Don’t Let Pride Get In The Way Of Taking Care Of Your Family

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 either 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. We must do whatever is necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of providing for our loved ones.

Although unglamorous, taking small roles keeps food on the table. If you keep grinding away, better things will eventually come along.

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 in high school. 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 until 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. Letting their pride get in the way of doing what’s necessary to become financially independent would be a shame.

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 planning to start a family and my sense of being a provider exploded. I also figured, if I was going to be the designated driver, I had better learn all the streets of San Francisco.

Contrary to some journalists who only gave 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 to help readers who were considering doing the same 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 Credit Suisse.

The Two Passengers That Brought Up Feelings Of Embarrassment

The first unforgettable pickup involved a client I had consulted for 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 around $500,000 annually, and I was making ~$18 an hour, I was no longer too embarrassed because I had matured.

Nevertheless, I still wasn't entirely at ease since our careers had diverged so dramatically. Maybe I should have sucked it up and kept working in finance. If I had, the worries I had about raising a child in San Francisco might not have been as intense. Three months of paid parental leave would have been nice!

The Desire For Status Makes Us Feel Less Than

Since 2012, I have abstained from playing the status game as I exited the workforce. We all play the game either consciously or subconsciously. 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 embarrassment about my low status 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. Remember, at Financial Samurai, I am the boss with a top 0.1% platform.

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 person or 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. I’ve had a fear of driving since my friend died in a car accident when I was 13.

Coaching teenage boys for $1,100 a month served as a means to understand how to communicate more effectively with minors, potentially 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. I’m certain more challenges will lie ahead.

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 still harbor the fear of spoiling my kids to the extent that it hampers their ability to contribute to society. It is a tough balance between trying to enjoy your wealth so you don’t die with too much and not living so well they end up doing nothing productive.

Returning to work in some capacity, while concurrently embodying frugal habits, serves as a means to involve them in a financial journey. Perhaps starting at the bottom and getting our hands dirty with them may prove useful one day.

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. Get in the strong mindset of doing whatever it takes to achieve the financial freedom you want!

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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23 thoughts on “Don’t Let Pride Get In The Way Of Taking Care Of Your Family”

  1. Really nice article, touching. We are all in the same position, we all have our own insecurities. But that is just the emotion that arises before the cortex can find other perspectives. Humbling ourselves as you mentioned, and also learning to be grateful for the apparently small things in our lives should set us on the right track for a happy life.

  2. Stealth Wealth – I have a sizable net worth, but remain boots on the ground, actively managing my real estate portfolio. I drive an old generic work van and wear paint splattered clothes

    Occasionally I interact with people I know are looking down on my because of my outward appearance. It can be very frustrating and sometimes I want to just tell people my real net worth to surprise them

    However, it keeps me humble!

    Also, all my boys have worked with me at some point. They cut grass, trash out houses, and learn the value of hands on work doing things that are beneath a lot of people

    I would have it no other way

  3. Well written, Sam!

    I have had my share of crap jobs, done in pursuit of something else. I cleaned toilets at our church one summer before college (to help pay for college), and did all sorts of different work during college (including washing dishes in the ‘pit’ at the college cafeteria — came home covered with garbage). When Husband got very sick and quit his engineering job to drive a schoolbus, instead, I worked at Walmart for a few years, first in the Grill (again, covered with garbage) and then as a cashier. One of the ways I got through the worst jobs was to tell myself it was “temporary” — and it was. Within a few years, I was getting more writing, teaching and appraisal work.

    If it’s honest work, and you can do it, take the job — especially if you’re saving some of that money toward a goal. We wouldn’t have had an emergency fund, if I hadn’t taken on some of these jobs.

  4. Charles conrad

    In high school my brother and I picked apples for two days. We were the only two white boys. Everyone else was Mexican. This is what I learned: Mexicans are loving people. My brother and I were treated fairly. We were paid the same as the Mexicans. Paid by the pound of apples picked. Standing on a ladder all day, hurts the knees and back. The reasons pickers wear long sleeve shirts is the pesticide. I pulled on an apple and the chemicals would cover my face, neck, hands and arms. It would get in my eyes. It itches. At the end of the day the picker is covered in chemicals. Mixing chemicals with sweat makes the body itch.
    The pickers, often a family, worked tirelessly. Anyone who says Mexicans are lazy, never worked in an apple orchard. At the end of the day, I drove to the camp site to get paid. The campsite is where the pickers made dinner, got paid and spent the night. My brother and I were invited to dinner at the campsite. No one gave us a “dirty” look. Working at McDonald’s is high class work compared to orchard work. I learned much about life over those two days. Never look down on a person’s work. Never judge. Never feel superior. And be kind. We learn our lessons, walking in different shoes..

