Money, Taboo, and Finding Your Voice: 7 Questions to Befriend Your Money Story

By Bari Tessler Linden

For those of us interested in deepening awareness and alignment in our lives, money can feel like the final frontier of conscious practice.
We can breathe through discomfort in most any situation -- from the yoga mat to intimate conversations -- but money remains a nagging exception.  An ongoing source of confusion, fear, and shame.  That one area of our lives where, try as we might, we just can’t seem to feel authentic and empowered.  
For many, money is too taboo to even discuss.  We get tangled and twisted and tense just thinking about it.
As a financial therapist, I’m intimately familiar with money:  our deeply personal relationships with it, how it’s interwoven in every area of our lives, and what a powerful teacher it can become when we bring clarity, empowerment, and alignment to it.  I’ve spent decades deepening and refining a gentle, loving approach to conscious money work, integrating money healing (the emotional foundation), money practices (including values-based bookkeeping) and money maps (the big vision).  My playful, nurturing style emphasizes chocolate over “tough love” and aims to make this whole relationship more meaningful and (gasp!) fun.  After working with thousands of people, I can truly call this work nothing short of transformative.  
But: we can’t even begin this work until we muster the bravery to break the silence, burst through the taboos, and take a real look at our money stories.
That’s why I decided to conduct a communal experiment in question-asking, taboo-busting, and radical un-shaming around money.  For the entire month of October, I’ve hosted the Money Memoirs Series on my blog.  I got my friends, colleagues, peers, and even financial therapy students to open up about their money stories in video, audio, and written formats.  One story, every day in October. We created a safe haven for people to share their vulnerability, their insights, and their growing edges.  Our approach was gentle, profound, and even a little playful.
The results have been powerful.  My community is energized and inspired by hearing others’ stories.  My guests, themselves have found the process surprising and healing.  Many guests have astonished themselves by sharing things about money they’ve never told anyone before.  One of them playfully boasted that he did a “full frontal,” perfectly capturing what’s true for many of us: truth-telling about money really does feel like getting naked and baring incredibly intimate things with the world!
But here’s the most amazing thing: everyone has found their voice.  Because no matter who you are or where you’re at in your money journey, we all have a money story.  Not just the “experts.”  Mamas, papas, entrepreneurs, students, creatives, couples, grandmothers -- we all have a story to tell.  And each one holds value.  And even more importantly: the act of telling our stories is a practice of self-love, un-shaming, and empowerment that serves us all.
While there are some common emotions and threads throughout many Money Memoirs, what’s fascinated me even more is the diversity we’ve found.  We all have some shame, some strengths, and some growing edges … but the details, insights, and feeling-tone of everyone’s money story is deeply personal and snowflake-unique.  Creating a safe haven to honor and share these stories has been one of the greatest privileges of my professional career.
Here are 7 of the questions I ask in my Money Memoir Series.  Take a moment, grab a cuppa, indulge in some chocolate (my favorite companion for money healing!) and begin befriending your own money story …
1. How would you describe your relationship with money?

For many people, simply acknowledging that, YES, I have a relationship with money is a powerful starting point.  Does it feel like an old friend?  A sparring partner?  Someone you’re just getting to know?  We all have a relationship to money -- and we can honor and heal it.  With playfulness and depth and chocolate and candles, if you like!  
2. What are your strengths around your relationship to money?

It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of our money relationships -- so this question reminds us that we all have areas where we absolutely rock it.  For some people, it’s saving.  For others, it’s generating money when times get tough.  For others it’s sitting down with spreadsheets.  And for some, it’s the powerful willingness to look at what’s happening, straight in the eye, and just be with it.
3. I believe everyone has money shame. What is the Money Shame story you tell yourself? How does this show up in your life and business?

One of my dear colleagues remarked once that my “superpower” is un-shaming people around money.  This is a powerful, powerful practice -- and so needed in our culture.  I’ve found that everyone has some money shame -- no matter how much money they have in the bank.  We can’t heal what we can’t see, so acknowledging this is potent medicine.  Money shame is something we can all identify with.  Isn’t it time to give voice to it and stop hiding it?
4. What was a really tough money experience you went through? What did you learn from it, and what are you doing differently because of it?

Many people need to start their money work with emotional understanding and healing.  Without this foundation, money practices (like budgeting) usually won’t stick.  I’m interested in a gentle approach to conscious money work, from the inside-out.  
5. Do you have a money practice? What does this look like for you? (e.g. Do you attend to your money relationship through a daily, weekly, monthly, and/or yearly practice? Do you have money dates? Do you use a bookkeeping system? Do you have a ‘budget-plan’?)

Like yin and yang, our money relationships need both emotional healing and nuts ‘n bolts practicality to thrive.  It’s where these two meet that the meaningful magic happens!  I’ve found that we truly can make our money practice a conscious expression of self-care, and align it with our values in deeply rewarding ways.
6. I believe our money relationship is never “handled.”  We’re always evolving, upgrading, tweaking and expanding our money lives. What are you working on right now? What’s new for you emotionally, practically, or spiritually with money?

Some people are learning Quickbooks or welcoming support professionals.  Others are learning to trust more, move through their current money ceilings, or align their finances with their core values. When we’re open to it, our money relationship becomes a teacher for a lifetime: always inviting us deeper.  One of my students likens conscious money work to a 12-step program, and enthusiastically admits that she’ll never be “done” with it -- but that it will serve her and challenge her for the rest of her life.
7. What’s the most important nugget of money wisdom that you would wish to pass on to young people? What is the Money Legacy you would wish to leave?

This question is especially poignant for those of us with children -- but we all leave a Money Legacy, whether we’re aware of it or not.  Taking a moment to clarify and set intentions around what we pass on is a powerful exercise.  Often, our Money Legacy is something we could benefit from hearing more often, ourselves!
… and … a bonus question:

8.  How does it feel to you to ponder these questions?  Is it exciting?  Terrifying?  I’ve watched as guests in my Money Memoirs Series have danced with this line of what’s too much or too little to share.  They’ve weighed how much transparency will serve others -- and how far they’re willing to push their comfort zone.  They’ve all found the courage to share, in service of their own personal healing journey -- and the community who hears them.  It’s always up to each of us to find our own sense of safety within vulnerability.  
After you’ve reflected or journaled on your own for a moment, if you’d like to hear how other people have answered these questions in their own Money Memoirs, click right this way.
The conscious money movement is underway -- and it’s growing.
Healing our money relationships is a deeply personal journey -- yet it’s also a collective process, strengthened and empowered through community sharing and support.    That’s why one of my most sacred, rewarding roles as a leader in this growing conscious money movement is creating a safe space for every voice.  
When we gather the courage to break the taboo and speak our truth about money, a new world of empowerment, honesty, and deeper self-love opens to us.  And the keys to this new, conscious money relationship are simple, gentle questions like these.  So take a moment with these questions.  What’s oh-so-ready for healing within you, today?  
Bari Tessler Linden, M.A. believes in the astonishing healing powers of deep money work, compassionate un-shaming, and chocolate.  As a Financial Therapist, Mentor Coach, and Mama-preneur, Bari has guided thousands of people to new, empowered, and refreshingly honest relationships with money.  Her nurturing style is inspired by her Masters studies in Somatic Psychology at Naropa University and over a decade of work in body-centered therapy.  The Art of Money, her year-long money school, weaves together personal, couple, and entrepreneurial money teachings into one complete tapestry -- and is part of her mission to lead a global conscious money movement.  To learn more about Bari and enjoy her Money Memoirs Series, visit

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This article appears in: 2013 Catalyst - Issue 19