Shame is an emotion that wields destructive power, affecting the lives of entrepreneurs and leaders.

In my work, I’ve observed how this intricate feeling acts as a destructive barrier to personal and professional development.

In, a recent post I wrote about shame. Today, I’m going to look at shame, its origins, manifestations, and the wisdom of influential thinkers. We’ll talk about how shame affects personal and organisational success for leaders.

Understanding Shame

Shame is a deep and pervasive emotion, distinct from guilt. While we relate guilt to feeling bad about specific actions, shame goes deeper. It’s a profound sense of unworthiness at the core of one’s being, the belief that there’s something inherently wrong with you. Entrepreneurs and leaders, driven by ambition and a desire for success, grapple with shame if their expectations aren’t met and/or if they perceive themselves as failures.

Origins of Shame

Shame commonly takes root in childhood, stemming from various experiences, such as harsh parenting or traumatic events. It can also be deeply intertwined with societal and cultural expectations, which then reinforce the idea that success defines one’s worth. Leaders may battle with shame when they face setbacks or criticism, as it challenges their identity. External pressures to conform to certain standards will intensify these feelings.

Overcoming Shame

Entrepreneurs and leaders must recognise and confront shame in order to thrive in all aspects of their lives. Here are five practical steps to overcome shame:

1. Self-awareness:
Renowned psychologist Carl Jung encourages us to embark on a journey of self-awareness. Identifying our shame triggers and understanding their origins is a pivotal first step. This exploration is best done with a skilled professional in a safe space.

2. Embrace Vulnerability:
As mentioned earlier, shame thrives on secrecy. To overcome it, we must starve it of this secrecy, which means embracing vulnerability. It sounds daunting, but vulnerability is the key to liberating ourselves from the clutches of shame. By being open, honest, and imperfect, we can foster authentic connections.

3. Challenge Self-talk:
Freud was one of the first to recognise the role of self-talk and negative thought patterns. Challenging these thoughts is fundamental to breaking free from the chains of shame.

Disciplines such as NLP recognise the significance of self-talk. By using techniques like meta-modelling, we change our inner thoughts and free ourselves from shame.

4. Accept Imperfection:
While on the path to overcoming shame, we will heed the wisdom of psychologists and thinkers who acknowledge the imperfection of humanity.

5. Reframing Failure:
Failures are invaluable opportunities for growth and self-discovery as we begin a transformative journey of healing and self-acceptance by incorporating different approaches from psychologists, philosophers, and therapists into our lives.

By embarking on this journey, we improve our leadership and entrepreneurial pursuits while cultivating greater self-worth, allowing us to flourish in both our personal and professional spheres.


Shame is a formidable force. Recognising and addressing shame is vital for success and well-being. By understanding the origins of shame, we will work towards healing and embracing our authentic selves.

If you’re looking to get help in dealing with your own shame, the journey begins with self-awareness and embracing vulnerability. Seek the guidance of a skilled therapist or in another safe space, challenge negative self-talk, and accept imperfection as a part of your growth. Your path to overcoming shame and unleashing your true potential is a step away.

Next time….. How shame will prevent you aligning with your purpose.