Shame and Money

Our cultural story tells us that financial independence is the corner stone of individual maturity and success. That financial wealth is a marker of hard work.

But fails to tell us how different the playing field is today, to that inhabited by those who created that myth. nor how assets create assets.


The focus is always on the individual… not the system we inhabit.

Programs like Jacques Peretti’s The Super Rich and Us on the BBC and Channel Four’s Low Pay Britain are examining this very real, very current issue. Watching them has really brought home to me the scale of this.

We are all, unless you are one of the 1%, seeing our economic value diminish. Right before our eyes. As money drains out and costs go up, we feel powerless. We feel ashamed that we are scrabbling for the money we need to get by.

We are starting a business in a different economic ecosystem to the one I grew up in. At a time of extreme economic change and gross inequality. This is the time of the squeezed middle where we all, whether employed, self-employed or unemployed are seeing our incomes shrink and our outgoings grow.

I realised that I had been avoiding writing last week’s post because I feel a lot of shame around not being able to earn enough. But I am not alone. My situation is that of a lot of people. Shame that we should be earning more. Shame that we’re not. Shame that we’re trying too hard and not succeeding in monetary terms, shame that we don’t have enough to meet our outgoings or aspirations.

It is not the lack of money that is the problem.

It is the shame.

Which is very private. And very stressful.

We believe that WE are the problem. We are the only ones with the problem. Its all our fault.

For those really stuck in the mire this leads to… It’s all my fault… There’s no escape… As the cause, as the responsible one, I must take the only responsible action I can, the only control I can. We have had many in our local area.

The amount of debt suicides on our government’s hands is what is shameful.

We become so stuck in our individual situations, we lose sight of the bigger picture (which is just the way the system wants it – make enough individual pain and the collective will be so focused on survival that they won’t notice the bigger picture.)

I have made a personal note to self, every time I feel shame, there lies a collective truth which we find unspeakable. Every time I feel shame I am not alone, I just have no easy socio-cultural means of communicating this deep, taboo shared truth. Each time I feel shame I have hit on a truth.

We are the 99%

Most of us are in a very similar situation. The thing that’s keeping us trapped is trying to keep up the appearance that everything’s OK on the outside, to keep up financially with others’ expectations of us… rather than be open and honest.

When we see everyone’s in the same boat, we see it is not our individual fault but a systemic issue which is affecting the majority. Then we can choose to put our energy elsewhere. Not in attacking ourselves… but confronting the system. Private shame becomes public action… and outrage.

You are not alone. We are in this together.

We are the 99%.