Show-up shame.


Does this ever happen to you?

You show up how you want to be seen, how you want to be heard, you say what’s actually on your mind– and you IMMEDIATELY feel shame about it?

Well, this happens to me a lot, so much so that I spent a lot of time NOT showing up, because the shame felt too overwhelming for me. I’m used to getting pretty immediate feedback that ends up making me feel like I should have never opened my mouth.

But then I never get more brave.

I don’t show up for myself when I know I should.

I let my life happen to me.

Those around me plan my life for me.

Sure, it’s hard to rock the boat IF you not only like smooth sailing but also if you’re really into the people on the boat and don’t want them to jump off to another ship that’s bigger, better and more stable.

I could be talking about my own personal life or my own business life. It’s the same for me.

Here’s how to deal with your own version of ‘show-up shame’ and how to slowly make it mean something different all together.


I define this as the shame you immediately feel by standing up for yourself, speaking your truth, saying what’s truly on your mind, being authentically you– in front of an audience of people who you truly care about (or at least whose opinion of YOU matters to).


To me, it happens in circumstances that force me to say what’s in my heart. Where I must show up and do the work (many times imperfectly) in front of others. It happens at times where the spotlight is on me and people are watching. So, this shows up for me personally in intimate discussions with partners, ‘this is why this hurt me’ conversations with friends, office meetings with my team, tough discussions about race and gender equality, while listening to people who aren’t like me tell me why who I am or what I represent has caused them pain. In a nutshell, it’s any time when I’m truly seen. Mask off. No buffer zone. Raw and open and vulnerable.

However, it doesn’t always need to be that way.


My brain is processing things as it will, with a desire to protect me from pain and suffering and keep me comfortable (keeping me thinking the same things I’ve always thought). What am I worried about?

I’m worried I’ll be rejected for who I truly am.

I’m worried that if people know ‘the real me’ that I wont’ be enough for them.

I’m worried that everyone will be right about me- that I’m not good at being a boss and I’m not worthy of being hired or being in a relationship with.

I’m worried that I won’t be able to handle those feelings.

So, my brain seeks to ‘protect’ me from that, but in the meantime I’m also living a life where I’m not showing up for myself so it’s it’s own form of misery.

Here’s an example of a moment that happens to me often.

  • Circumstance / Trigger: I email my team about something important to me and someone says anything besides “great job, boss!” or maybe they don’t say anything at all.

  • Thought: “They hate me, I look stupid, I’ll never be the boss I need to be.”

  • Feeling: Shame.

  • Action: File this away as a decision that I shouldn’t have made. Decide that if I don’t want to feel this way again, I just shouldn’t show up again in this way.

  • Results of continuing to have a thought like that: I have a negative association with showing up for myself, so it’s harder every time. Less true interaction with the people that are closest to me. I keep my feelings to myself next time. I don’t show up as the boss they need.


Well, the only thing we can do is…….


Here’s the same example, with a new thought in place.

  • Circumstance / Trigger: I email my team about something important to me and someone says anything besides “great job, boss!” or maybe they don’t say anything at all.

  • Thought: “You did a great job showing up in this way.”

  • Feeling: Pride.

  • Action: File this away as an example of how I’m a good boss.

  • Results of continuing to have a thought like that: I show up more and more. I get better at this position of being a boss. It feels less like Show Up Shame and more like just showing up in my life. The shame has less and less of an impact on me the more I do it. I get better at personal and professional relationships as time goes on. My team and those in my personal life get to know me more and have authentic moments with me where I’m showing us as who I want to be.

I know it can be hard to show up in your own life. I know for many others it’s not hard.

It’s all in our thinking. Changing one thought can change your life. Just make sure you’re listening to your heart and challenging your brain.

Happy Monday, friends!