In part 1, I mentioned that a recent experience at a grocery store prompted my decision to blog about this subject. So here goes the story. I was in the process of paying for my groceries when I noticed an older employee walk into the store (somewhat hurriedly as if he were already late), and attempt to clock in. I say “attempt” because he was obviously having difficulty with the system not allowing him access. A manager noticed him and expressed her surprise over his being there since he was not scheduled to work that day. She and a few other employees made some remarks in gest as he made his way back to the employee’s area of the store, presumably out of embarrassment. As I walked to my car, I noticed him walking out of the store and the look on his face said it all. Oh that look of shame, embarrassment, and humiliation! We have all had it at some point, right? I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the man and what he might have felt as his coworkers laughed at his blunder.
It brought back many times in my life when I unexpectedly found myself in the proverbial Hall of Shame. The one that stands out is the time I showed up to a training (2 hours away from my worksite) I was not supposed to be at. I became disconcerted when I arrived but didn’t see any of the coworkers in my department. The reality of the situation hit me when my supervisor and an employee from a different department gave me this puzzled look and asked “What was I doing there?” I had misread an e-mail about who was supposed to be at this training and I so longed for a rock to crawl up under at that moment. I called the lead person for our department, who had been wondering why I had no shown up for work yet, and she burst out in laughter when I told her what had happened.
I knew I would get raked over the coals by my coworkers for days to come and I had plenty of time to ponder how I would respond (or react) during that long ride back. I decided to be light-hearted about the situation and roll with the punches rather than be thin-skinned about my coworkers making fun of me. I felt very ashamed to say the least and I’m sure I had a similar look to that employee at the grocery store as I walked back to my car. The Hall of Shame is place we all end up in from time and it can happen in the blink of an eye. We feel ashamed when we react to a problem in a way that is out of the norm; when we unsuccessfully struggle with a vice or habit; when we send that e-mail/text message to the wrong person or post something online that we wish we could retract; or when we arrive late to work or that meeting and all eyes are on us. And what about that occasional freudian slip of the tongue – the time we blurted something out before we have really considered how it would be received?
We may experience shame over some aspect of our being we perceive as unacceptable. It could be excess weight, a medical condition that affects our appearance, hair loss, a personality quirk, speech problem…you get the point. And we haven’t even gotten to the part about the shame we experience due to the actions of others. We’ll get to that next time. But whatever it is, it makes us feel ashamed and insecure, right? So how do you deal with that shame you are feeling right now, even as your read this? Do you accept it as an inherent part of who you are? Do you suppress it or attempt to cover it up? Do you deny it altogether? Think about your responses to these questions and we will pick this topic up next time. Peace.