I once encountered an actor in Paris who had secured minor roles in significant films, courtesy of his friendship with Leonardo DiCaprio. Despite having the opportunity to continue with these smaller roles due to his connections, his pride led him to pursue larger roles. Regrettably, 10 years later, I haven’t seen him in a single movie since.

For working parents, the struggle to balance providing for the family and spending quality time with children is exceptionally challenging. The persistent guilt of not dedicating enough time to one’s career and simultaneously feeling absent for the children can be overwhelming.

In the case of a single-income household living paycheck-to-paycheck, the pressure to provide becomes even more daunting. A salute to all single parents out there who are tirelessly making ends meet.

In such challenging circumstances, it becomes imperative to set aside our pride and do whatever is necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of providing for our loved ones.

If you’ve got to spend $20 to fix a zipper on an old fraying jacket, do it, even though you won’t look as nice as your friends with new clothes. If you’ve got to take a minimum wage job to get subsidized healthcare, so be it. Do not let pride get in the way of taking care of your family.

A Feeling Of Shame Working At McDonald’s

The first time I experienced shame while working was as a cashier at McDonald’s during my junior year. I aimed to earn some money for a date with a girl I liked since my parents didn’t provide a regular allowance. My hourly wage was $4.

Assigned a purple shirt, black polyester pants, and a purple visor, I lasted only a week up front and I requested to remain behind the grill. The tipping point was when some cool kids entered to order, prompting me to hastily pass the duty to a colleague and escape to the back to assemble apple pies.

In that moment, embarrassment and shame engulfed me. How could my peers witness me in this silly McDonald’s uniform, I wondered, succumbing to the pressures of high school social dynamics.

Reflecting as an adult, I find it absurd that I once felt ashamed about working. There’s nothing shameful about waking up at 5:30 am on Saturdays to open shop at 6 am, diligently making Egg McMuffins until the lunch menu switch at 11 am.

There’s nothing to be embarrassed about when striving to earn enough for a date—gas, movie tickets, drinks, and popcorn don’t come free. In fact, I’m disappointed now for ever feeling embarrassed. If my children chose to work a minimum-wage service job in high school, I’d root them on.

If they then had to work a minimum-wage service job after college, I would feel proud of them for taking action instead of just sitting around the house playing video games.

A Feeling Of Embarrassment Driving For Uber As An Adult

In 2016, I made the decision to drive for Uber to supplement our income.

My wife and I were earnest about starting a family, and I saw it as an opportunity to hustle, earn extra money, familiarize myself with all the roads in San Francisco, and improve my driving skills. It was also a way to use my platform to share my experience driving to help readers who might be looking to generate extra income as well.

Contrary to some journalists who only took one or two rides to cover the experience, I completed over 500 rides. Despite skepticism from readers who found it hard to believe a millionaire would choose to drive for Uber, I have no qualms about doing what’s necessary.

So I wrote about my experiences and critics piped down. Here are some of the many articles.

The two years of driving were both eye-opening and sobering. Two particular rides stand out, not because of unruly passenger behavior, but because they reignited a sense of shame and embarrassment within me. My pride was tested once more given my previous occupation was working as a Director at a major investment bank.

The Two Passengers That Brought Up Feelings Of Embarrassment

The first unforgettable pickup involved a client I had consulted for over six months. His firm emerged from Y-Combinator, a startup incubator, and he served as the CEO. Upon spotting him descending the steps, I immediately drove away.

I didn’t want to undergo a potential thirty-minute interview about what I had been doing since our last encounter. Moreover, I had just begun driving and wasn’t entirely at ease in my new role.

The second notable pickup was an old client from the finance sector. He held a senior analyst position at a major money management firm.

This time, I didn’t drive away; I picked him up. Having been driving for over a year, I was more comfortable with my side hustle. Although he likely earned between $300,000 and $600,000 annually, and I was making ~$18 an hour, I was no longer as embarrassed because I had matured.

