Embarrassment is healthy.
Updated: Jun 14
The process of allowing embarrassment or shame is scary, but damn, it's liberating, it's cleansing AND it shows a good level of inner confidence and personal integrity.
Here is how to make embarrassment your ally.
For those of us who tend to be very self-conscious, embarrassment or humiliation is very much interlaced with the fear of loosing dignity and self-esteem. The fear of embarrassment prevents us from making the most of opportunities and risk-taking, it can be overwhelming and stand in the way of carrying out our daily responsibilities at work/ in life.
Not only I believe that it is absolutely okay to be embarrassed or feel ashamed, it is actually necessary to allow those feelings, be with them and most importantly admit that they are present.
Allow it. Acknowledge it. Don't hide it!
The more you are trying to hide the things you are anxious or worried about, the more discomfort you will experience.
Embarrassment is often a secondary emotion, the feelings of embarrassment stem from two other emotions: guilt or shame. Emotional energy has to go somewhere, so, one way to discharge emotional energy is to name it, speak to it and normalise it. If you don’t acknowledge emotions, and you don’t use them in a healthy way, then they have the power to create more internal havoc than peace.
So, let's say you sense that you are about to blush, your legs are shaking or your palms are sweating, while all eyes on you. Well, in that moment, before you take off to the planet of self-sabotage, overthinking, anxiety or panic - recognise what happens and say it out loud, name it! Best, if you can make a joke about it.
E.g. Has anyone else noticed how my legs are shaking or is it just me? Hands up?
When you are about to give a speech to 100+ people, and you feel nervous, acknowledge the feeling and share it with your audience.
E.g. Here I'm, a little nervous but overall excited to be with you tonight.
Always acknowledge your feelings and sound them out to others, tell everyone or yourself what just happened and how you feel about it.
When you made a mistake, admit that you think you just made an error and you are a little embarrassed about it.
E.g. Now, this is embarrassing, I've just missed this deadline. I take it on me, hands up.
When you are in a room full of competent/ senior people and you are afraid to ask "the obvious" question, say it and ask the question (most probably another 40% of people in the room are asking themselves the same thing, they are just too embarrassed to rise their hands).
E.g. This may be a very obvious question and you might have already covered this today, but I just want to be 100% clear on this...
When you are about to say something that may not land well, but it is still important to you.
E.g. I’m going to share something. It might sound a little wild. OR I’m reluctant to share this, but it seems important.
The uncomfortable feelings that are associated with whatever you are trying to hide will disappear the moment you acknowledge them, as there will be nothing to hide anymore; and because AUTHENTICITY liberates and feeds confidence.
Not only that, you will show up as authentic, vulnerable and eventually even more likeable. Why? Because people are attracted to what is REAL, and not to what is perfect or often faked.
"Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen." - Brené Brown
So, admit to your mistakes, faults, gaffes and flows, own them and don't pretend they never happened. The act of trying to hide your own flows is more demeaning than openly admitting to your mistakes. The attribute of knowing how to laugh at yourself is a pure act of courage and shows a solid level of inner confidence.
Ps. Not to be confused with self-blame, that is another extreme!
Don't invalidate your feelings.
One of the worst things to do when you feel embarrassed is also the most common: to invalidate your own feelings. This voids the emotions. The more you do this, the harder it becomes to admit your failings, feelings, or vulnerabilities in the future. Below are some of the examples of ways we can self-undermine:
I can't believe I just did that. I’m an idiot.
Oh, well, never-mind. Forget it.
I don’t know what I was trying to say. It's really not important.
I shouldn’t feel this way. I'm sorry.
Generally speaking, by undermining yourself, you might be minimising your own completely reasonable feelings of embarrassment that won’t be able to be aired out if you underplay them.
Do the homework:
1. Try this one mental exercise:
Instead of seeing yourself as the protagonist in a given embarrassing situation, in your mind, picture yourself as the observer. You will automatically become less self-conscious and it will reduce your emotional discomfort, making you less avoidant.
Eckhart Tolle would say: "be the awareness of your thoughts, don't be your thoughts".
2. Learn how to become comfortable in the uncomfortable – start exploring the space of vulnerability.
Watch Brené Brown’s talks on the power of vulnerability below.
3. Be kind to yourself on a regular basis.
In building your comfort with embarrassment or shame, you must learn how to show kindness and compassion towards yourself.
Self-critical inner dialogues that reinforce a sense of inadequacy over long periods of time activate our body’s stress responses to uncomfortable situations. Self-compassion, in turn, activates the care system, which gives us a sense of safety and security.
This reduces the harmful effects of stress and also helps us self-regulate when we experience unwanted emotions. Overall, self-compassion was found to be the most powerful source of resilience.
You can find more valuable tips and practical examples on how to nurture self-love and self-compassion and turn down the volume of the inner self-critical voice in this Ultimate Confidence Workbook here.