Shame can alienate allies and corrode valuable relationships. Shame makes us question ourselves and leaves a space for others to question our ability and expertise. This often happens where a glance at our CVs would indicate that doubting our ability is both unnecessary and perhaps even inappropriate. Shame leaves a space for harassment and discrimination to flourish, and for those who engage in it to get away with it because we are too ashamed to say something, or we’re afraid of what will happen if we do. Worse still, we may not realise the severity of what’s occurred because we may carry too much shame. (Incidentally, this can explain the years of silence that some victims of abuse keep: they have become conditioned to such a high level of ‘wrong’ that they don’t register ‘lesser’ abuses.) Facing our shames has the capacity to help us discover new reserves of energy, confidence, and purpose. In our final exploration of shame, we introduce you to a technique for how to start addressing the impact of shame in your life.
Over the past nine episodes we have explored shame, and the many ways it can impact your career and leadership. We called it a candid treatment because we wanted to expose it for what it is. We wanted to be clear about how it impacts people – inside – and what it can do to our behaviours at work and in our personal lives. We then drew connecting lines between shame and the realisation of key career objectives, among them personal career purpose and effective leadership. There is no doubt at all that shame’s hand is to drive a wedge between our ‘true self’ and our experience of happiness and fulfilment. It’s M. O. is to dim our light, make us question ourselves, and plant a seed of fear in us. Invariably, this shows up in what we dare to dream of achieving, and in how effective we are as leaders.
As an organisation, at Arieli & Company we seek powerful realisations and tangible outcomes for our clients’ leadership and career experiences. We use a complex adaptive systems approach to ensure this happens (this video describes complex adaptive systems very well.) So while we hope that the preceding exploration of shame has created some aha moments, we would consider ourselves remiss if we did not provide some practical guidance. To this end, we now provide some initial advice if you think shame might be impacting how you show up at work. Please note: if you are currently in therapy or any medical care, please consult your practitioner before using any of these techniques. Your wellbeing is paramount to any leadership development or career management work.
The number one rule when it comes to shames is to get a view on them. If you can understand the nature and scope of your shames, you have won half the battle. Daring to look at what we are afraid is wrong with us, or at how we fear we aren’t good enough, is a deeply challenging and courageous thing to do. Many do not venture this far out into the badlands, and certainly not unless forced to do so by difficult life events like the death of a loved one, a career derailment, or another important change that challenges your self-identity.
The reward of going this far out into the inhospitable and seemingly barren landscape of our shames is that, more often than not, we return with an emboldened sense of self. We better know what we can and can’t, and somewhere in the ambiguous space between the limits this places on us, and the possibilities it opens up, we discover something that ignites a part of ourselves. This part of us often holds the seed for the next chapter of our career or personal life, and offers us the potential to discover and realise something of great value to us: be it being the kind of mother we want to be; building the kind of organisation we always dreamed of; changing the lives of many through initiatives we implement; going on an inner journey that helps us reconcile fragments of ourselves and past; or something else.
The above is the raw stuff of crafting a leadership legacy, of being the kind of leader that walks into a room and changes the entire tone, of finding what you are passionate about and establishing its presence in your life.
How then can you develop a clearer view of your shames? By observation. We invite you to keep a special log over the next 7 days. In it, we want you to make a note every time you have any of the physical responses to shame. We guide you through the step-by-step process:
[The Bogeyman] is a common allusion to a mythical creature in many cultures used by adults to frighten children into good behaviour. This monster has no specific appearance, and conceptions about it can vary drastically from household to household within the same community; in many cases, it has no set appearance in the mind of an adult or child, but is simply a non-specific embodiment of terror. Parents may tell their children that if they misbehave, the bogeyman will get them. Bogeymen may target a specific mischief—for instance, a bogeyman that punishes children who suck their thumbs—or general misbehaviour, depending on what purpose needs serving.