Nevertheless, I still wasn’t entirely at ease in my new role.

The Desire For Status Makes Us Feel Less Than

Since 2012, I have abstained from playing the status game as I exited the workforce. Fancy titles ceased to hold importance, as there was no longer a need to prove oneself through work.

This lack of concern for status served me well until circumstances placed me in a position where I started comparing myself to those with status—startup CEOs, senior financial analysts, and now other parents. Suddenly, my sense of contentment as a nobody began to wane.

My ego yearned to be at their levels, or at least in proximity.

Exposure Therapy And Overcoming Embarrassment

In an effort to reduce feelings of shame or embarrassment in the future, I’ve embraced a practice of humbling myself whenever things seem too comfortable. This involves returning to my roots by working low-paying service jobs or engaging in part-time consulting in junior roles.

This activity is a form of exposure therapy, where I confront the things I fear doing due to other people’s opinions and proceed with them anyway, aiming to better manage my fear of being judged.

So if you’ve ever wondered why I share hardships or times when I’m feeling down, it’s partly because I know there are others who feel the same way, no matter how much they have. It’s nice not to feel alone out there. But also it’s because I’m trying to get better with dealing with criticism by inviting criticism into my life.

These experiences have not only made me stronger to keep going but also heightened my appreciation for what I have. Over time, it becomes easy to take for granted the very things we once wished for.

If practicing exposure therapy is not your cup of tea, then the best way to avoid embarrassment is by telling yourself nobody will save you, therefore, you must save yourself.

Your critics can make fun of you all they want for doing low-status work or living your life a certain way, but unless they’re going to help provide food on your table, their opinions don’t matter. Pride is of secondary concern when it comes to being a responsible parent.

Mental Training For Fatherhood

I now realize that driving for Uber for two years and coaching high school tennis for three years were exercises in mental fortitude.

Waking up at 5 am to provide rides until 8 am not only helped me establish an early morning routine but also prepared me for taking care of the baby or handling household chores. The experience instilled confidence in my ability to safely transport my family to doctor’s appointments and various destinations.

Coaching teenage boys for $1,100 a month served as a means to understand how to communicate more effectively with minors, improving my interactions with my own children. This was especially valuable as I had been out of practice since my days volunteering at a foster home.

The more adept we become at “embracing the suck,” the better equipped we are to navigate challenging aspects of life, such as parenthood, building a business, and more. Thus far, being a stay-at-home dad for seven years ranks as the most challenging endeavor I’ve undertaken.

Do Whatever It Takes To Provide For Your Family

At this crucial stage in my children’s lives, where they are forming lasting memories, it’s imperative to showcase, through actions rather than just words, the significance of frugality, saving, and hard work.

Children are keen observers of their parents, adopting their behaviors and embracing their philosophies. I can personally attest to the lasting impact of my dad’s frugality, evident when he suggested I opt for water with a slice of lemon instead of purchasing a drink.

As a former FIRE parent, I harbor the fear of spoiling my kids to the extent that it hampers their ability to contribute to society. Returning to work in some capacity, while concurrently embodying frugal habits, serves as a means to involve them in a financial journey.

While engaging in activities that might seem “beneath you” could induce a sense of embarrassment, it’s crucial to disregard external opinions. Despite potential criticism and insults, prioritizing the provision for your family, regardless of the job, remains a commendable pursuit.

Remember, you’re the only one who gets to live your life and nobody else.

Reader Questions About Overcoming Pride

Have you ever felt embarrassed or ashamed of doing a job that might be deemed “low status”? If so, how did you overcome your pride? Why do some people look down on people working low-wage jobs? Shouldn’t we be rooting for them for doing the work instead of complaining why life isn’t fair?

Listen and subscribe to The Financial Samurai podcast on Apple or Spotify. I interview experts in their respective fields and discuss some of the most interesting topics on this site, including pride.

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