We aren’t generally seeking out moments where we can embarrass ourselves. But, what if, every time we did have an awkward experience, we invited it in, welcomed it, and sat with it for a while? The idea of embracing moments of embarrassment may sound odd—not to mention very uncomfortable—but hear me out.
I started thinking about this a few weeks ago. At the time, I came home and cried after what seemed like one of the most embarrassing nights of my life. I couldn’t stop replaying everything I wish I had done differently. Then, of course, my anxiety reared its ugly head and brought up other similar embarrassing moments from my life for me to ruminate over once again.
Before my mind could spiral into despair, I slowed down my thoughts and remembered a few things I’ve learned in therapy in the past and through listening to experts like Brene Brown, that have allowed me in the past to handle embarrassment with grace. Here are the steps I took that can give you the opportunity to grow from awkward moments
01. Don’t push the feeling away
Often times, we try to push our feelings away. While this may work temporarily, it always ends up causing more problems. Coping like this can cause problems in relationships, as we’re unable to address our problems with ourselves and our loved ones. So, I accepted my embarrassment and decided to sink into the feeling and really live in it.
02. Investigate the feeling
When your best friend comes to you and expresses a strong emotion, you don’t ignore her and push her away, right? Instead, you sit with her, acknowledge what she’s going through, and then try to understand more. Extend yourself the same kindness.
In this case, I told myself that my embarrassment showed that I was human. I reminded myself that there was probably a reason I felt the way I did and that I just needed to explore it. So, I analyzed the moments I couldn’t get out of my head in a more logical way.
03. Name the feeling
Some people have a very hard time putting names to their feelings. They recognize a sense of emotional arousal but aren't able to analyze the feeling enough to name it and become overwhelmed by it. While the initial feeling from that night was embarrassment, I realized that the emotions that followed from that were different.
At one point that night, I spoke my opinion passionately about something, and someone spoke up with the opposite opinion. Only once I started analyzing this moment did I realized I was more defensive than embarrassed. I’m not used to people disagreeing with me in public. It’s amazing to me how easily I slipped into defensiveness. I like to tell myself that I am open-minded and able to listen to other opinions, but clearly I still have some work to do. This embarrassment suddenly seemed a lot less embarrassing because I had the grace to recognize that it merely reflected an opportunity for personal growth.
04. Don’t become the feeling
Very often we can over-identify with a feeling. I could have not only felt embarrassment, but also become ashamed. There's a subtle but important difference. I didn’t allow reliving the moments make me think it was a testament to how horrible of a person I was. Instead, I saw the difficult emotions as a signal, a teacher with an important message.
05. Let go of control
This one is key to dealing with your difficult emotions. Sometimes we immediately try to "fix" our feelings, even if there’s nothing that can be done. Often we just need to trust that eventually we will be okay again. It can be extremely uncomfortable to tolerate unresolved emotions, but moving through (rather than avoiding) tough stuff also cultivates personal depth.
For example, another thing I did that night was admit something out loud to a group of strangers that I often hide even from myself. I thought doing so would prove a point, but in the end it only became an unimportant thing in an already tense situation
While I couldn’t take back my revelation to everyone, I had to admit that my propensity to reveal such sensitive things wasn’t necessarily a bad trait. It’s just that, while being open and honest is a good thing, it’s really only possible when you’re with people that you already deeply trust. I couldn’t control what happened that night, but I could use it as a lesson moving forward that some things are just too personal in certain settings.
Tapping into our feelings like embarrassment is a commitment, and it’s terrifying. But doing so regularly will ultimately help you become more balanced, resilient, and confident.