Overcoming Shame at Work: 5 Strategies for Boosting Self-Confidence

by | Work and time management | 0 comments

With a pensive expression on her face, Angelina enters the first session. The topic of shame at work is omnipresent for her, as becomes clear later.


Feeling of shame at work

As an assistant to the restaurant manager, she often feels pressured to do everything perfectly and always maintain her façade. The typical feeling of shame that Angelina often feels occurs when a customer complains and she doesn’t respond appropriately. Your boss usually notices everything.

When I ask her to describe her problem in terms of shame precisely, she illustrates her feelings right at the beginning with the words:

“I had the feeling that all eyes were on me and I would have liked to make myself invisible out of shame.”

In her role as an assistant, Angelina must always appear confident and competent in order to live up to her boss’s expectations and, above all, her own inflated expectations.


Feeling of shame in private

Privately, Angelina herself seems to have fewer problems with shame, but she worries about the difficulties she experiences in communicating with her boyfriend.

Angelina tells of an incident that particularly bothered her: her boyfriend returned from a mountain hike, seemed completely exhausted and very dismissive towards her. When she asked how the tour was, he brushed off her questions, even getting angry at one point.

Later, Angelina learned from his climbing partner that they had completely overestimated themselves on the tour and that the route was far too demanding and even dangerous. This made Angelina want her boyfriend to talk more openly about his feelings and challenges. She suspects that behind his reluctance lies a feeling of shame and perhaps also the fear of showing weaknesses as a man.



Text: Overcoming Shame at Work: 5 Strategies for Boosting Self-Confidence

  1. Shame at Work: Analysis Life Coaching
  2. Psychology: What is shame?
  3. Shame & Guilt: Comparison
  4. Shame in childhood
  5. Overcoming Shame at Work: 5 Strategies

Shame at Work: Analysis Life Coach



1. Get rid of shame
2. Become more quick-witted
3. Improve your relationship with your boyfriend

In the first session, Angelina describes two formative events:

• Forgotten special request at the restaurant: A guest with allergies received wrong food, which made Angelina very embarrassed.

• Lack of quick-wittedness: Angelina felt inadequate when she was unable to respond appropriately to complaints from a difficult guest.


Shame at work: Practical tools


1. Keeping a shame diary and coping with mistakes:

The goal is for Angelina to keep a shame diary from now on. In it, she can write down situations in which she feels shame and record her thoughts, emotions and physical reactions to them. Through joint analyses in the coaching sessions, she learns to deal better with mistakes and to develop a more positive mindset .

2. Strengthen communication skills through role plays:

Angelina is trained in role-playing to improve her quick-wittedness and react appropriately to unexpected situations. This allows her to appear more confident, cooler and more confident in conversations with customers and colleagues.

3. Promote authentic communication in relationships:

Angelina learns to talk openly about her feelings and needs and also encourages her boyfriend to be similarly open. Through open communication, she strives for a deeper connection in her relationship.


Shame at work: Conclusion

After 8 sessions, Angelina is able to manage her feelings of shame thanks to self-reflection and shame diary. The role-playing strengthens their quick-wittedness, while fostering authentic communication leads to a deeper relationship with their boyfriend. Angelina undergoes a remarkable transformation in dealing with shame.


Psychology: What is shame?

Shame arises when we fail or don’t feel like we belong. It is often related to unfulfilled expectations, whether our own or those of others towards us. The feeling of having let someone down or being abandoned can also trigger shame.

Individuals who have difficulty dealing with shame often react aggressively, like Angelina’s boyfriend, or try to defend their self-worth by criticizing others. On the other hand, they can also retreat, dodge or hide.

Shame is an intense emotional experience that is often accompanied by feelings of helplessness and inferiority.

According to Brené Brown, a respected psychologist in the field, shame arises when we believe that we are fundamentally unworthy or unlovable. This has an extremely negative impact on our self-esteem.


Shame at Work: Overcoming Shame

Vulnerability refers to the ability to face life’s emotional risks and uncertainties openly and honestly. People who dare to do so often experience positive emotional experiences such as love, connection, joy and creativity.

