The shame that held me back for years

So I’m writing about pretty personal things here, here goes…

I'm sure all have things in our past that we feel bad or ashamed about. Perhaps they keep you awake at night, or catch you unawares and make you hang your head. It seems it's part of the human condition.

These feelings of shame and guilt about things in your past hold you back. They make you feel negatively towards yourself. A past you. Perhaps the things you did were bad, perhaps in the basic sense of the word, they are shameful? But the more you let these experiences of shame define who you are, the less able you are to be your best self now.


You can’t run if you have concrete blocks tied to your feet. You can’t truly feel that you are brilliant or enough, if you have ghosts from your past weighing you down.

So if you’re feeling shame about yourself, I’m writing this for you. I want to share my story with you, to help you start to release this shame, so you can go on and be your best version of yourself.

I love this quote from Brene Brown “Empathy’s the antidote to shame. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too”

When I started my business back in 2013 I had a ton of things weighing me down. Beliefs about myself, shame about my past, a feeling that I would never be truly accepted. As a woman and as a businesswoman.

I remember the first conference I went to feeling such feelings of shame about me and where I came from that I went into the toilet and cried. How could I compete with these shining examples of women in business? They seemed to have it so together, their children even had harp lessons!

I was reeling from years on benefits, feeling poor and a sense that I had made it out of that by the skin of my teeth. I was still poor, but I was starting to make it on my own. I felt ashamed of my past. Of my poverty, and I didn’t feel I belonged.

I’ve recently started sharing my story in little bits.

When I first started in business there was a story I was happy to share. It was the story of how I was a single mum, of how I had got cancer at 29 with a 1-year-old baby and only just made it through because of the love and care of my friends.

That’s a triumph over adversity story. Everyone loves a winner. Cancer is something that is easy to get behind. It’s a terrifying prospect for anyone dealing with it, and helped me talk about resilience, the power of friendships, how important community is and a positive mindset.

But in the back of my mind, there were more. More stories that I had to share, that I dare not name. That made me feel ashamed.

Being a single mum on benefits surviving cancer is quite enough of a triumph over adversity story for most people.

Now, if you’ve been to one of my workshops you might have heard me blurt out that my teenage boyfriend went to prison, or if you listened to the podcast where we and Amy tell 10 things you didn’t know about us you might have heard I have been deported from New Zealand.


And even as I write these things there is a still a small part of me that feels that fingers will get pointed and people will judge me, and at the back of my mind is the fear that if I am truly myself I will lose all my work and will be shunned from society.

Because that’s part of fear and shame, it’s the feeling that if people know these things about us they would judge us and judge us horribly.

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely” – Carl Jung

We’ve all seen how society can get behind a personal shaming and out someone from their job for being gay, old, sexually promiscuous. We all feel the pressure of societies norms. The things that keep us in check, toeing the line and behaving.

But sometimes it goes a little too far, and this public shamming seeps into our very beings and makes us feel like we need to hide and disguise ourselves for fear of being found out. And then we literally can’t be our true 100% self because we haven’t come to completely accept ourselves for who we are.

Here’s something I’ve learned – your past makes you how you are, but it doesn’t define where you are going.

My past includes being kicked out at 17, becoming a small-time drug dealer, having a boyfriend go to prison, spending a very isolating depressed year making all sorts of dangerous decisions and getting myself in not good situations, being sacked many times (once I got sacked for throwing a stapler at my boss because he was a sexist bully), getting deported from New Zealand, being a single mum, spending several periods of my life poor and on benefits and having cancer.

There and you know what writing it all down, it suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.

I won an award this week for being a top 100 female entrepreneur. It was around the theme of #ialso – all the things we also are apart from being kick arse entrepreneurs. I named & shamed all my #ialso and I won an award for it.

I’m not suggesting you go out there and tell the world all about you, but at least don’t spend years ashamed of who you are, wherever you have come from, whatever you have done.

You get to decide where you are going.

And that is the most important thing.