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Poverty Shaming Hurts People

Updated on November 24, 2018
Zola Mars profile image

Lydia is actively engaged in an esoteric practice examining social issues. She has been active in volunteer work feeding the poor.

Are You Embarassed at Your Financial Picture?

Poverty is a topic which can make us feel embarrassed. It can be hard to address the reality of poverty shaming when we are caught up with looking at how we can improve our own financial situation. Sometimes we might be going through issues because we are working at a job where we can't make ends meet. There are fewer jobs with benefits out there and a lot of people want to hold down anything in order to get by.

Some of us have been humiliated by an employer who berates us. If we are working for just a little bit of extra spending money we can leave our job. Most of us hold down employment because we have bills to pay and don't want to end up on the streets. Our employers know this and can us it against us. We are living in times where there are fewer unions most particularly for the minimum wage jobs which people who have less skills and education have to go towards in order to get by. It is obvious that people who started out with more have the security to help them get a better job. They don't have to worry about things quite as much.

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What are Your Struggles?

Struggling artists and other people in professions which are less predictable may have to deal with poverty shaming. It can prevent us from making appropriate career choices. We may abandon the fine art career we spent years training for in order to hold down a waitress job. For artists learning to live with less and get around rude people who want to put you down is the key. Nobody really likes the idea of being manipulated because they have a low income. This is something that people go through in low paying jobs. Employers sometimes can abuse their underlings.

Poverty shaming means that getting fired is not only a financial strain. It is also embarrassing for people to have to use government services in order to get by. Stigma really gives people the upper hand in terms of exploiting labor. Our friends might also use it against us. There are a lot of people who understand that people are very competitive in terms of keeping up with the Jones. We sometimes lose sight of what our authentic dreams are just because social pressures tells us we need a nice car or large screen TV.

What are our real needs?

What struggles are important enough to work for?

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Career Change and Social Stigma

People who are undergoing a career change probably need to learn ways of getting around the shame of social stigma. It can be hard to learn how to live on a reduced income but sometimes it works better for people to begin living without luxuries. It is about looking at the big picture in order to make day to day life more fulfilling. If we prioritize our lives less around instant gratification it may be difficult at first. Every time we change our personal habits we will find an internal resistance. If we are making small changes we will be able to follow our bliss. This can often be more important than having a lot of luxuries.

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What is Poverty?

Poverty in North America can be something that isn't clear cut. The statistics around it don't always give us a clear picture of the people who live below the poverty line. It is obvious that some of those people have issues with substance abuse. That makes poverty all the more challenging. Even a habit like smoking a pack of cigarettes each day can be a really big financial problem for people. We don't always know how to kick our habits and recover from addictions before they destroy our financial well being. For some of us we may end up without a home.

Homelessness is the biggest manifestation of poverty within North America. It is something that we may be terrified of if we are going through struggles of getting by from paycheque to paycheque. A lot of the time most people who are impoverished are scraping by in substandard housing. Some of these people may have language barriers or other obstacles which get in the way of them finding a job. The more socially isolated people are the more difficult it can be.

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Poverty and Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues can sometimes put people out on the streets. This is a very difficult situation because these individuals have numerous obstacles towards finding financial well being. Some people with mental health issues can function better than others. It can be hard to talk about how much people really need to become conscious of what the particular challenges are of an individual. People with severe depression can find themselves knocked down to the point that they can't go into their jobs any longer. Social anxiety can cause poverty and make searching for employment a nightmare. People who are going through mental health issues may be abused in terms of poverty shaming and their suffering can be very intense.

The other issue with mental health issues is that people may view these individuals as undesirable tenants. It can be hard to find housing unless some kind of charitable organization or government agency is involved. There are little safeguards against discrimination. These sorts of things are really hard to enforce on a legal level. Landlords can select the candidate applying for an apartment based on their income. Nobody can really discern when discrimination is taking place because it is not obvious.

Humiliation is a Poor Motivator for Fixing Problems

When we are exposed to poverty shaming it can be humiliating. Not every person who makes us ashamed of our situation will be conscious of the way they are behaving and understand why it is inappropriate. If we are going to food banks some people might make comments which make us feel humiliated when we should merely feel grateful that our community has a resource to help us out. Sometimes we don't realize that poverty shaming can make a person's situation more desperate. People who are going through emotional trauma really need a chance to heal their wounds before they are put at risk of being demeaned by a demanding position or potentially critical employer. Rushing out to have some kind of low paying job sometimes keeps people down. If we were to become more comfortable with our poverty and learn to tap into our resources we may be helping ourselves better in the long term. Taking on the wrong job can certainly mean that we just add to our problems rather than fix them.

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Practical Solutions are Better Than Shaming People

Practical solutions towards making our lives more rich and fulfilling are what people need. If we are ready to embrace an approach to life which comes from the heart we know that poverty shaming works because it bruises our egos. Nobody really likes the idea of being lazy or considered to be a bum. There are so many terrible things people say about people who use government assistance. It can be hard to listen to working class people who insist that their tax dollars are funding an easy life for people who don't want to work when we are beaten down by life. These people can really hurt.

When we lift people out of shame and allow them to feel like they are fixing their problems rather being immersed in them we are getting them what they need. Charity should never feel humiliating for people. When people can learn how to help themselves they are going to do better than feeling like their inability is the problem. When people use government services and charities we need to allow them to have dignity. These are solutions to poverty and not problems in themselves.

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    • Zola Mars profile imageAUTHOR

      Lydia Workman 

      2 months ago from Canada

      It can be a good thing to look at life practically instead of catering to our own vanities. You seem to understand that one reason poverty shaming works is that people are too stubborn to look at life more honestly. Thank you for sharing your comment, Rodric Anthony Johnson. So nice to hear your view.

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      2 months ago from Peoria, Arizona

      Poverty shaming is strong and alive in the world. It is karmic justice in my case being that I was one who was guilty of it. Not overtly, but behind closed doors, I would make little comments. Now that my life has changed to where I need the public assistance it is devastatingly embarrassing.

      Karma has a way to bring satisfaction to the universe for all those of us who would shame another because of his or her need to use public assistance. I may have to use it for the rest of my life now, due to health concerns. When people find out, they judge and view you differently. Better deal with a little misguided prejudice than pridefully letting yourself slip beyond help financially.

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