In her book “The Power of Vulnerability”, Brené Brown explains that shame arises when we feel that we have done something wrong and therefore do not deserve love. Overcoming shame requires courage to show up vulnerable and reveal the negative aspect of ourselves.

Ultimately, accepting and being open to our own vulnerability allows for a deeper connection with others and helps us overcome shame.


Shame & Guilt: Comparison


Shame and guilt are complex emotions that are sometimes confused with each other. However, they have different effects on our self-image and our actions.

Commonalities: moral lapses

Both shame and guilt occur when we feel that we have failed morally or violated social norms. Both emotions can make us uncomfortable and make us feel responsible for our behavior.


Shame and Guilt: Impact on Our Self-Esteem

Psychology professor June Price Tangney found some interesting findings about shame and guilt in her 2002 study “Shame and Guilt”:

1. Shame brings negative self-evaluations.
2. Guilt is associated with responsibility for actions.
The big difference between shame and guilt lies in their effect on our self-image.

Shame is a type of self-critical emotion that makes us as individuals seem bad or worthless. It affects our inner self and can negatively affect our self-esteem.

In contrast, guilt refers more to concrete actions and can be understood as responsibility for our actions without necessarily affecting our overall self-image.


Shame at work – In short:

Shame tells you: I’m bad
Guilt tells you: I did something bad


Shame in childhood

Shame in childhood is influenced by several factors, as studies by Tangney and Dearing (2002) show:

1. Critical parenting: Praise and recognition in siblings can vary and cause shame. A child may feel inferior if they are seen as less gifted.

2. Social comparisons: Children who constantly compare themselves to others may feel shame if they consider themselves to be less competent.

Unrealistic expectations: Children with inflated expectations of themselves may feel shame if they don’t live up to them. The pressure to want to be perfect can lead to a heightened sense of shame.


5 Strategies to Overcome Shame at Work

Overcoming shame is an important step on the path to healthy self-esteem and emotional strength.
Below are 5 strategies that can help manage shame and enable a happy life.


1. Be considerate of personal boundaries:

By respecting and respecting your own and others’ personal boundaries, you can avoid conflicts and misunderstandings that could lead to feelings of shame. Values such as respect and empathy play a decisive role here. Above all, one’s own self-esteem is important.

Example: Even if it sounds unusual, it is a problem not to allow shame and accordingly not to be able to set boundaries when someone has shamed us. In life coaching or psychotherapy , everyone can regain their self-respect. So warding off shame can be very problematic.


2. Shame at work – Set realistic expectations:

Accept that no one is perfect and let go of unrealistic perfectionism . More realistic expectations and life goals reduce the pressure to be flawless all the time, thereby reducing the incidence of shame.

Example: Instead of expecting that every task has to be perfect, acknowledging that it’s normal to have small insecurities.


3. Experience embarrassment – practice mindfulness:

Develop the philosophy of being present in the present moment, recognizing the shameful thought without judging it.

Example: During an awkward meeting, mindfulness is practiced by recognizing the shameful thoughts that arise and simply observing them without letting them overwhelm you.


4 Shame and narcissism: dealing with criticism in the work environment

To recognize shame behind narcissism, it’s important to understand that narcissistic people often tend to ward off shame by feeling offended and attacking others.

Example: Suppose someone has a narcissistic boss: it is advisable not to take criticism personally and not to justify yourself or express open criticism. When communicating, it is helpful to keep it short and factual.


5 Shame at work – train social skills:

Use targeted training or role-play to improve your social interaction skills and boost your motivation to grow. By training social skills, you can reduce insecurities in social situations and increase your self-confidence.

Example: In a social skills workshop , you will learn how to make small talk and confidently participate in groups.


© Timo ten Barge 15.03.24
Bildnachweis Freepic

Du hast Fragen, oder möchtest einen Kommentar abgeben? Dann schreibe mir doch gerne eine Nachricht gleich hier unten.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *