You Can’t Escape Yourself

I remember the night I deleted my Yelp review.

My husband and I had gone out to dinner on a Friday evening and were treated horribly by the hostess and had mediocre food (and that is being generous). Livid and feeling incredulous over-spending money for such a bad experience, the next morning I whipped out a scathing review. “That’ll teach ‘em!” I thought.

I felt vindicated.

For about two minutes.

Then I felt horrible.

The thing is, I teach the importance of driving constructive action. I teach the importance of stepping into another person’s shoes. I teach others how to focus on making a positive impact.

All the things I teach, I had ignored. Boo.

I felt it. That icky feeling that you get when you know you’ve said something you wish you wouldn’t have said. When you’ve crossed your own line. All day long, I couldn’t shake it.

Now, did I have the right to share my experience with all the Yelp readers? Sure. Some might even argue that I would be doing a service for all the people who might potentially dine at that establishment. After all, I’ve personally come to rely on reviews to make my own buying decisions.

But here’s what I also know to be true:

  1. The restaurant is located in a small town. There aren’t hoards of potential customers who might be willing to overlook a bad review.
  2. My reactionary one-star rating would take the average rating down considerably (indicating that my experience may have been an anomaly).
  3. Bad reviews, like the one I put out there, could potentially put a small business out of business.
  4. The hostess could have been having a bad night. She could have had personal issues that she wasn’t dealing with effectively. I could have triggered something that had nothing to do with me. The hostess, after all, was human.
  5. The hostess could have triggered something in me that made me over-react to the situation and experience it far worse than it actually was. I, after all, am human.
  6. I know that my review wasn’t consistent with the person I want to be in the world. I was out of integrity with myself.

When we do something, no matter how justified, that goes against the core of who we are, we feel it. We can’t escape ourselves. We know when we can do better.

As human beings, we react to the world around us, often without thinking. But knowing what we stand for, from a values and purpose perspective—knowing our true selves—makes it possible for us to course-correct. To clean it up. To do better. To try something different. More constructive. To cultivate our best selves.

Because there’s one thing I know for certain. Your “best self” doesn’t feel icky.

©A Thoughtful Company, LLC


Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davis
An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership” which runs in NYC and Dallas, TX. Additionally, Kimberly teaches for Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Cox School of Business’s Executive Education Program's Transformational Leadership Program and their Latino Leadership Initiative. She is also privileged to teach for the Bush Institute’s WE Lead Program (empowering female leaders from the Middle East). Kimberly is a TEDx speaker and her book, Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need, is the 2019 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Business and Career; an Amazon Bestseller in Business Leadership, Business Motivation, and Self-Improvement, and Motivational Business Management; and was named as the number one book to read in Inc. Magazine’s “The 12 Most Impactful Books to Read in 2018,” with a cover-endorsement by best-selling author Daniel Pink.

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  1. Totally identify with you Kimberly. I sometimes feel like I want to ‘get back at’ someone who provided poor service by giving them a bad review. But there are already enough people out there doing that and I don’t think I’ve ever actually done it. The six points you made are all spot-on and I’m glad you were able to be true to yourself.

  2. Hello Kimberly,

    Your story about the experience during a meal at a restaurant and the accompanying staff, prompted memories of eating in restaurants and brasseries around Europe and a couple of anecdotes in New York and Boston. One of the high spots of travelling around Europe (and when self employed, I always paid for the meal!!) was the amazing diversity in cuisine. From REAL Risotto Milanese in Milano, to a major league steak at Club Gene and Geordetti in Chicago, to the Russian Tea Room in New York! An amazing experience!

    ‘Creme Brulee’ – Custard topped with caramelized sugar. I can see and taste one right now!

    I’m going to write about it and others on Bizcatalyst360, with full recognition that you, dear friend, sparked me off on describing such wonderful and sometimes challenging experiences at restaurants.
    You are a supreme inspiration, Kimberly!

