The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate. – Douglas Engelbart
Is the Fear of Embarrassment Holding You Back From Being Your Very Best Self?
When we’re embarrassed we feel somewhat uneasy, ashamed, and kind of self-conscious. We feel this way because being embarrassed is somewhat of a forgotten fear that prevents us from reaching our full potential.
On the surface, we wouldn’t usually classify embarrassment as a fear. However, for the purpose of this discussion, it can be helpful to look at it in this context.
Embarrassment often manifests as a result of our insecurities. It manifests when a weakness or an inadequacy is suddenly made public.
You might also feel embarrassed because you’re feeling guilty about something you did that has now become public knowledge.
Likewise, you might end up feeling embarrassed when you’re caught doing something that is socially unacceptable. These events can often make us feel incredibly uncomfortable and self-conscious.
When hidden secrets are suddenly made public, that’s when embarrassment truly kicks in. As a result, you’re now open to judgment, ridicule, rejection, and criticism. All of a sudden, it seems as though embarrassment isn’t the only fear on your mind. 🙁
Some People Have Absolutely No Shame…
You’ve probably heard the saying that some people have absolutely no shame. These are the kind of people that don’t often concern themselves with what others think or say about them. In fact, these people never get embarrassed and are usually very open about every aspect of their lives.
These people don’t care about being rejected or criticized. In fact, they seem to relish the opportunity when others don’t approve of their decisions or behavior.
Other People are Riddled with Insecurity…
In contrast, a person who’s afraid of being embarrassed is often very insecure. They have extremely low self-esteem and tend to fear judgment, ridicule, and criticism.
These are the kinds of people who often try to please others. They try their hardest to live up to other people’s expectations of them. However, the problem is, they just don’t feel deserving.
Subsequently, these people fear to make mistakes and are petrified of failure. This naturally leads to hesitant action and indecision. And that is precisely when the fear of embarrassment manifests in their lives.
Suffering from the fear of embarrassment can actually be quite debilitating. It tends to stifle self-confidence while undermining social and personal growth.
People who fear embarrassment will rarely if ever step outside their comfort zones. Their comfort zone provides them with a sense of security and certainty. While the outside world presents uncertainty and potential pain.
Stop Getting Caught Up in the Perfectionist Trap!
The fear of embarrassment may also stem from a perfectionistic nature.
The idea is that unless we do things perfectly, then we will never truly be good enough. And if we aren’t good enough, then obviously that makes us feel like a failure. And, we, of course, can’t accept that as part of our reality.
It’s important to understand that nobody is actually perfect. Perfection is only an opinion. What’s ideal for one person is far from perfect for another person.
The moment you lower your standards and expectations (making them more realistic and achievable) is the moment you begin ridding yourself of the fear of embarrassment.
With imperfection in mind, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life.
For this very reason, it’s crucial to allow yourself room to make mistakes and to ultimately fail at times. Everything that happens is merely a learning experience. And other people will often respect that.
We all know that nobody else is perfect. We all know that everyone makes mistakes. We all know that people fail at times. In fact, often while attempting new things, people fail more often then they succeed.
It’s the growth that we get from our failures and mistakes that makes all the difference in the end. It’s this growth that helps us gain the experience and self-confidence we need to do things better the next time around.
Make a Concerted Effort to Subdue Your Critical Voice!
When it comes to making mistakes, failing and feeling embarrassed, it’s important to understand that you’re always your own biggest critic.
You might think that other people will judge and criticize you. Yes, some people might, but most people probably won’t.
The majority of people will actually empathize with you. They will relate to what you’re going through because at one time or another they were in exactly your position or know someone who experienced something similar.
Yes, events and circumstances might’ve been somewhat different. However, we’re all human. We all make mistakes and get embarrassed at times. It’s just a part of life, and certainly not something that needs to affect you in a negative and limiting way.
Would it surprise you if I told you that the vast majority of people who will take the time to judge you don’t really care? In truth, they judge because judging distracts them from their own problems.
