Ashamed of your spending habits? Here's how you can break the cycle

Akshata Kamath
Akshata KamathNov 03, 2022 | 08:00

Ashamed of your spending habits? Here's how you can break the cycle

Holding feelings of guilt and shame can damage your self esteem and confidence. (Illustration: Geetanjali Singh, DailyO)

Consistently spending over your budget or buying a liability that you are not mentally ready for can be quite cruel on your mental health over a period of time. Though bad money decisions can suck you into the vicious cycle of guilt and shame, you can break the shame cycle by accepting responsibility, talking to someone you trust, making a revised plan and taking small aligned actions. 

First, what do guilt and shame do to you? As per psychiatrist David Hawkin's book ''The Map of Consciousness: Explained'', Guilt and Shame are the worst emotions that a human being can embody. 

This is because guilt makes you think you’ve made a mistake (so you might feel: “I made a bad decision with my money, hence I feel guilty) while shame makes you think that 'you' are the mistake (so you might feel, “I’m always terrible with money”) 

Guilt puts you in the cycle of ''Oh my God what have I done!'' while shame leads you to believe that there’s no way out. Both emotions may put you in such a helpless state that you might feel worthless. You might even think: ''I am going to do the same thing, so why do I even start trying now?''

So to break the cycle of shame and guilt, getting out of these emotional states becomes important.  

Second, Why do we feel ashamed or guilty about our money habits?  Anything could trigger you to feel these emotions. Maybe you broke your promise to yourself and got an expensive 3D printer that you cannot afford or you bought a car and now since you lost your job, maybe your parents have to pay those EMIs for a couple of months by forgoing their comforts.

Maybe you feel guilty and ashamed because of your childhood experiences, or because your priorities have now shifted. Or maybe because you cannot plan your money well or if your budget execution skills aren't enough for you. 

Third, what do we do about it? Say you went over budget during the festive season and made purchases that you already regret. Maybe you could have saved that money instead or could have spent it on some other experience and you are beating yourself up for these behaviors. Or maybe you took some debt long time back with the intention of repaying it in a fixed time but you couldn't follow through with your promise. Here's what you can do about it:  

1. Time out, accept, understand and learn: The first step is always accepting the fact that you are responsible for the financial mess and not shaming yourself for it. Yes you might have done something terrible and yes it might affect your life to quite an extent, but humans can learn from their mistakes. Only when you accept complete responsibility for your past actions can you do something about it and fix it.

Reflect on why you’re experiencing these feelings and journal the lessons you learned through the experience. Were you naive or did you act impulsively? If you took on a big loan, did you not consult the necessary people before, or were you too overconfident? Did someone warn you or did you not do enough due diligence? Deep dive into the things you overlooked that could have been corrected and try to learn more about your own behaviour instead of crying over spilled milk. Human behaviours can be changed and it doesn't have to mean anything about your character. 

2. Open up to someone you trust: Conversing about your feelings and your money situation with a trustworthy confidante often helps you feel lighter and relieved. It also helps you to be vulnerable with people, helps you gain different perspectives about the same situation and people can even share priceless advice. Maybe your close friend can help you with your budgets or help you select which stocks you should invest in before you spend your money on them. 

3. Practice self-love and forgiveness: You have to forgive yourself and whoever you blame for your financial situation. When you forgive yourself and others, you kinda let bygones be bygones. You can then focus on what you can do to improve your situation - both mentally with actions. You should also learn to be okay with spending on things that you value and cherish. 

4. Find the positive and work on yourself: You could be grateful for the experience and for the lessons you learned during this phase. Being grateful puts you out of the victim mindset and helps you look forward to a better life filled with better behaviour. You could also use this time to work on your self-confidence which might have gone for a toss. You could use affirmations and work on your self-concept so that you look at yourself as a person who quickly learns from their mistakes and who is always being their best self. 

5. Make a plan and take small aligned actions: Create a logical baby step-wise plan to get out of debt and let each step be something that you don't feel overwhelmed by. When you change your actions, it makes you believe in your own abilities to get over your mistakes. And as you keep taking small aligned actions one day at a time, it increases your confidence in yourself and helps you continue taking the aligned actions. If you don't know where to start, get a money coach to help you.  

How did you break the guilt and shame cycle around money? Tell us in the comments!

Last updated: November 03, 2022 | 12:37
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