I have had a lot of growth opportunities recently at the office. I have been working my way through them and just when I think I have turned the corner, I got hit with another one - Shame! It hit me right square in the face, it came across loud and clear that I am not good enough, I am a screw up, I am not worthy. Lucky, I have some very supportive friends, who have helped me shining the light on shame.
As things were starting to flare up, one of my friends reminded of to review the TED talk on shame by Brene Brown. Brene Brown talked about "Listening to Shame". I took my friends advice one step further and watched Brene's first talk, "The Power of Vulnerability" and then "Listening to Shame" back to back. I was so inspired by Brene's work, that I went out and purchase her book, "The Gifts of Imperfection" and started reading the book to go deeper in my understanding of what Brene was talking about.
And then shame hit, like a title wave this week. At the beginning of the year, my role included the management of about 30 people in five different teams. Slowly over the year, due to re-organizations, my team shrunk to 10 people and I was ok with that. I understood the need to change and the changes seemed reasonable. This week, the acting VP came to me and told me that my role would be reduced even more to managing the internal network, a team of me plus one. That is when shame really hit me. I felt I had done something really, really wrong to have my role reduced to this level. I felt I was unworthy to work at this company. I thought I should quit and get a new job - but how could I get a new job, I am unworthy! In the meeting with the VP, I was speechless, I did not know what to say, I was frozen with fear.
The next day at the office was terrible. I had a hard time functioning. I did not want to interact with anybody. Lucky, I had a meeting with a customer off site that afternoon, so I took off a bit early using the traffic as an excuse and drove to the customer. I found a place to park, got lunch, and read some more of Brene's book. I just happened to be at the part where she talked about shinning the light on shame and the power of the shame will go away. She also talked about the importance of having the right friends to shine the light on shame. You want people who are going to be compassionate with you and gently help you move through the shame.
I had a good meeting with the customer. I love interacting with a customer and trying to understand their problems and then working on a solution. It was a good ending to a very stressful day. On the way home, I tried to connect with some friends to shine some light on my shame, but of course, nobody was available at the time.
Shortly after I got home, one of my friends called me back and I thanked her and told her what was going on at the office. My friend could feel the heaviness of the shame and together we looked at the shame and as we looked, I started to really connect with what do I love about my job and as I looked at what I loved about my job, I realized that I really love the connection that I have with my job. I love connecting with the project management team, my engineers, and the customers. I love developing the connections and going beyond the work and really understanding what is going on in their lives and that is what I was going to miss in my new role - I would be dropping these connections that are so important to me. My friend helped me really connect in the feelings of importance in the connections and as I did, I found that this is also an opportunity for me to show up as me standing up for what is important to me.
On the way to work the next morning, I am driving down the highway and I turn on my "5 Star" playlist, shuffle it, and the first song is "Firework" by Katy Perry. For those that really know me, this is my signature song. I turned it up, sang really loudly, and danced in the car to the tune. I happened to glace at the car next to me and I saw a guy shaking his head at me and I could only laugh and enjoy the song even more.
At the office, I felt a new lease on life. The shame that had slowed me down the previous day was not around. I had a one-on-one with the acting VP and I told him that I was upset with the change in my role and what I really loved about my job and what I wanted to continue to do. I told him from the place I found the night before and felt really good being in that space. I quickly realized that the VP did not make this decision, he was being forced to make this change by the CEO and he did not really understand why the change was being made. We talked some more and he asked me, "what are you going to do about it?" and I said, "Nothing. I had said what needed to be said and I will do what I have been doing until told otherwise." I really felt at peace with my communication with him. I do know that I have to have this same discussion with the CEO when he returns from his vacation and then I will be complete.
Nice Sean 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing. It was really great to follow your felt experience and arrive at a place of joyful acceptance. It felt surprising and great that all you needed to do was to own what was yours and get back to being you. What a wonderful reminder. Thank you my friend 🙂
Sean – Thank you for your courage to share so openly on a topic that all of us go to great lengths to hide. Talk about taking a step to “shine the light” on the shame! I’m in awe!
Sean, Thank you for sharing with us about your life, how you felt, what was going on and what you discovered about yourself and how you took action based on who you are and what is important to you. Thanks!
I recently did a marathon session watching the TV show Lie To Me with Tim Roth. It’s a show where the main character specializes in reading body language and understanding when and why they lie. A recurrent theme is how people mask the expression of shame with anger. It’s amazing how emotions can cover what’s really happening with us and driving our current way of being. Congratulations on your breakthrough!
I agree that people use emotions to mask what is really happening and anger can really mask a lot of stuff. In this case, fear was my mask for what was really going on. Thanks.
The role you play as coach, leader and mentor to colleauges and customers will never be overshadowed by some silly change to a drawing