Yes, these people may judge, criticize, and give you their undivided concentration. However, the reality is that they’re already so absorbed in their own world and in their own problems that you’ll be lucky to get only a few moments of their focused attention.
With that in mind, it’s not actually other people who make you feel self-conscious, it’s rather your own critical voice that creates these problems.
Consider for a moment that what makes you feel embarrassed actually inspires and excites another person. Or, how about what makes you feel embarrassed actually challenges and motivates someone else.
Therefore, embarrassment isn’t so much what happens to you, but rather how you interpret what happens to you. And all this comes back to that critical miserable voice inside your head.
Prepare yourself to tune-out that critical voice. Only then will you move forward with a greater sense of confidence. Only then will you find the personal power you need override the fear of embarrassment.
What to do Before You Get Embarrassed
There are certain things you can do before you step into an uncomfortable situation where you might feel somewhat embarrassed or uncertain.
The guidelines that follow explore various things you can do to prepare yourself for those moments of potential embarrassment. Working through these guidelines will allow you to handle those awkward moments far more effectively.
At this stage, it’s mostly all about building your anti-embarrassment muscle. This muscle must be flexed and strengthened so that when you go out into the world, you can bear the brunt of the challenges that life throws your way.
First, Subdue Your Expectations
The first thing you must do is subdue your expectations.
If your expectations leave you no room for making mistakes and for goofing things up a little, then you’re just setting yourself up for failure.
With that in mind, take a moment to subdue the expectations you have about yourself and the expectations you have for yourself in this particular situation. Ask yourself:
What are my expectations?
What expectations do I have of myself?
What expectations do I have of myself in this particular situation?
Are my expectations realistic and reasonable?
Do they allow me room to make mistakes?
How could I reasonably adjust my expectations?
Be open to the fact that you will make mistakes.
Mistakes are a healthy and natural part of life. It’s okay to goof up. As a matter a fact, you shouldn’t be embarrassed when things don’t turn out as expected. Everyone is fallible, and nobody is ever perfect no matter how they appear to be on the surface.
Just accept the fact that mistakes will be made. To do this, you will need to let go of your perfectionist nature. Tell yourself:
It’s okay that I’m not perfect…
It’s okay to make mistakes…
It’s perfectly okay to fail as long as I learn from the experience…
Get comfortable with being imperfect. Every mistake you make is nothing more than a learning experience that will help you get better the next time around.
Learn to Handle Fear in Optimal Ways
The fear of embarrassment is closely tied to the fear of uncertainty, rejection, and criticism. It could even be said that the fear of embarrassment is nothing more but a mashup of all three fears.
To overcome the fear of embarrassment, we must learn more about how to handle fear more effectively in our daily lives.
When you learn to handle these three fears successfully, you will feel far more confident when stepping into uncomfortable situations that might potentially embarrass you.
With that in mind, spend some time learning how to handle the following types of fear:
- The fear of rejection
- The fear of criticism
- The fear of failure
- The fear of success
- The fear of making mistakes
- The fear of uncertainty
- And any other fear you feel gets in your way
As you build your fear muscle, you will naturally gain more certainty. And with more certainty, you will develop added motivation and self-confidence, which will subsequently help you overcome your feelings of embarrassment.
Preparation and Attention to Detail
To overcome your feelings of embarrassment, it’s paramount that you focus on developing two critical things.
First, you must develop your mental alertness and awareness. This is important because while performing specific tasks and activities you will need to be mentally alert and aware of everything that is going on around you.
When you’re in this mindful mental state of awareness, you will be far more likely to change direction at a moments notice and respond to unexpected events and circumstances as they arise.
What this effectively means is that you’ll be less likely to get embarrassed.
There will essentially be no surprises as you’ll be mentally ready for everything and flexible enough to change your decisions, behavior, and actions at a moments notice.
Developing alertness and awareness, of course, comes with time. It mostly comes down to a commitment to mindfulness.
Be mindful of the moment, and pay attention to how you’re doing and going about things. Also, be mindful of the results you get from doing these things and how this effects and influences the things around you.
