What would you be more embarrassed to shout from the rooftops: your weight or your credit score?
According to a recent survey, it is clear that debt shame in the United Kingdom is worse than diet shame. A whopping 37% of people answered that their credit card debt was the most embarrassing, followed by 30% of respondents admitting they wouldn’t want to fess up to their credit score. Weight made only 12% of people sweat, and came in a distant third place.
Obviously, most people would like to keep their debt and credit score to themselves. But when the average credit card debt in the UK is more than £15,000, you’d think that debt is normalised in this country. Instead, despite the fact that debt seems to be as certain as death and taxes, it can create a lot of shame.
Some might think that debt shame is a good thing – after all, if you feel bad about it, you’re less likely to incur more, right? Unfortunately, it’s not so simple.
When consumers feel a deep sense of shame, guilt, and embarrassment over debt, an opposite effect can take place. Instead of curbing spending and improving debt payoff rates, the embarrassment causes debt to fester unacknowledged and keeps consumers from getting the help they need to take control of their finances.
If this discussion is causing you to squirm a little, you might be suffering from debt shame yourself. And while you probably don’t want to shout your credit score from the rooftops, it’s possible to conquer that shame and cultivate a healthier relationship with money.
How to Overcome Debt Shame & Take Financial Control
Understand Why You Feel Shame
Understanding why you feel a certain way about money doesn’t absolve you from responsibility, but it gives you a starting point for how to deal with it. It helps you better understand why you’ve made the choices that landed you in debt, and thereby recognize your debt triggers and make better choices going forward.
Differentiate Between Character and Behavior
You might feel bad and berate yourself for getting into debt. Stop that kind of thinking and remember this: Overspending and going into debt aren’t character flaws – they’re behavioral issues.
If you’ve made poor decisions in the past, you’re not a bad person. Acknowledging this can help motivate you to come out from under the shadow of your debt – being in debt doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with you.
You can learn more about credit and finances by doing the following:
- Make an appointment with a financial advisor
- Ask someone you trust for a few pointers
- Being willing to learn, means you’re no longer hiding from your debt and financial faux pas. Instead, you’re ready to take responsibility and work to change. That’s not embarrassing – that’s
Once you’ve resolved to make a change in your life, it’s time to spring into action and start making changes. The best way to start, is to stop spending with credit cards. There is no way to get out of debt by incurring new debt, so it’s time to cut up those cards – or at least store them somewhere you can’t get to them.
Eliminate as much temptation as possible. For example, if your downfall is online shopping, use a web blocker to block yourself from your favorite stores. If you tend to spend when out with friends, suggest a night in instead.
You still need a concrete debt payoff plan to conquer debt and associated guilt. However, one small step toward your ultimate goal can help boost your confidence, acknowledge your triggers, and, most importantly, give you a chance to forgive yourself for past mishaps.
Talk to Someone
If you feel that accumulating crushing debt is the result of a psychological impulse, you may need to talk to a mental health professional. Together, you can discuss why you might be overspending, as well as identifying coping mechanisms to help retrain your behavior so your debt doesn’t become your defining factor.
But you can also come clean to other people in your life. Talk to a close friend, parent, partner, or financial advisor to stop feeling guilty and start feeling like yourself again.
If you still don’t feel comfortable talking about your debt, look for online communities that can help. Remember that you’re not the first person to let your debt get out of control. Communicating with people online who have been successful in taking control helps you retain some anonymity while still getting to share your experience, get advice, and ask questions.
Realizing that you’ve let your debt and spending get completely out of hand is enough to make you feel guilty. But the bright side is that if you’re feeling guilty, you’ve seen the light and know that your behavior needs to stop. The trick is to not let your guilt and shame get in the way of coming clean and working on a plan to get your finances back on track.
When you’ve acknowledged there’s an issue and have a desire to get out of debt, you’ve already cleared two major hurdles in your payoff plan – and that’s nothing to be embarrassed about.