“Every time the conversation turns to my job, I doubt whether I should talk about what I do at work and what I have achieved. It all feels so boastful…”.

Steven is an executive in a large international company and has built a successful career. His comment seems to show his modesty, but I can see it’s really bothering him. He seems ashamed of being successful.

“I understand that,” I say, “what would you like to feel?”

Guilt and shame about being successful

The conflict I see with Steven is not unusual. Many people have learned values and norms from home that still influence their actions. Often, these values were also contradictory. On the one hand, Steven heard: ‘If you work hard, you will be successful’, and on the other, he also heard: Just be like everybody else, and you’ll be ok. These confusing little voices whisper to him that on the one hand he has to work hard, and on the other hand it is not OK for him to earn so much money. It gently tells him that he should not show off and instead be modest, while he is appreciated within his company and serves as an example for other managers. These confusing voices make him feel guilt and shame when he thinks or talks about his work. After all, it is impossible to respond to all these internal, often opposing, voices.  Stress and fatigue cause these feelings to surface more and more often.

Reactive life

We have come to consider these feelings as ‘normal’. We invest a lot of our lives in not having to feel that guilt and shame. We live reactively to make sure we keep other people happy, get our work done on time and keep all the balls in the air that we have thrown up ourselves.

We do this so as not to disappoint our parents. We were taught in our youth: ‘You have to work hard, or you won’t get there, but you mustn’t get ahead of yourself,’ and ‘you can do better, so it’s never enough’. When we ‘stepped out of the line’, our parents would say: ‘Who do you think you are?’ This way of thinking often still plays a role in the decisions we make and the feelings we have.

Autonomy requires heroism

Do you experience the same patterns as Steven? Or do you have other recurring thoughts that stop you from creating the life you want? Asking the question ‘How do I want to feel?’ enables you to leave all expectations behind and really feel where you want to go. That takes courage. Heroic courage! It also opens a world of possibilities if you do not let the guilt and shame of your youth hold you back. To give your life direction according to your own needs and feelings. The courage to ask yourself that question honestly; that is where true autonomy arises.

Are you ready for change?

Finding the answer to the question ‘How do I want to feel?’ is easier said than done. Old patterns can be so deeply rooted in our ‘being’ that we sometimes do not even realise that we are acting in accordance with them. That’s where Transactional Analysis (TA) can be enormously valuable. TA helps you get to know your old patterns through different communication models and gives you tools to change them. With knowledge of TA, you can start living your own autonomous life.

The TA foundation year now also online

Due to the situation across the world, there is an increasing need for a thorough understanding of TA. More and more people are looking for the real benefits to their health and well-being.

At the TA Expertise Centre, there are several online and offline opportunities to learn the full basics of TA. The basic year of TA is now also available online in the Female Leadership program. Are you curious about these courses and other possibilities? Ask for a free strategy meeting with me. Based on your education, learning needs and basic knowledge of TA, we’ll discuss which programme or training fits you best.


Yes, I would like to learn TA and schedule a strategy meeting

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Linda Hoeben
+32 474 920 877
Rommersom 1A, 3320 Hoegaarden