Shame and Confidence

Shame and Confidence

I made a boneheaded mistake while speaking with a corporate client. I said things that I later regretted. 

"Ooh, I shouldn't have said that," I thought. 

Too late. 

The words didn't matter. What now mattered was the emotional fallout. 

Next day I received a sharply worded email. If this sort of thing happens again, my client said, the deal will be cancelled. If we can agree it won't happen again, they added, we can start over. 

A part of me was horrified. In my brain, the age-old story of "someone is mad at me, and I'm not safe" came up. Believing the story made me feel small. 

Mostly I felt shame. It was like buckets and buckets of shame pouring down inside of me, locking my jaw, tightening my chest, and making it hard to breathe. 

Then I remembered what I teach my clients day after day: 

Circumstances, including what people say and do are NEUTRAL, completely harmless, until I believe my thoughts, my interpretations and stories about them. 

Feelings, too, are neutral until I attach a painful story to them. 

It's possible to process negative emotion without attaching to painful stories. 

I had three options. 

First, indulge in shame. Let myself slip into a downward shame spiral. Withdraw and feel bad. Prove to myself I should be ashamed.  

Second, say sorry but defend myself and resist the shame. 

I could have replied, "Sorry, but hey did you see this? It shows I'm not totally at fault, so...(i.e. sorry not sorry)" 

Then I could push the shame away by blaming someone else.

The foreseeable result? Unprocessed shame festers into anger and blame. Trust erodes even more between me and the client, and eventually the deal sours into early termination. I'd feel worse. 

Third option was to say sorry and take responsibility for my feelings. 


Shame is created in my brain, not by any external circumstance.

"I'm sorry and this won't happen ever again," I replied. 

Then I intentionally slowed down to process the experience of shame, buckets of it pouring down inside of me. It was uncomfortable, but I could bear it.

Nothing had gone wrong. I was just having a human experience because of my human brain. 

The result? I processed my shame and did not point fingers. Deal is back on track. Because I was wiling to feel shame instead of buffering, I felt better about myself.

I've created evidence that I can handle mistakes and negative emotions, which is the worst that can happen in any situation.

Strangely enough this boosted my confidence. 

I proved to myself I can bounce back from making mistakes and feeling shame. 

I'm not special. I'm a human who sometimes feels bad, which is only normal. 

You too can process any emotion and grow your confidence.

More you're willing to feel, more you'll do. 

Let's be unstoppable, 


P.S. According to Jared Curhan, Negotiation Professor at MIT, the one factor MOST important to negotiators is how they feel. What?! This is because how we feel drives how we behave and what we say and how we say it. Our behavior is what determines our results, so this means learning to manage and process our feelings is a key strategy for success. In my one-on-one coaching, you will learn how to manage your emotions from a place of authority and power instead of your emotions running you. You will grow your capacity to feel, handle setbacks, and grow your self-confidence so you can lead with courage. Interested? All you have to do is complete this quick application, and I'll be in touch to set up a time for us to chat. Talk soon! 

Surprising Insight from Helping Clients Negotiate a Big Pay Raise

Surprising Insight from Helping Clients Negotiate a Big Pay Raise