Stop debt-shaming

Imagine for a second we gave you the following two choices. You could either get up in front of a large group of strangers and share your weight, or you could share the amount of debt you have. Which one would you choose to share?
How about if we asked you to reveal which debt you’re most embarrassed about? Would it be the mount you have outstanding on your credit card, clothing account or money you borrowed from family? For most of us, sharing our credit score or the amount of debt we have brings up feelings of anxiety. 

According to the latest statistics the average South African owes R19,265 on their credit card account, the average outstanding amount on home loans is R514,938,
the average outstanding amount in vehicle financing loans is R187,193 and the average outstanding amount on personal loans is R36,835. You’d think that debt is normalised for most of us. But despite the fact most of us have debt, we’d still like to keep our debt and credit score to ourselves. So even though we’ve all got it, there’s a sense of shame that we all feel about having debt. We internalise it, and so the sense of shame grows.

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.

Shame is a great motivator when you’re a kid, and your mom is teaching you the importance of not stealing. But when you become an adult, that same shame tends to lead you to isolate yourself. Money gets attached to shame. It paralyses people with fear and creates a sense of hopelessness. They don’t know where to turn or what to do next.

There are many reasons why people don’t want to share the details of their financial situation. Maybe you can relate to one or more of these ideas.


In the age of social media and the amount of public shaming that goes on, this is no far-fetched notion. People are so opinionated nowadays; it’s no wonder anyone shares anything for fear of the public humiliation that might occur.

But there is a real benefit in talking with someone and telling them honestly what’s going on for you financially. The debt counsellors at DebtCare deal with clients every day who feel terrified, helpless and embarrassed about their financial situation. Every single case of debt is unique, so it helps to lean on a trained professional and carve out a plan to getting to a point where you can live debt-free.


Who does, right? Everyone on Facebook and Instagram look like their living the dream. It also has to do with a level of vulnerability many people are not comfortable with. You have to be willing to expose your vulnerability to others, and that doesn’t have to be as scary as everyone thinks.


So many of us who struggle with debt are in denial about our spending habits. We justify getting the things we want vs only the things we need. Most of us also haven’t dealt with the main reason why we’re debt, which could include psychological reasons. By living in denial we miss out on the opportunity to stand in our power, face our situation and resolve to make a change.


  1. Get it out in the open: “Secrecy, silence, and judgment: those are the three things shame needs to grow exponentially in our lives.” – Brene Brown. It’s hard to talk openly about our finances. It’s something that many of us are subconsciously trained to avoid from an early age. Simply starting a conversation with debt counsellor is a big step.
  2. Forgive yourself: In almost every case, the debt was created for reasons that felt right and necessary to you at the time. Instead of blaming yourself, be honest about what your intentions were, the underlying emotions that were influencing those reasons and what you were trying to achieve with your purchases. Then let it go.
  3. Have a debt payoff plan: If you want to be debt-free, you need to stop pretending it doesn’t exist and instead, tackle it directly with a proper debt solution like we offer at DebtCare. This will help you feel in control and puts you in the driver’s seat of your finances. From here you can make informed, conscious choices about money.
  4. Focus on fixing your life: Often we’re so disconnected from what we want and need in our lives that it takes some digging to finally reveal it to ourselves. Once you can begin to craft your life based on what you value, the need to shop begins to diminish, and your financial situation begins to turn around and improve.


Every cause of over-indebtedness is unique which means that your debt solutions should be crafted with care. If you’re ready to break the shame and debt cycle, give us a chance to get to know your financial situation by talking to one of DebtCare’s debt solution experts. This is the first step in your journey to debt-free living that we’re going to tackle together.

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