The second thing you must do to subdue your feelings of embarrassment is to take time to prepare yourself thoroughly.
The more thoroughly you prepare, the more confident and capable you will feel, and the less likely you’ll make mistakes and subsequently get embarrassed.
Be careful though not to get lost in the details. Don’t fall into the perfectionist trap. Prepare enough to understand what’s required to face the challenges that await you along your journey.
Examine Your Limiting Beliefs
One way to overcome your limiting beliefs is to begin questioning the validity of each belief. Actually, spend time throwing doubts upon these beliefs by asking yourself:
What belief is causing me to feel embarrassed?
What do I believe about myself or about the situation I find myself in?
Is this a realistic belief to have?
What doesn’t make sense about this belief?
Where’s the evidence that disproves this belief?
Who could provide me with another perspective that could disprove this belief?
Gain other people’s perspectives and thoughts about your beliefs. Listen to what they say. You might be surprised at how they view things. Maybe your belief is not as legitimate as you initially made it out to be.
Work on Developing Your Self-Confidence
The more confidence you have in yourself and in your own ability, the less likely you are to succumb to all types of fear including embarrassment, criticism, rejection, making mistakes, and failure.
Confident people don’t typically fall prey to embarrassment because they feel comfortable in their own skin.
Their confidence encourages them to take risks, to step outside their comfort zone, to expand their horizons, and stretch themselves in various ways.
Confidence, of course, comes through knowledge and experience. In fact, the more knowledge and experience you gain, the more confident you will feel about yourself and about your circumstances.
There is, however, no miracle cure for building your self-confidence. It primarily comes down to a process of trial and error.
Self-confidence, of course, comes from making mistakes. More specifically, it comes from learning from those mistakes. In other words, it comes from gaining the necessary knowledge and experience you need to figure things out.
Initially, you might not know what to do. However, over time you learn and grow from your experience. This subsequently provides you with the confidence you need to move forward successfully.
Purposefully Put Yourself in Uncomfortable Situations
To strengthen your self-confidence and to build your anti-embarrassment muscle you must purposefully put yourself in uncomfortable situations.
An uncomfortable situation is something that naturally makes you feel somewhat uneasy and awkward.
Of course, initially, it’s important to refrain from these types of experimentations when it comes to the things that matter most. Instead, at first, experiment with less significant aspects of your life.
For instance, how about participating in a new sport you haven’t played before. Initially, you probably won’t be very good, but who really cares? You’ll make mistakes, embarrass yourself, laugh it off and have some fun. 🙂
Nobody cares, and you shouldn’t care either. Use this experience to build your anti-embarrassment muscle. Then next week, challenge yourself in another new way.
Hopefully, over time you will come to understand that embarrassment is just a little bit of fun. It’s a learning experience. Everyone gets embarrassed, and it’s not really a big deal.
Visualize Yourself Handling Embarrassing Situations
Did you know that the subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between something real and something imagined?
This is, of course, significant as it means that you can now work through embarrassing moments first in your imagination before tackling them in the real world.
Take time to sit in a quiet place and close your eyes. Visualize all the events and circumstances surrounding this activity you have in mind. Actually, see things playing out in your favor. At least initially. 😉
Next, visualize something unexpected happening that pushes you outside your comfort zone and makes you feel awkward and embarrassed.
Within this awkward moment, your emotions could very easily and quickly get out of control. However, you calmly center yourself, subdue your emotions and laugh things off. 🙂
You bring a light-hearted nature into everything you do, and as a result, it’s very difficult for you to feel embarrassed.
Prepare for Future Embarrassing Scenarios
Moving on from the previous point, take time to reflect on all the ways you’ve suffered from the fear of embarrassment.
Have a good think about the specific situations that have made you feel uneasy. Within these situations are lessons you must learn that may very well help you in the present moment.
Also, consider all the things you might potentially feel embarrassed about in the future. Ask yourself:
What could potentially embarrass me in the future?
How will I respond during these moments?
How must I prepare myself to successfully and calmly handle these circumstances?
