Scale Your BusinessGrowth StrategyConfronting the Shame of Selling During a Pandemic

Confronting the Shame of Selling During a Pandemic

Nothing about the current pandemic is easy. There are tough decisions to be made, especially by those operating businesses at this time. Can a physical storefront remain open? Should it stay open? Is now the right time to be selling ‘non-essential’ or luxury products or services online? 

These calls are even more challenging to make when shame and guilt get added to the mix. Some business owners might grapple with survivor’s guilt; others might feel embarrassed to be seen as ‘taking advantage’ of the moment. For both the well-being of entrepreneurs’ mental-health and the future viability of their brand, it is necessary to confront these emotions.

Let Yourself Feel

One of the challenges business owners might experience right now is the suppression of their own negative emotions. They might be anxious about their future or frustrated with current circumstances. However, because they still have a job or haven’t lost as much as someone else, they force themselves to ignore their own pain. Often people say, “I can’t complain; after all, so-and-so has it way, way worse right now.” 

Though it is normal to feel empathy for those who have been hit harder by COVID-19, it is essential to give yourself room to feel. The emotions you have are valid ones, and can only be dealt with healthily if you allow yourself to acknowledge them. Many times, just naming the emotion can create enough relief to move on. 

Check Your Priorities

Are you doing something wrong by working right now? That’s what guilt and shame would like you to think. Voices, both internal and external, might tell you that working right now is too risky, or self-centered. 

The truth, though, is usually more complex than our negative emotions make them seem. Business owners still need to feed themselves and their families even as the coronavirus spreads. They often have employees who equally need a paycheck. Even if they have enough savings to make it through the shutdowns, they may not have enough to get through a slower economy during an extended recovery period. 

Every currently active business will have a different list detailing why they absolutely must continue to sell right now. That list represents the business’ priorities and should be used to check guilt whenever it threatens to overwhelm. If possible, write the list out and post it somewhere you will see it often, allowing it to work as a compass that reminds you why you’re choosing this course of action every time guilt starts getting you down. 

Examine Your Methods

Finally, it may be that the shame felt by selling is not from the act of selling itself. After all, a business has every right to survive right now, even if other companies are failing. Instead, it could be that the guilt is coming from the methods being used to sell. 

Under the circumstances, certain forms of selling may be inappropriate. Review your ads, social media posts, flyers, and other promotional materials to ensure that they aren’t tone-deaf. Pay special attention to anything that receives excessive negative reviews, and change up the strategy accordingly. Doing so will help you sell better, and can go a long way to eliminating the guilt that stacks of negative responses create. 


In short, understand that guilt and shame are normal to feel right now but don’t let them stop you from doing what you need to do to survive. Remember that you won’t be in a position to help anyone if you let yourself go down with another sinking ship. Instead, dig deep, remember your priorities, and tailor your marketing to avoid as much guilt-inducing feedback as possible. 

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Chana Perton
Chana Perton
Chana Perton is a contributing writer and investigative journalist for ASBN.

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