An ex once told me that I was impossible to embarrass. He was exasperated by this, but I took it as a compliment. (I couldn’t fathom leaving the house if I were as easily embarrassed as him). This lack of embarrassment makes frugal living easy. Too many people are afraid of looking different and are suffering the ill-effects of conforming to standards that keep people in perpetual debt. You don’t need to start with confidence – but once you start acting more confidently, you’ll become more confident. And then devil may care what other people think. Here’s how to live on a budget without embarrassment.
Figure Out What You’re Embarrassed By
I read a long form article about being ashamed about growing up spending the way a child of Chinese immigrants does. I never thought that way. Never ever.
In my day, all the cool kids wore expensive Starter jackets. My parents would never give us Starter jackets of course. We would get a few new outfits per year at a place called All Kids Clothes Wholesale. I mean, sure, I hated some of my clothes – but not because they were cheap but because they were ugly.
Too often we attribute what we hate to the lack of money.
Know that Money Doesn’t Solve Embarrassment
When I look at confident people, it doesn’t much matter what they’re wearing. People can wear expensive frocks and look uncomfortable (and make everyone else uncomfortable). People can wear cheap togs and no one notices because they exude so much life. There’s a saying in the fashion world “make sure the clothes don’t wear you.” Nice clothes are nothing without the right attitude.
Too many people think that if they just had the right “stuff,” then the confidence will follow. But it’s completely not true – as evidenced by the number of celebrities wearing millions of dollars of clothing and jewelry and still ending up on worst-dressed lists. Stop believing the hype – the stuff doesn’t make you. It can never make you. You make you.
Feel Grateful For What You Have
Part of the reason I wasn’t embarrassed by my parents was that I was so grateful for all that they had sacrificed for their kids. If you keep looking up at what you don’t have, but you can also look down to see what you do have.
Maybe what you have isn’t that bad. You can work to mend holes, alter for fit, paint, spackle, etc. Additionally, when you spend time improving something, you can’t help but fall a little bit in love with it. Your mind is thinking, well if you took the time to fix this, then it must be valuable. And it is valuable – because it’s yours.
Also, you can feel grateful that by reusing your own stuff without buying more, you’re helping your bank accounts grow. You’re also helping the environment by buying less stuff. This is not a sad mission you’re on but a heroic one! Budgeting is for heroes.
Think of the Cost of Your Embarrassment
Often when we are embarrassed or ashamed, we hide. Think of the story in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve hid from God because they were embarrassed when they realized they had no clothes. Embarrassment creates separation. And in this loneliness epidemic, we can’t push away connection for any reason, and particularly not for money.
Isn’t that an argument for spending money on things that make us feel confident? No, because you never attain the bravery you need to make connection. It takes bravery to be comfortable in your own skin, and it takes bravery to reach out to people when one feels lonely.
Courage is a skill you develop by continuing to live by your own rules and ignoring what other people may think.
Everyone is Paying Attention to Themselves
They say if you’re nervous speaking in public, to imagine that everyone is in their underwear. But maybe you should just imagine that everyone is self-consciously thinking about people looking at them. Because that’s exactly what they’re doing (and it’s less creepy than thinking that you’re surrounded by people without clothing).
Everyone thinks there’s a spotlight shining directly on them. And maybe there is, but it’s impossible to notice everyone else’s spotlight when you’re so concerned about your own.
It always makes me feel confident to realize that most people around me are much more afraid of me than I of them.
Do Hard Things
I think the reason I’m so hard to embarrass is that I’ve already gone through things that were embarrassing, and -surprise, surprise – I lived.
If you’re really worried about embarrassment from not wearing the right things, maybe it’s a sign that you’re not putting yourself out there enough. For my parents, they certainly didn’t care about wearing off-brand clothing. They were too busy climbing the corporate ladder, raising three kids in a crime-ridden New York City, and learning English. Maybe you need the distraction of hardship to remind yourself that living on a budget is not a sacrifice. It’s what everyone does. And worrying about it means you don’t have enough other worries occupying your brain.
So maybe sign up to do public speaking, stand-up comedy, a piano recital. Request a huge favor from someone you admire. Ask someone out on a date. Volunteer at a shelter. Visit a prison (well, after Covid). There are bigger problems in the world than buying sale goods – acquaint yourself with these problems for some perspective.
Surround Yourself With Confident People
Often, we start feeling less than confident, when we’re around less than confident people. That seems counterintuitive, right? Wouldn’t we feel less confident if we saw all sorts of confidence around us?
Well, often we think we see confidence in someone else but it’s actually insecurity. The most confident people are unafraid to show vulnerability or the chinks in the armor. The least confident people need to splash out on external shows of prestige in order for people to admire them. It’s like how Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett all wear modest casual clothes. It’s like how the person who is on the interview is likely to be more dressed up than the person conducting it.
If you start feeling bad around certain people, it’s probably because they’re not confident. They’re trying to make you feel bad so they can feel better. They’re trying to get you to justify their life decisions by bragging about their bonuses or new cars. If you’re around people who are confident, they don’t need to suck the energy out of you. Find these people and learn from them.
Conclusion – How to Live on a Budget Without Embarrassment
It’s not the budgeting that makes you self-conscious – it’s the idea that you’re bucking social norms. And if anyone is calling you out on being different, that’s just their way of controlling and manipulating you to get back in line. There’s no reason for you to feel embarrassed – if anything, it should make you feel emboldened. You are living out your values, saving for your future, and that’s something to be proud of. Don’t let others lead you astray just because they’re embarrassed.