Moving through this visualization process will help you gain the self-confidence you need to make better decisions when things unexpectedly don’t go your way.
And when it eventually comes time to do the “real thing” in the “real world,” you will be ready for anything that life throws your way. Mental preparation is, of course, the key.
What to do During Moments of Embarrassment
Okay, so you’ve done all this prior work in an effort to strengthen your anti-embarrassment muscle. In fact, you feel ready and revved up to tackle anything that the world throws your way. Your confidence is at an all-time high.
And you should be confident. You’ve learned how to handle different types of fears, you’ve subdued your expectations, worked on developing your self-confidence, spent time visualizing how to handle embarrassing moments, and even purposefully put yourself into uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing situations.
Everything you’ve done up to this stage has helped prepare you mentally and emotionally for what’s to come.
However, now you’re suddenly faced with the real thing. Something’s happened, which has created uncertainty and you’re on the verge of one of the most embarrassing moments of your life. What to do?
Here are several guidelines to help you handle the fear of embarrassment when it surprises you unexpectedly.
First, Stay Cool, Calm, and Collected
The most important things you must do is stay cool, calm and collected. Take several deep breaths, count backward from ten and settle yourself down by tuning into the present moment.
Within these critical few moments become mindful of where you are, what you’re doing, and of your immediate surroundings.
Don’t regret the past or worry about the future. Just settle in the present moment.
When you become aware of the moment, you will no longer think about other people or about what you’re feeling embarrassed about. Instead, you will be focused on yourself and on the peaceful sound of your breath.
Take Immediate Responsibility
The second key thing you must do is take full responsibility for what just happened.
Don’t deny what happened — don’t try to hide behind your flaws and mistakes. Just take responsibility for what you did and for what transpired.
It doesn’t even matter whose fault it is. You’re in this situation, and you must now gracefully work through your predicament to the best of your ability. Blaming, chucking a tantrum or shamelessly walking away will be of no help.
If you made a mistake, own up to it. If something unexpected happened that made you feel uncomfortable, then embrace these circumstances.
You can’t change what happened. However, you can most certainly begin anew right at this very moment.
Think Positively and Creatively
Yes, of course, you might be in a bit of a pickle at the moment. Things are uncomfortable, awkward, and you’re already feeling somewhat embarrassed.
It’s important not to allow your emotions to get the better of you. Given this, it’s critical that you think positively. Ask yourself:
Are things really as bad as I make them out to be?
What if I put a positive spin on the situation?
What if this is an incredible opportunity in disguise?
Staying optimistic and viewing the situation in a positive light will immediately open a world of possibilities. No longer will you be the victim of circumstance. Instead, you will become the master of your own destiny.
Once you feel you’re emotionally in control, begin thinking creatively about how to get through this situation successfully.
You can, for instance, do this by envisioning yourself as a comedian on stage entertaining people. A comedian makes mistakes, goofs up and gets their audience laughing. Just maybe, you need to laugh at yourself to ease the tension.
But if that’s not appropriate in your situation, then you could imagine yourself as an actor acting out a role in a movie. Envisioning yourself as an actor might help desensitize you from your predicament.
Finally, how about imagining yourself as a cartoon character? What would Homer Simpson do in your situation? Actually, maybe that’s not such a great example. 😉
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Moving on from the previous point, it’s imperative that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
You will goof up, things will happen unexpectedly, and that’s okay. It’s not so much what happens to you, but rather how you respond to what happens that makes all the difference in the end.
Relax and be lighthearted. Learn to laugh at your mistakes and mishaps. And, above all else, don’t get upset over trivial matters.
Consider for a moment that what seems embarrassing for you, might not be embarrassing for others. For all you know, other people haven’t even noticed your mistake or mishap.
Just maybe, other people have absolutely no idea why you’d feel embarrassed about these circumstances in the first place.
These are all legitimate perspectives. However, you will struggle to adopt these perspectives if you take yourself too seriously.
Don’t Succumb to Peer Expectations
Everyone has their own personal set of standards and expectations for themselves and for others. You can’t change this.
