Helping leaders emerge


The Process for Leaders Becoming Anti-Racist: Getting It Right Versus Being Right

I just listened to a fascinating podcast by Brené Brown on Shame and Accountability where she talks about Why being held accountable and feeling shame IS NOT the same thing as being shamed. Brown shares her own experience of making mistakes in the area of what it means to be an anti-racist and the steps needed to work through processing the difficult emotion of shame in order to be accountable for change. Click here to hear the complete podcast and learn more about shame, accountability, and how to effectively be an anti-racist!.

Key Themes mentioned in Brené Brown’s Shame and Accountability podcast …

What is shame?

  • Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.
  • We all have shame. Shame is not just reserved for those who have experienced trauma and abuse, it is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions we experience.

The Difference between Accountability and Shaming

  • Accountability is taking right action, which can include calling someone out for not doing their job.
  • Shaming involves name calling, putting down, and humiliating another person.

Shame is NOT an Effective Social Justice Tool!

  • Shame is a tool of oppression and white supremacy; it breeds violence.
  • Shame is dehumanizing. It corrodes the belief that we can be better and do better.
  • Shame is much more likely to be the cause of dangerous and destructive behaviors than the cure.
  • Shame kills empathy; empathy is the foundation of love and justice.

What Happens to Our Bodies and Minds When We Experience Shame?

  • When we experience shame, we become hijacked by the limbic system (the fight, flight, freeze response).
  • If we want to be held accountable to take proper action (let’s say in the case of overcoming being accused of being a racist and demonstrate anti-racist actions and behaviors), we first need to get the prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) back online.

What Should We Do When We Feel Shame (in relation to being accused of being a racist)?

  • Goal of shame resilience: move through shame while retaining authenticity, coming out of shame with more courage, more compassion, and feeling more deeply connected.
  • Key Step: take responsibility for regulating our own emotional experience of shame.
  • Recognize that shame is a painful emotion and be able to identify the physiological symptoms of shame that are similar to symptoms we feel when experiencing trauma (Brown mentions that when she experiences shame, time slows down, she becomes tunneled vision, experiences dry mouth, and a tingling sensation in her arms).
  • Take a deep breath. Wait it out until the thinking brain is back online. Take responsibility for regulating our own emotional experience by NOT talking, texting, or typing when we are in fight, flight, or freeze mode.

The Real and Hard Work of Being Anti-Racist

  • Recognize it takes hard work to be accountable for the pain or hurt you caused another person and don’t expect the person you hurt to make you feel better or to educate you.
  • Work on NOT getting defensive and keep in mind “Getting It Right” versus “Being Right”.
  • Once we’ve moved through shame and have emotionally regulated ourselves (and back online in the thinking brain), the next step is change and action. Ask … What am I going to do differently? How am I going to show up differently? What different choices am I going to make moving forward?

Click here to hear the complete podcast and learn more about shame, accountability, and how to effectively be an anti-racist!