    By Friday, the article will be blessing your taste buds, because it’s not all bad news, but a reality of the fantasy of eating in so many places and returing to the same restaurants every time in for example, Paris or Stockholm.

    Watch this space, my friend! You really have sparked me of on a journey of culinary enjoyment.

    Thank you, my friends.

    Simon (from across The Pond’)

  3. Kimberley, what a great read and a great reminder. Our actions are sometimes reactive and not mindful. This reminds us that are feelings about the experience can be validated but what we do with them can be a game changer – for the business and ourselves.
    We had an experience on Easter Sunday one year in one of the finest restaurants in Houston. The service and the food were horrible. When I went to look for the Manager in a quiet space I found out the Chef’s mother had died and 2 others in the kitchen had called out sick. It was a no win situation not just for us but for everyone. Humility and compassion kicked in and became the compass for the remainder of the day! #Bestself

    • Carolyn, your story is exactly why I’m grateful that I made that change – we never know what’s happening behind the scenes. Thank you so much for sharing that. I will hold that in my heart as a reminder the next time I bump into a bad situation.

  4. I’m not at all surprised to see this in my feed today, of all days, Kimberly.

    I’ve done the same in the past, and vowed to do things differently. If we don’t say something to that small business owner, others will have the same (or worse) experience, and that business will not survive. If we say something and they don’t respond, respond badly, or respond well but don’t make any changes, we can still feel in alignment with our values.

    Here’s the message I sent to a small local restaurant TODAY:
    Hey Friends! I’ve been enjoying sandwiches, breakfast, and tea at ——— throughout this uncertain time and really appreciate what you bring to the community. Today I stopped by in a hurry and picked up a turkey sandwich from the case and was really disappointed. The bread was stale and I tasted a little bit of mold as I bit into it. I ate most of half of it, pulling the filling out from the bread, because I was about to host a three hour webinar and had to eat before starting. I know this is an unusual experience, so I wanted to share this with you to prevent it from happening to another customer. Let me know if you need more information from me to help you address this quality control issue. I’ll be back, I promise, your breakfast burritos are fabulous, and I love your Earl Grey Cream tea. Warmly, Sarah

    They responded immediately and I know they’ll make it right and do things better!

    • And this is one of the many, MANY reasons I need more Sarah Elkins in my life! I absolutely LOVE how you model this, friend. You are always (and least seemingly) able to be so level-headed and calm (and thus mindful and constructive) during situations that my more-reactive-self sends me sideways!

  5. Dear Kimberly,
    You articulate what many of us may have experienced, but unable to fathom out why. Th instinct is to seek ‘revenge’ for a truly awful experience that you hav actually had to pay for; lousy food and worse service. Then tiger is the platform where the revenge can put the boot in. Many folk enjoy putting lousy views on such sites and have no afterthoughts. You, Kimberly are totally different. What you did was spontaneous instinct; but your afterthoughts were the real you. The bigger picture. And your instinctive and campaigning positivity. Brave to articulate this story, but that takes leadership and sensitivity; you have both at least.

    • Please know, JoAnna, that “thinking outside (my) emotions” is not my natural state of being. I wish it were and I’m working on it, but I almost always have to step back to process before I can calm myself down enough to be as thoughtful as I want to be. When I was young, I used to think of it as being “passionate,” and I guess that’s still true to some degree but I think it was also just an excuse for not managing my emotions better. But now I know it for what it is – reactive – which is really passion’s shadow-side.

  6. Kimberly,
    I love this story and I certainly can relate. I’ve worn those shoes too. Your use of “icky” to describe how we feel when we aren’t being our better self is spot on. I try to practice patience and understanding more and more, especially these past nine months when things have been so whacky and uncertain. Sometimes I falter, and my husband will say to me “take a breath.” And somtimes, I say the same to him.

    I will admit, however, that there are days when I wake up thinking “okay, I’m going to be my best self today” and then it goes to hell in a handbasket. To your point, we are human. We have those days. But the good thing is that we have better ones too. Thanks for such an honest piece this morning. It goes well with my coffee.