All of us face those awkward encounters once in a while where we stick our feet in our mouths, do something stupid that catches others’ attention, are publicly called out for our incompetence, or perform a task poorly in front of others. These situations can produce embarrassment or even shame, not fun emotions to deal with. We are going to offer some ideas for how to get over your embarrassment as quickly as possible so that you can get back out there and have the confidence to keep throwing yourself into the rich social situations that make life fulfilling.
The first thing you can do is to consciously remind yourself to put the event that has caused you embarrassment in perspective. Remember that your feelings are temporary and with time they will probably go away on their own. Don’t make the mistake that so many make of negative self-talk, where they define themselves based on one data point, applying it globally. They engage in all or nothing thinking, labeling themselves with expressions like ‘I’m such an idiot’, ‘Nobody likes me’, or ‘I’m inept’.
Paradoxically, one of the best ways to lower your rejection sensitivity and get embarrassed less often in social settings is by repeated exposure to situations that are likely to cause you embarrassment. You grow a thicker skin the more you come to fully realize that there are no long term, lasting consequences if you don’t want there to be. You quickly get over what happened, so does everybody else, and you move on.
There are some people, and you probably know a few of them yourself, who seem to be bulletproof from getting embarrassed. It’s because they really don’t care, they have high self-esteem, and when they do something stupid they don’t define themselves around it. They naturally know to put what happened in perspective.
The fear of getting embarrassed is a much more dangerous foe than embarrassment itself, because it’s the desire to protect yourself from the pain of humiliation and shame that keeps you from entering fully into the social arena and living a fulfilling life. Staying on the sidelines constitutes a much greater risk to your continued human development than embarrassment every could.
Of course, like all emotions, embarrassment has a very useful evolutionary purpose or we couldn’t be talking about it right now. You can listen to the important message your embarrassment is sending you and use this message as a guidepost for how you need to grow. Don’t let it take you the other way and make you shrink further into yourself, avoiding the situations that while potentially embarrassing also offer the greatest payoff for authentic human contact.