A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

Power of Shame

“Maybe stories are just data with a soul.”

Brene Brown

I had the pleasure the other day to get a tour of the Alaska Food Bank. I’m doing some work for them and the Director was gracious enough to show me around the warehouse, tell me about the numerous programs the Food Bank facilitates, discuss with me the challenges the organization has with storage and shipping, etc.

While on my tour, I was STRONGLY affected by what I later derived was “shame.”


Here’s what happened:

I saw “government cheese” and the other generically labeled products that get shipped to smaller distribution centers.

I immediately broke out in a cold sweat, my heart started to race, and I began to lose control of my thoughts. These reactions typically mean I’m headed towards an anxiety attack. But in this case, I didn’t spiral into full panic mode and instead, I was overcome with an incredible sense of dread. I soon found myself in an overwhelming emotional dive.

At first I thought seeing the cheese brought back a memory that immediately connected me to my mother, who died when I was 21.

Then I rationalized that emotionally sentimental feeling away and told myself I was just over-tired and stressed out.

Then I rationalized that logical explanation away and told myself I was, for some reason, overly empathetic with the plight of the organization or specifically, the beneficiaries thereof.

In any event, I was crying and trying desperately to get ahold myself; I was in front of a client, for goodness sake!

I managed to finish out the tour and get my butt to my car, where I broke down completely and, for over an hour, wept.

Good God, what the hell was wrong with me?

At home that evening, I channeled my inner Brene Brown.

It was shame.

imagesI was a recipient of that damn cheese. I was one of those kids who didn’t have “regular” food and instead had government issued food. I was that kid who didn’t have friends over because she didn’t want them to see our cupboards didn’t have Oreos and Honeycomb in them…shoot, they rarely had much in them at all. I was one of those kids who would lolligag forever at the grocery store waiting for the perfect moment when no one but the cashier was around so I could “buy” the stuff in the cart with food stamps.

Shame is a powerful thing.

Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen told me years ago that to be truly authentic, I need to own my mistakes, learn from my bad decisions, and accept my flaws. Shoot, they challenge everyone they meet to not just “own” these issues but find pride in them as all of our baggage creates the wonderful creature looking at us in the mirror.

I thought I was doing that…I even wrote about it a few years ago here. But I obviously have some work to do.

I have not yet accepted my past.

I have not yet given myself and my family the credit we deserve.

I have not yet shrugged off the chip on my shoulder.

What dimages-1oes this have to do with leadership?
Maybe nothing.
Maybe everything.
AcceptanceAuthenticityEncouragementForgivenessGood FaithHappinessHuman ResourcesLeadershipRecognitionTrustValue

Heather Kinzie • March 16, 2015

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