  5. Thanks for the honest post sam! This rings so true as I am going through the same feelings of shame (even guilt sometimes) as I am considering switching to a “lower” rung in the corporate ladder for a more balanced lifestyle. I have been a successful, hard worker my whole career and the shame comes less from friends or colleagues but more about what my teenage kids might think, as they have only seen me as a role model who worked hard and visibly succeeded by taking on bigger roles in large companies (with the associated perks and financial growth). Weird, I know, but true!

    1. “ more about what my teenage kids might think, as they have only seen me as a role model who worked hard and visibly succeeded by taking on bigger roles in large companies (with the associated perks and financial growth). Weird, I know, but true!”

      I did not think of this! Fantastic perspective! I’ll have a think and plan accordingly.

      I have always just told my kids that daddy works early in the morning or late at night so I can spend as much time with them. So whatever job I do take, if I do take one in the future when they are teenagers, I want to do it with maximum time flexibility in mind.

      But I do think I might feel embarrassment and they will feel embarrassed if I’m not doing something mentionable to their friends.

      What a mind bender!

      1. Explaining to your kids that you are an author and real estate investor would be the truth. There is no need for another job title unless you want one. I worked 50 – 60 hours a week when my kids were young. I don’t think my kids understood or appreciated my work ethic when they were teenagers. I also don’t think they understood what a software product executive was/is either. I think its more important to describe hard work and the benefits it provides to your kids in terms they understand, such as when you and your son landscaped your rental.

  6. Great post Sam! I attribute a lot of my success to the ability and the requirement (lower middle class starting point, at best) to start from earning $2.15 in my first fast food job(s) to making and accumulating millions. It all started at age 14 and it never stopped. Working for money early and intensely is a true character builder. I had to, but I’m incredibly happy I wanted to and did it.

    Truly working for money, and in particular “working on the line” where products and services translate directly into revenues and profits (or losses) causes you to understand a lot about yourself and the world around you.

    You cannot have this understanding without live experience, successes, and setbacks.

    Most of the entirely made-up jobs in our modern economy offer none of this and modern education is a disaster (don’t get me started on university, please).

    This is a major reason our society and work ethic looks the way it does, IMO. All the best!

  7. I started working at Costco right out of high school in ‘91 while going to school and slowly starting up a business out of the trunk of my car. I think they paid about $13.50/hr at the top end in those days which was excellent for retail. It was a phenomenal job for kids while going to college. After the business fully launched in ‘96, I stayed on at Costco on a limited part-time basis for about eight years working Sundays only to earn 1.6x hourly wage. It was about $30 hour by the end of that stretch which was solid, but it was still retail. It was a sacrifice because Saturdays were dedicated to the business, so my wife and I went years without having a day off together. I worked the one day a week in the tire center which left me mostly hidden. For a while, that one day per week covered my mortgage while I operated my business. I was always on the lookout for people that knew me from the business and who would likely think it was odd I was also working at a Costco tire center on Sundays. When I sold the business in ‘04, I decided to return to school and the best option for work was returning to Costco on a part-time basis at 32-years old. However, I had no desire to do the tire center more than a day per week at that stage. It was too hard on the body, plus the noise, break dust, etc. So, I returned to the front-end as a cashier. Obviously, a massive number of people flow through Costco and I was always on the lookout for an awkward interaction. It was slow going but I got through my undergrad and grad school in about 7 years making my exit at around 39-years old. Fortunately, my wife had a great job allowing me to work part time while I finished my schooling. Kept my eye on the prize but never felt comfortable working retail at that age. In all, I was an employee for 21 years even though I never worked more than part-time, and with about eight of those years being a one day per week employee.

  8. Roy David Farhi

    I have often said, ‘give me the blue collar, janitor, endless toiler, or laborer person who has 5 million, 7 million etc. in their bank account”. They didn’t get there by having a title or social privilege or CEO type wages but rather by shrewd investing and a desire to succeed. Nobody understands that class of society until they go out donating millions to their favorite charities upon their death. See the story of Edward Avedisian as an inspiration!!

    1. Has anyone ever broke down exactly how Edward Avedisian pulled it off? I’m guessing he had to be one of the luckiest people to ever live hitting on one multi-bagger after another. Otherwise, it just doesn’t seem possible.

  9. Sam,

    I think you are awesome. I appreciate your honestly and humility and have to believe you are modeling great values for your kids.

    It’s interesting how money values and behaviors impact our children. My 28 year old is anti capitalism and patriarchy and sometimes it feels a reaction to my over-working driven in large part by fear. I’m happy with where I landed financially and otherwise but I struggled choosing between family and work most of my career.

    Keep up the writing and shining a light.

    Kind Regards,

    1. Thanks Valerie! I appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts.

      “My 28 year old is anti capitalism and patriarchy and sometimes it feels a reaction to my over-working driven in large part by fear.”

      Very insightful. It’s always interesting how our children’s views will form and turn out.

    2. Valerie, so our my kids, to some extent, but I’m showing them how they can use money to help others, so honest capitalism, (if there is such a thing), can be used to help.

