Have You Ever Felt Shame with Money?

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"Looking back, I realized that I used money to mitigate fears and avoid shame way more than I ever used it to consciously invest in resources that would improve my life."

For accessibility and ease, you can listen to this post narrated by Mike:


I used to turn a blind eye to anything related to money.

I was constantly overwhelmed and as avoidant as possible. I was terrified of looking at my bank account. And I was filled with shame.

So ashamed that I didn’t fill out a few expense reports when I worked in PR because I was overwhelmed by all of the paperwork, or I had lost a few receipts and was too embarrassed to submit anything then.

I’d rather just pay for my mistakes and shame to go away. So I didn’t have to deal with them.

It was so bad that once I accidentally forgot to cancel a free trial to a news report we needed for work that cost $2,000. And I was actively considering carrying credit card debt just to not have to confront the company and get my money back. (Fortunately, I built up the courage and was able to clear that amount.)

But I was terrified of money. Because it brought up a lot of shame.

Shame about spending in places I “shouldn’t” have been spending. Shame about struggling with money, even when my income was decently high. Shame about not really being clear on what I wanted or what would make me happy. And, most of all, shame about avoiding the hard conversations and confrontations in life.

As a visionary, I had spent a lifetime internalizing that shame—always feeling “too much” and “not enough.” Always telling myself that I was wrong.

So, of course, I’d immediately internalize that shame when anything went wrong with money. I’d make myself wrong rather than take outward action. And then I’d do anything in my power to hide from and avoid that shame.

In a world full of collective money shame, we visionaries have a lot to internalize. And we do. Constantly.

Looking back, I realized that I used money to mitigate fears and avoid shame way more than I ever used it to consciously invest in resources that would improve my life.

I was using my purchases to cover up my feelings of not being good enough. Instead of to live from the place of my genius.

And, honestly, I’m so grateful for moments when I didn’t have a lot of money. I wasn’t at the time—at all. But, looking back, I can see that the more money I had, the less I had to actually deal with these patterns. When I was dangerously broke, I didn’t have much of a choice.

I had to prioritize.

I remember living on my own in San Francisco and having to pull out my phone to calculate which foods I could buy at the grocery store. If I had $20 to my name at the end of a month, it was a really good month. And yet I still managed to buy one beer every weekday—the cheapest beer in a bar. It was $30 I budgeted for every week.

Not because I particularly needed one beer every day. But because it was how I met friends. I didn’t know anyone in the city, and so I went to the bar below my apartment and bought the cheapest beer on the menu. And then I made myself introduce myself to every single person in the bar before I could finish my beer.

And then I did it again the next day. For six months.

Right there, in those decisions, I learned something about myself—connection with others, self-improvement, building confidence. These were things I valued. And, when push came to shove, I’d always prioritize those over other things.

I’d like to say that was the only time I’d ever struggled financially. But I’ve had plenty of practice to learn that lesson again and again. Like when we planned our wedding and didn’t have a DJ, a wedding cake, a big wedding, or even a first dance. But we did have three days of events in Aruba and a three-course dinner.

Intimacy, connection, food, artistry.

It was in forced prioritization that I learned what actually mattered to me. What it really meant to live from the place of my genius.

Because the endless other stuff just got in the way and distracted me. And created even more layers of shame around not knowing what would make me happy.

I’ve chosen a small home in the city over a large home elsewhere. And a night in with a book over a night out at the bar. And to take a huge pay cut to work for myself. And to have a very limited closet of only clothes I love.

In all of life, I’ve sacrificed a lot. To focus only on the few things that really mattered to me. The few things that made me feel like a genius. The few things that shared that genius.

And I’ve noticed a pattern between all of these things—they’re always about connection, intimacy, artistry, and experience. Or, said another way, they’re always related to Aligned, Zany, Free, Unmistakable, Successful, and Vulnerable.

Because it’s about making decisions from the place of my genius. No longer using money to cover up my shame and what I think I’m not enough of. But consciously choosing what I am and want more of.

It’s subtle. But it’s a big difference.

In my past—and even today—I never would have thought I’d be grateful for any financial struggles. I would have thought that showering me with endless money would be the solution to all of my problems.

But the truth is I am grateful. Limitations have forced me to explore my genius. Just as mortality makes each moment seem more sacred. And as limited time in a day makes me figure out what I actually care about getting done.

I’m no longer afraid. I no longer make decisions about what I spend on out of fear. But rather out of love.

Out of what I choose. From that place of my genius.

And we visionaries are geniuses. We have a lot to share with the world. Hidden beneath the layers of shame that we unfortunately so often carry.

Where we focus our time, energy, and money is what we are constantly prioritizing—especially if we have little of each of those things. And we can choose that from fear, or we can choose that from the love of our genius.


Questions for Reflection:

*Answer in a journal, in the comments right here, or take it over to the Sacred Branding® Facebook group where we can support one another:

Have you ever felt shame with money?

— Have you ever felt fear or shame come up around the topic of money? Have you avoided thinking about money or looking at your bank account out of that fear? Have you internalized the shame and told yourself that you’re bad or wrong?

— Have you made decisions to not have to deal with the shame or fear? Do you feel like you are investing more in covering up feelings of not being good enough than in resources that would improve your life?

— What if your limitations—in any area of life—force prioritization and help you know your genius and what matters to you most? What if you can see the life you’re building from how you’re currently investing your time, energy, money, and other resources? What if you could choose to invest from the place of genius instead of the place of fear?

Mike Iamele

Mike Iamele

Mike writes about how artists, entrepreneurs, healers, and visionaries of all kinds can actually build a life around the genius inside of them.

He's CEO of Mike Iamele LLC and Creator of Sacred Branding® and the Sacred Circle.

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