The Secret Shame of Going Broke

10/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

There's nothing more embarrassing than money. Or rather, the lack of it.

People are more willing to talk about their sex lives than they are their financial status.

Think about it, who looks more embarrassed, the people on Jerry Springer's "Who's Your Daddy?" shows or the couples who have to open their bank books to Suze Orman on Oprah?

Personally, I'd rather have Oprah air the video footage of my last child being born than I would have Suze create pie charts of my finances.

Everybody wants to talk about how awful the economy is, but nobody wants to admit that they're the ones having trouble. It's OK to lament that your entire industry is in the toilet, but heaven forbid the neighbors find out that you're two months behind on your car payments.

It's as if all this bad stuff is happening, but somehow it's not supposed to be happening to you.

I recently wrote a column about how to keep your money worries from dominating your life, and I was amazed at how many letters I got from down-on-their-luck real estate agents, mortgage brokers, car sales people and others. People who were struggling, yet who were embarrassed to admit it because of fear of looking like a failure

Many felt that they had to keep up appearances if they were going to have any hope of attracting new business.

But here's the deal. I know that nobody likes a whiner, but with the economy this bad, chances are you aren't the only one on your block worried about making your mortgage.

For example, a friend of mine lives in an affluent neighborhood where executives, professional athletes and business owners used to pass the time at the golf course talking about their investment portfolios.

But lately fancy-dancy has become foreclosure city, as top dog after top dog lost their business or job and was unable to keep up the payments on the family McMansion.

But the worst part isn't people losing their homes. The worst part is that during the last year four men in her neighborhood have committed suicide because of business problems. I don't know the particulars, but I suspect embarrassment and shame were probably part of what drove these men over the edge.

Statistics are one thing, but these are families who will never be the same again, and it breaks my heart.

These are tough times indeed, but perhaps it takes a tough time for us to get clear on our real truth worth.

Despite what the consumer culture may tell you, you are not the sum of your bank balance. You are not merely an economic engine whose sole purpose is to make money. You are not your job, your house or your car.

None of us are.

You are a real live human being, who deserves to love and be loved, no matter what your financial circumstances.

The people around you may be just as panicked as you are, but if you look deeply, beyond their immediate fears, I think you'll find that they care about you more than you might realize.

So let's quit being embarrassed. We're all in this together.

We're going to come out of this thing and my prayer is that, when we do, we'll all remember that some things are more important than money.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, author, syndicated columnist and seminar leader. She specializes in helping people and organizations find direction and joy during challenging times.

Her books include Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear and Forget Perfect. More info