  10. Thanks for sharing. It does help to be reminded that you’re not alone out there dealing with a particular challenge. Other people that you might think are much better of or aspire to be like could be facing similar issues. I think part of the benefit is that it takes these thoughts out of the emotional into the more rational / thoughtful processing part of your brain.

    I definitely feel an ego hit every time I tell people I’m unemployed (still find it difficult / reluctant to tell people I’m retired) or a stay at home parent – a low-wage and perceived to be a low-status job unfortunately (something I am now aware of first-hand from spending time among other stay at home parents).

    For me this is also true when considering things that wouldn’t necessarily fall into that category, but would be a “step down” from where you were before. I am considering getting into an industry different from the one I FIREd from. The mental pushback on how I might be perceived has made me reluctant to get as aggressive I should be about getting into that industry I think.

    One thing I do wonder about is how often do we actually get looked down upon in those situations, versus being embarrassed because we think people are looking down on us in their heads. Once you get out of the grade school, you will (hopefully) not encounter someone making fun of you for being in that position. But body language and conversations in other contexts (where they’re not discussing you personally, but a general person or someone else in a similar situation as you) could provide similar feedback.

    One thing that helps is reminding myself to be as nice to myself as I would be to others. For example, would I look down on someone taking a “lower” position when switching careers/industries? Would I look down on someone handing me my food at the drive-thru or giving me a ride to the airport in order to support themselves and their families? I think I wouldn’t. So I shouldn’t look down on myself for doing the same… Easier said than done, though…

    And, of course, going back to first principles as you often talk about is really important – reminding yourself of your underlying motivation and long-term vision for doing something.

    1. “ how often do we actually get looked down upon in those situations, versus being embarrassed because we think people are looking down on us in their heads”

      I think our fear and embarrassment is more in our heads than in reality what others think of us. Hence, by facing the fear head on, it helps to reduce our personal insecurities and operate better.

      You see this a lot in the FIRE community where stay at home men / dads will do anything they can to not say they are stay at home dads or men, and say they retired early instead.

      But with women, women will happily say they are stay at home moms and would never say they are retired.

  11. Buddhist Slacker

    Wow, what an amazing post! Huge respect to you! I love how intentional you are about your personal mental training.

    I have the opposite problem where I like flying under the radar and doing the dirty work. This is also an ego problem. So I’m working on conducting myself with more dignity and rising to the occasion basically. It’s very uncomfortable lol. I am very uncomfortable with any sort of status or spotlight and I get extremely stressed out.

  12. These days, I deliver food a few hours per week. It’s okay because it’s anonymous. I probably wouldn’t deliver to my old workplace, though. That would be embarrassing. My son is very frugal. I guess he picked that up from us. I think that’s the key for getting started. You should be frugal so you can invest more while you’re young.

    1. Matthew Drybred

      During COVID I did really well delivering food. For 3 years I multi-apped and combined orders from DD, UE, GH, and AmazonFlex if I could service the route efficiently and deliver the food in a timely manner.

      But I had to stop in May of ‘23 because the market died and the runs simply were not profitable enough, plus the apps kept employing more gamification tactics to get drivers to operate at a loss.

      I completed about 21k deliveries and I used the funds to buy 2 properties and remodel 3 units. So while I’m not FIRE’d yet, I am closer.

      It was 3 years of *very intense work* and calculating to understand my market well and to keep up with the dwindling orders and the overreach of the apps, but it paid the bills.

      1. Financial Samurai

        Wow! 21K deliveries is HUGE! And to be able to use the funds to buy two properties is truly impressive. Nice work!

        1. Matthew Drybred

          Thank you!

          I took it day-by-day and it wasn’t stress free or without some significant costs. In fact, I was so dependent on working ~80hrs a week that I have had some issues re-adjusting to just working my 40-45hr W2. Also, it’s not a path that I would recommend because what I did was more of a reaction to experiencing the high costs of renovating the properties and I simply had to suck it up and plow through.

          But I have happy tenants, decent properties, and I am pretty close to self-sufficiency because the extra money I earned is compounding in my investments.

  13. YES! Thank you for writing about what so many of us have felt but are too chicken to admit or discuss – feeling ashamed or embarrassed to work “low status” or embarrassing jobs especially in times of need.

    I felt this exact same way in high school and college. I needed work but the first thing I thought about before applying to jobs was “will my friends see me” or “is this a cool job or an embarrassing one.” How sad that I was too insecure about myself over the value of good work ethic and SHOWING UP!

    We see this type of scene in movies a lot too – where a poor high school student desperately needs money and takes a job as a waitress/waiter but one day or many the “cool” kids have a table that cruelly heckles them. Although things may not happen that dramatically in real life, so many of us fear the risk of shame that we don’t even try.

    The imagery you describe of doing ride share and avoiding your acquaintance is very raw and something many would do but would be too embarrassed to ever admit. So, 1) props for your hundreds of hours of driving (wow!) and 2) for being honest enough to openly share something so real and relatable.

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