girl slipping on ground

Embracing Embarrassment

It happens to the best of us at some point in life or other. When it happens, there is not a single thing you can do to undo the situation. At the moment, all you wish is for the ground to open up so that you can crawl down and go hide under it. Food getting stuck in your teeth, wearing your shirt inside out, accidentally spitting out while speaking enthusiastically during conversations, leaving a crucial part of your clothing unzipped – the list is endless. Embarrassing situations can happen in a variety of different ways. It feels like watching a train wreck – you know what is going to happen but you are powerless to stop it.

As a child, you face many incidents where you are embarrassed in public. Whether it was getting yelled at by your mother for spilling coke at the dinner table, or getting violently sick in the car right before arriving at someone’s house for dinner or breaking a chair just by sitting down on it – we all have faced various embarrassing incidents like these in our childhood. I know I have experienced all of the above scenarios. When these things happen to children, people usually laugh it off and sympathize. However, what happens when you face public embarrassment as an adult? How do you get over the embarrassment, brush off the humiliation and move on?

Like I have mentioned before, I seem to have a knack of attracting situations like these. During my final year of high school, when I was concerned with being a cool teenager, I tripped and fell down the stairs at school, rather spectacularly. Among the bystanders, there were several senior teachers, junior students and not to mention the principal herself. The fall was not painful, it was just painfully embarrassing. The only thing that was hurt was my pride.

Another incident where I made a fool of myself was when I was hanging out at my cousin’s house with her and a friend of hers. At some point, I randomly looked up and pointed at the rather atrocious piece of artwork hanging from the walls. I asked my cousin that where did she pick up that piece of trash from. She grew very uncomfortable and surreptitiously motioned to indicate that the artwork was a gift from her friend who was present with us at that very moment. What was even worse was that the art was made by a close relative of the friend! Needless to say, I felt like vanishing into thin air at that moment.

Dealing with public embarrassment as an adult could take a toll on us at times. However, there are certain ways to overcome such situations, regardless of the nature of the embarrassment.
1) Be calm: Often, cases of public embarrassment happen when one is not able to keep their cool. Anger and stress can make an already delicate situation even worse. If being calm does not prevent it from happening once, at least it will ensure that it is not repeated in the future.
2) Acknowledge it: So you have done something embarrassing. Like choking on food and spitting it out like the giant 5-year-old that you are. There is no way you can undo that ugly scenario. The best strategy is to confront it directly. Self-deprecation can often be seen as a charming trait. At least, it is a far better image than that of a sputtering toddler who cannot fully chew and swallow their food.
3) Use humour: Embarrassing situations are resolved best through humour. They cannot make fun of you if you are the one making fun of yourself. In doing so, the onlookers who witness your embarrassment will admire your
fearlessness when you own up to your social awkwardness. Chances are that several years down the road, you will look back to it and laugh it off.
4) Try forgetting that it happened: The only good thing about embarrassing situations is that they are all in the past. What remains are the lessons we took from it. This means that you have the power to prevent embarrassing
situations from repeating themselves in the future.

Everyone has had their share of moments of awkwardness. No one is immune to it. Embarrassment happens because you failed to function as a socially acceptable person at some point. But the good news is it happens
because we are human. We are flawed, imperfect and irrevocably lacking in several areas, all of which make us so utterly human. Such situations make us aware of our faults and may also provide ways to improve ourselves. So the next time you trip over or snort out that piece of peanut you just popped in, remember that someone out there has done something even more embarrassing than you. Keeping this in mind, be more gentle and understanding when the person in front of you does something humiliating. Pat on their back and say ‘Yes, I have been there too.’