Other people are entitled to have their own opinions and viewpoints. They are even free to expect certain things from you.
However, this doesn’t mean that you must put external pressure on yourself to meet other people’s expectations. Instead, clarify your own expectations, live up to your own standards, and do things at your own pace and in your own way.
Don’t Retaliate Defensively
If you’re criticized, laughed at or judged, it’s crucial you don’t retaliate negatively or defensively.
Don’t blame other people for what happened. Don’t lash out angrily. Emotional outbursts will only aggravate the situation leading to regret and further embarrassment.
Instead, control your emotional responses, be open to the possibilities, and take responsibility for keeping a cool head.
Don’t Focus on the Embarrassing Circumstances
Once the embarrassing moment has passed, just move on with what you need to do.
There’s no point dwelling on things. You probably have better things to do, and you also have the rest of your life to live.
Don’t allow this one moment to ruin the rest of your day, your week or even the remainder of this year. It’s not worth it.
Accept what happened, learn from this experience, but don’t obsess yourself with endless regrets and “what if” scenarios. This is never helpful and will just affect other areas of your life in adverse ways.
What to do After You’ve Been Embarrassed
Yes, finally, the moment of embarrassment has passed. You’re out in the clear and can move on with your life. Well, at least that’s how one would imagine things would unfold. However, that isn’t always the case.
Many people continue to relive their embarrassing moments in their imaginations for days, weeks, months and sometimes even years. In fact, some people never seem to get over the shame and embarrassment they felt in that moment.
People get so caught up emotionally in these sorts of things that they end up developing horrible phobias that make life unbearably difficult in certain situations.
These phobias, however, don’t only affect them in specific situations, they also tend to expand into other areas of their lives ruining their relationships, career prospects, and health.
Living with the fear of embarrassment is never helpful. It can actually be quite debilitating and hurtful in the long-run.
What happened, happened. You either dealt with the situation successfully and calmly, or you didn’t.
Nothing can be changed. At least nothing can be changed in the past. However, you can certainly learn from your experience and use it as a platform to lay down a stronger foundation for the future.
So whether you thoroughly embarrassed yourself or successfully managed to work through an embarrassing situation, you will hopefully find the following guidelines of value.
First, Forgive Yourself
No matter what happened, no matter how you responded, and no matter what ended up transpiring, it’s essential that you forgive yourself and walk away with no regrets.
Only through forgiveness do you have any chance of moving on with your life.
Holding onto pain and regret will only prevent you from moving forward. Living with regret doesn’t help anyone feel better in the long-term.
Stop Apologizing for Your Mistakes
It’s important to keep reminding yourself that you’re imperfectly perfect. And that’s okay. Perfection is after all in the eye of the beholder. What looks like perfection for one person is far from perfect for another person.
Immediately, stop apologizing for your mistakes. Instead, embrace your mistakes. Mistakes are powerful learning tools you can use to make better choices and decisions in the future.
Create a Mental Distraction
Initially, it might seem difficult to get the embarrassing events out of your head. In fact, it’s very possible that you’re actually blowing these events out of proportion in your imagination. And that’s perfectly okay and understandable.
In such instances, give yourself permission to distract yourself temporarily from these unhelpful thoughts. This will provide you with a bit of time to later reflect on what happened and learn from your experience.
The most important thing is not to allow these embarrassing circumstances to eat away at other areas of your life.
Don’t let your feelings, pain or regrets seep into your relationships, your career, your health, and the pursuit of your goals.
There are, of course, numerous harmless ways you can temporarily distract yourself from these unhelpful thoughts. For instance, you can distract yourself through exercise, by socializing or listening to your favorite uplifting music, etc.
It’s important to keep in mind though that these are only temporary distractions that give you time to settle yourself down.
Once you’ve settled yourself down, it’s critical that you take time to think about what just happened and assess the situation. The more you can learn from this experience, the better you will do in the future.
As a side note, it’s necessary not to indulge in addictions as a form of distraction. These types of distractions will often interfere with critical areas of your life and can actually complicate matters even further.
