Yesterday, I went to FedEx to drop off some packages. Afterwards, I had to wait for the bus for almost an hour in the cold weather and snow piled up. Waiting in the cold is not fun but that is not what bothered me the most. I started thinking what will the bus driver think when he sees me waiting in the cold. I wondered why that bothered me. A million thoughts crossed my mind and then I stopped at one: I don’t want him to think I am poor.
Once I faced this thought, I was shocked I never realized this but my whole life I’ve been afraid of others perceiving me as poor and I’ve overcompensated for that quite a lot at my financial expense.
I never tried to impress people with money, although some might have gotten that idea. I was always afraid that others will see me as poor and when in social settings I tried not to appear poor by spending lots on food or drinks, not caring about the price of things, sometimes bragging about expensive things. However most of my life I was poor.
I’ve been in school and then I’ve been in grad school. I did some well-paying internships in the summer which gave me an appearance of being well-off financially and status. However, even then I was not rich not even well-off. The shame of being poor was so strong that I would spend my money on things to show or prove that I am not poor./
In my bank account, I’ve never had more than $5-6,000 on very rare occasions. Most of the time my bank account is close to $0 or I have credit card debt.
You see being poor or rich has nothing to do with how others perceive you. However, shame has everything to do with how others perceive you. Shame dragged me into debt because by not wanting to appear poor I became poorer than I really am.
Realizing this core shame, I felt liberated. Once you uncover the shame, admit it, even share it with a friend, it does not have that large power over you. Perhaps, one day it will disappear fully.