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Self-worth and awe

Do you spend yourself doing stuff, achieving, striving to boost your self-esteem? Here's why you shouldn't.

Do you know there is a difference between guilt and shame? Self-worth and awe?

I met John Perry on my Barefoot training course 10 years ago and something he said about Driver Behaviours was part of what gave me the push to leave my marriage.  I don’t think we have spoken since then, but we have exchanged the odd email and vaguely kept in touch and so I was over the moon when he agreed to talk to me on the podcast.

So, the difference?

Guilt is when you do something wrong.  Shame is when you feel like you are wrong.

I told John a story about a time I shouted at one of my kids when they were young.  I did something wrong. So this is something to feel guilty about and guilt is useful because it flags up to me that there is something which needs correcting.  Shame (which is what I told him I felt) is the belief, that I am a bad person….which I’m not, but there is something that the memory of that incident triggers in me which makes me feel like I wasn’t good enough (an old story in my life).

Which then links to self-esteem.  At the time when I shouted at the kids, I had lots of things going for me, a career, a PhD, two masters degrees, house, car etc.  I was also married.  All these things matter to self-esteem because it is how we feel ourselves in comparison to the external world, it is our sense of how we measure up.


In spite of having all those letters after my name, at that time my self-worth was very low.

I didn’t feel that I was good enough. Old story. Strong story.  A much quieter story now but one which still appears at times and when it does it feels like sinking into a boggy hole.

This explains why so many of the kids I used to see in schools, the high achieving kids, getting good grades with university offers coming out of their ears, would still feel anxious and not good enough; because they are chasing self-esteem rather than self-worth.

Self-worth I have learned very slowly, has come for me, from trusting myself, from listening to my inner voice, to knowing that I am OK and loved not matter what I do, wear, say or fail at.

Which is where the awe comes in.  Awe walks are when we go for a walk in nature and really pay attention to all our senses; what we see, hear, smell, touch, tase and smell. Awe walks are when we feel that we are not just watching the natural world, but part of it, intrinsically, essentially, unequivocably.  Certainly during lockdown when I have felt alone and sad, walking with the trees and birds has helped me see that I can never really be alone.

John is warm, knowledgable and wise so please do listen to our podcast as he moves us through a conversation which for me certainly gave me insights I needed.


Julie Leoni

Julie Leoni

Coach, author, podcaster, facilitator, Yoga and psychology teacher, learner

I have over 30 years of experience and qualification in various therapeutic and meditation/mindfulness based approaches. I work with change. Some changes we chose, others happen to us.  Sometimes we know we want to change but don't know how. Sometimes we don't want to change but external events or people are forcing us to change. The menopause, children leaving home, the end of a relationship or job, becoming a parent, coming out, bereavement are just some of the personal changes I support people with. I also work with people who want to make changes to their life and wider world in response to social issues such as Covid, the climate crisis and racial, sexual and gender inequalities. Times are changing whether we want them to or not and we need to be nimble, agile, curious and open in order to part of the new story emerging. Work with me to get clear on what matters to you, what makes your heart sing and what kind of future you want for yourself and those you love. It is possible to live differently, get in touch to explore how.

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