On Embarrassment

“I wish the ground would open up and consume me right now.”

How many times have you recited the sentence above in your head, frantically while searching for a way out of an uncomfortable situation, or with resignation and calmly, being tired of the embarrassment that always seems to follow you around wherever you go?

I will begin by saying that embarrassment is not one of the emotions that we classify as basic (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, surprise), so where does it come from?

If you think about it, embarrassment is, at least partially, taught. How many times did your parents tell you “you should be embarrassed of yourself” when you lied or did something not quite appropriate in their eyes? You then gain the feeling that what you did was wrong, and you will avoid doing it ever again. Mocking reactions from your surroundings can also make you feel embarrassed of what just happened to you.

While some things are embarrassment-worthy, like lying chronically, there are things you certainly can’t control and should not be asked to. Take, for example, falling. If you slipped on ice and fell, it was not your fault that the offending frozen puddle was in your way. If people laugh at you, you’re going to feel lousy, and start thinking about what could have been done to avoid your current predicament, knowing that the time machine has not been developed yet and there’s virtually no tool to delete the memory from the mind of anybody who saw.

There are a few tips which usually help to get rid of embarrassment, or at least lessen it:

If possible, laugh as well.

Not only laughing stimulates your heart and lungs and heightens your oxygen intake, it, most importantly, releases endorphins, the hormones which relieve pain and stress. In addition to that, laughing in awkward situations can make you more likeable to people and they will be able to relate to you more. Simply, as soon as you start laughing, people stop laughing at you, instead laughing with you. You are suddenly having fun together, and you find the traces of your previous embarrassment slowly but surely dissipating into the thin air.

Take a deep breath, and walk away.

While a person might be inordinately rude to you sometimes, you should not feel compelled to have the feelings they want you to about the situation. Anybody trying to make you embarrassed is probably feeling that way too and they want to center all attention on you while they sort their own problem, or they are just a terrible human being in general. Instead of getting trapped in their toxic words, simply take a deep, cleansing breath and let the tension gently wash away. What you did was not bad, somebody is just trying to make you think it was. You do not own anything to them, so simply just walk away from the situation. Their problem is not yours, and they ought to know better.

Think about the situation again and decide if it’s worth feeling down over.

There are billions of people on this planet, and we meet many of them daily (if there’s not a pandemic, of course). Most of them are random individuals we will never even see again, and they will not remember us either. The thing you did in front of them might even be totally normal, so stop for a second, and before you go down the twisting, dark, self-deprecating spiral, think again. What you did or said, was it really that bad? If your friend did it, what would you tell them? When you tell yourself you do not need to be embarrassed or whatever happened, you will not. If you really convince yourself that what just happened was normal, there is nobody and nothing that can make you feel otherwise.

Besides, if you think about it, maybe everybody around you is thinking the same thing. Maybe they just tripped, and are stressing about how many people saw it, and how everybody is going to laugh at them, and even fifty years from now, they’ll remember the fool who tripped and almost fell while rushing down the street. They think all of that, and you didn’t even notice! So stay calm. Nobody is going to ridicule you, so don’t do it to yourself.

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