial infection so quickly and easily moved from a UTI into my kidneys. Wherever we store unhealthy emotional energy in our bodies, we have weakness. Kidneys and the adrenals (which sit right on top of the kidneys and release adrenaline when we are stressed) are very much connected to fear.
I was terrified to write this blog post and share it publicly. My intention in sharing this is to heal my own shame-fear relationship and open the space for others to do the same. We have a cultural shame-blame paradigm around money. It’s time to look at healing it.
“Money is part of life where we are confused and upset — or filled with arrogance and pride.” — Lynne Twist
I have incredible love and support through my family, friends, children, ex-partner and new partner. I will be okay. So many other women with less support aren’t. According to census data, over 24 million women live below the poverty line in the U.S. What I experienced this last week is what millions of women deal with every day. If we can let go of our judgement, shame and arrogance around money, maybe just maybe we can all heal this.