Take Time to Contemplate
Take a moment to think about the events that transpired that led to the moment of embarrassment. Ask yourself:
How did I respond to what happened?
Was I careless or simply unprepared? Why?
What was funny about the situation?
What can I learn from this experience?
What will I do differently the next time around?
Now, consider for a moment whether you were merely careless or just unprepared. A lack of preparation and carelessness might very well have been the cause of your embarrassment.
If you were unprepared, then you might need to prepare more thoroughly the next time around. That way you will have a clearer understanding of what you need to do.
If on the other hand, you were careless, then challenge yourself to become more aware, focused and mindful of the moment.
Either way, you’re encouraging yourself to think more thoughtfully about your circumstances, and this can only help build your self-confidence moving forward.
Seek a Different Perspective on the Situation
So far you’ve probably only viewed your embarrassing situation from one perspective, which is your perspective. However, consider the possibility that there are some different ways you could potentially view this embarrassing moment. Ask yourself:
How else could I view this situation?
How could seeing things this way be of value?
Just maybe, seeing things as an experiment or as a performance of sorts may help shift your perspective of the situation. It doesn’t even matter if these viewpoints make no sense.
Just maybe, seeing things in a slightly different light will open up the possibility that things are not as bad as they initially seemed to be.
This new perspective can subsequently provide you with the hope you need to approach the situation more confidently the next time around.
Gain Inspiration from Others
If you’re stuck on ideas and unable to find new and helpful perspectives to help you reconstruct your embarrassing moment, then it can be beneficial to have a chat with other people.
Find a trusted friend and share your embarrassing moment with them. Let them have a little bit of a chuckle, and please don’t hesitate to share in their laughter. 😉 This might very well help you relax and settle down your runaway thoughts.
Once the initial laughter dies down, ask your friend to share their own embarrassing stories. Just maybe, there are some valuable lessons within their experience that you could potentially use to feel better about your own experience.
We always seem to learn best through stories. When you share stories of your own life experiences with others, you learn from the act of sharing and listening to other people’s perspectives and opinions.
And when others share stories with you, you also learn as you try and put yourself in their shoes — living through their experience in your own way.
In the end, you take the lessons and try to apply them to your own life. That’s how we learn. And that’s how you must learn to overcome your fear of embarrassment.
So, there you have it. That’s the essential guide you need to overcome your fear of embarrassment.
You now know exactly how to prepare yourself for potential embarrassment, how to deal with embarrassment in the moment, and how to learn from your experience to avoid the pitfalls of future embarrassment.
You essentially have a 360 degree understanding of what it takes to overcome your fear of embarrassment. And now, it’s time to put these ideas into action.
Start with your imagination. Imagine successfully handling embarrassing situations in your head before you experience them in the real world. Then commit yourself to purposefully putting yourself in awkward and uncomfortable situations each day.
That’s, after all, the most effective way to strengthen your anti-embarrassment muscle. 🙂
However, like with all muscles, they don’t just suddenly strengthen overnight. It takes consistent work over an extended period of time to build your muscles. Which is why you must commit to the consistent application of these ideas.
Only through consistent application will you develop the mental and emotional strength you need to conquer your fear of embarrassment.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I’m confident you will gain tremendous value from using the accompanying IQ Matrix for coaching or self-coaching purposes. This mind map provides you with a quick visual overview of the article you just read. The branches, interlinking ideas, and images model how the brain thinks and processes information. It’s kind of like implanting a thought into your brain – an upgrade of sorts that optimizes how you think about these concepts and ideas. 🙂
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 5 Ways to Turn an Embarrassing Failure into a Giant Success @ Inc.
- 10 Ways to Overcome Embarrassment @ Huffington Post
- Getting Over Embarrassment, A True Story @ Go Strengths
- How to Deal with Embarrassment @ Approach Anxiety
- How to Overcome Embarrassment @ Psych Central
- The Best Way to Deal with Embarrassment @ Psychology Today
- The Psychology of Embarrassment, Shame, and Guilt @ Psychology Today
- Understanding Embarrassment @ Psychology Today