We’ve all been there. That super embarrassing moment where if the ground came and swallowed us up it would be a relief. I’ve experienced different levels of embarrassment. Some, I’m able to laugh it off and forgotten about it by that afternoon. Others leave a much bigger impact and I can remember the incident like it was yesterday.
There’s basically two categories of embarrassment. The embarrassment we cause our selves and then there’s the embarrassment we feel based on someone else’s actions or comments. I’ve definitely taken care of embarrassing myself a number of times. The standard slip, trips, falls and other acts of clumsiness are usually good for a blush and can often be forgotten about quickly. There’s definitely times my behavior or emotions have embarrassed me. Choices I’ve made or answers I’ve given that are wrong when I know different but had a “moment of stupidity” if you will.
Then there’s the times other people embarrass us. Inappropriate social behavior by a friend (and of course, according to our definition of appropriate social behavior) can be a fairly common source. But have you ever caused someone to feel embarrassed when that wasn’t your intention? I have. It’s awful and I usually end up feeling embarrassed for causing them embarrassment.
When I feel embarrassment I act in a variety of ways. Sometimes I get angry and defensive. Other times I’ve cried. Sometimes I’ll retreat. Occasionally I vow to myself that I will change the behavior that resulted in a situation where someone could embarrass me. It can get complicated, because sometimes feeling embarrassed can lead us to react in a way that leads to further embarrassment.
Feeling embarrassment from time to time is normal. It happens to all of us and I don’t believe it could be completely avoided. But sometimes, embarrassment can be a cause or can result in having further complications with our confidence. I think it would even be fair to define embarrassment as a temporary blow to self confidence or self image. If we’re constantly feeling embarrassed, daily or several times a day, it’s easy to see how quickly it could erode our self confidence or self worth completely.
If you’re inclined to feel embarrassment it’s not like you can just flip a switch and it’s gone. Below are a list of circumstances where I encourage you not to hold on to the embarrassment. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on it, worry about it, keep you awake or dictate your behavior. Replace that feeling of embarrassment with something else. Positive affirmations. An activity that boosts confidence. Whatever you need to do to get it out of your head.
- If you are feeling embarrassed because you’ve caused someone else embarrassment. Apologize, be sincere, and then move on. If they keep reminding you of it, bringing it up and continuing to make you feel guilty, this is inappropriate on their part. It is reasonable to say, “I felt really bad. I apologized. I don’t feel it’s fair for you to continue to embarrass me as punishment. What can we do to resolve this?” This gives them the opportunity to talk about it with you, perhaps that’s what they need. If their reaction fits more into the “childish” category or sounds like bullying you may want to evaluate that relationship. People who like to embarrass other people on purpose and in an ongoing way are abusive.
- If you are feeling embarrassed because you feel stupid this could be a real flag for you to stop your train of thought and figure out if you need to send it in a different direction. If you are a math teacher, at a crowded get together, visiting with your friends with the music cranked up and someone yells across the room “What’s 2+2?” and you yell back “Five!” you might feel a moment of embarrassment. But it’s unlikely to stick with you. But if you’re constantly feeling stupid and embarrassed you may be setting your bar too high for yourself. We would never expect a 3 year old to just begin tying their shoe laces without a chance to learn. Perhaps they’ve watched us for awhile. Then maybe they’ve been working hand over hand with us. They move on to trying it on their own, but it’s messy and sometimes wrong. No one would think that toddler is stupid. We know it’s the natural learning curve. Watch, do with assistance, do on your own but not efficiently or perfectly, slowly get better and finally independence. Allow yourself that same sort of learning curve! Whether you’re starting a new job, trying a new recipe, joining a new group or upgrading technology. It takes time to do “new” and mistakes are normal. Truly, everybody who knows you’re doing something new expects you to make mistakes. You are likely the only one that doesn’t allow yourself the grace to make those learning mistakes. Most mistakes do not equal stupidity. Knowing that you’re making a mistake/something is wrong and being too embarrassed to ask for help is more likely to cause people to question your judgement than if you ask for help right away.
- Feeling embarrassed by our appearance. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that has shown up someplace and realized we got the dress code wrong. In fact, I once went to a Christmas party that had been a themed dress up party the previous year. The new theme had been talked about for the current year and I showed up ready to rock my theme wear. No one else did. Not easy to walk into and stay in that room. Changing wasn’t an option. First 10 minutes it’s the talk of the party, after that we were all just there for the party. Not something I’d want to repeat, but nor did it break me. But what about our physical characteristics? I get a lot of comments about my height. I’m shorter than most 12 year olds. It’s also one of those characteristics that you can’t do a whole lot about. So it’s never really bothered me; what would be the point? But I must say, I do react differently to people’s comments than I used to. When I was a teenager and all the boys were shooting up in height they’d love to cross their arms and rest them on my head and tell me I made such a good arm rest. It was kinda funny. I was a teenager and clowning around with boys was fun. As I approach 40 all the short comments, well, I find them falling short. They’re lame people. I’ve heard them all. Nope, sorry, you did not just come up with that all on your own. 50 million others before you have come up with the same comment. Now I tend to give people a one time “pass.” If they are constantly making short comments, thinking they’re funny I do not allow them to continue. I let them know, kindly, that there’s nothing I can do about my height, I’ve heard all the jokes, I don’t find them funny and I wouldn’t mind if they quit with them. Most people do. Don’t let something you can’t change affect your self-image. We all have something we’d change if we could, but we can’t, move on. For your own benefit. Sometimes it’s a physical characteristic we could change (though it may be difficult), such as weight. Some are thinner than they want, some heavier. Some truly cannot change their weight. But if you can change it, you need to make a decision for yourself. You have that choice! Make it, make it with confidence and go with it! If you’ve read my about section you know I’m fat. I know I’m fat. I also know, if I really wanted (though yes, it would be difficult) I could change it. If I’m choosing to not change it right now, then I also choose to not be embarrassed by it. I choose to not believe it affects my ability to get the job I want, do the activities I want and it didn’t affect my belief that I could get a man that was a good match. I did not believe that I had to lower my standards because I have a weight “flaw.” Because guess what? I also have a boat load of great things about me! I don’t expect perfection from myself, I choose where I want to have excellence and I don’t allow others to expect perfection from me. Most of us are really good about not expecting perfection from others but are really hard on ourselves.
Let’s be kind to ourselves. Embarrassment is inevitable, but don’t let it spend the night and don’t let it dictate your behavior.
God Bless all 🙂