Weddings are often memorable in more ways than one. Sure, you might immediately think of the couple’s first dance and their moving vows or maybe you are reminded by the shocking behavior of one of the wedding guests. That would be me. And not only was I a guest but I was part of the wedding party, yep I was up there with a mic in my hand, drunk.
Actually I had kept it pretty dry so I could get through my speech but by the time the games kicked in, I had 'hurried up' to all the others and was wasted. Slurring my words and acting like an ass (of what I can remember), this couldn't have been any 'cringyer'.
Afterwards I was both very confused and a little scared, my embarrassment was complete.
Everyone knows the feeling of embarrassment, for many of us this feeling is coupled with flushing of the face and sweaty palms. As someone who is very easily embarrassed or at least when it comes to some specific things, I wanted to find out why we get embarrassed and if there is anything we can do to prevent it.
Embarrassment is a self-conscious emotion dictated between how we feel we should respond or act in public and how we actually respond or act.
We are most likely to be embarrassed when we believe we have not lived up to what society thinks we should be or when we are on the receiving end of undesired attention.
Context also matters, for instance, you aren’t going to feel embarrassed if you trip in your own home but take that outside and it’s a different story.
Now some of us tend to turn red when we are embarrassed, that’s governed by the all powerful fight-or-flight response. Our mind and body see embarrassment as a threat, and a unique feature of the veins in our face responds to those threats.
When we do something embarrassing, these veins dilate which causes the reaction. This allows adrenaline to pump fresh blood and oxygen through the body and though embarrassment isn’t the only cause for our face turning red (guilt, shyness, or shame) it is a big part of it.
Do you know those people who make it worse, they to me are anal pricks.
(pardon my french) You’ve probably come into contact with people like this. As soon as your face begins to turn red they feel a need to tell you your face is turning red, as if you didn't know.
Studies show that when people tell you your face is turning red (even if it’s not) you will begin to turn red. In those situations we hear: ‘I am judging you negatively.’ Or at least this is what we assume is happening.
If you are one of these people, I kindly ask you to not do this kinda sh*t.
Can we prevent from turning red?
Short of surgery that snips the little nerves that cause your face to turn red, no. The blushing response is steered by our sympathetic nervous system and it’s not something we can control. It happens without conscious thought or effort.
Our embarrassment response is influenced by the negative evaluations we presume people will have of us if we mess up. We tend to overestimate how people will view us, and get trapped inside of our own head while loosing perspective on how little people are actually paying attention to us.
But it's not all bad.
Though our experiences with embarrassment are quite uncomfortable, it actually isn’t that bad for us. Because embarrassment cannot be faked, it signals to our peers our true emotional state. It shows others that we are either ashamed or feel guilty. It also helps indicate that we are trustworthy.
Feeling embarrassed and blushing is endearing, it can even help us avoid confrontation with others. If someone turns red during a confrontation we can see that, that individual feels bad about their behavior. This can deescalate the confrontation.
Disarming Your Embarrassment
We all like to present ourselves in the best possible light and doing something embarrassing shatters the vision we have created (or so we think). We assume embarrassment impacts us negatively both personally or professionally, but none of that is true. We blow things way out of proportion and that's just a waste of time.
How do you rise above that overwhelming uncomfortable feeling?
1. Laugh about it. I mean, embarrassing stories make great dinner-party material. But I totally get it when you feel sensitive about something, laughing about it isn't the easiest, which is why you need a good friend to help you with it. Sharing your embarrassing story with someone you trust will help lift that weight of shame off your shoulders.
2. Remember that blushing and embarrassment shows that you care: Part of why we are drawn to others who are embarrassed is because we view them as people who understand when they have crossed a line or made an error. This is an important human trait and not something anyone should be ashamed of.
3. Get back on the horse. I know it's hard but 'forcing' yourself to get back in the game, will prove to others and especially yourself that you can do it despite the fall or whatever happened before.
Remember everyone gets embarrassed and it’s okay that you do too.
I know I won’t stop being embarrassed any time soon and doubt that I will be able to prevent myself from turning red either, but over the years I’ve come to accept this part of myself, because I choose to.
So with embarrassment not going anywhere, I leave you with this quote from Richelle E. Goodrich:
“Relax; the world’s not watching that closely. It’s too busy contemplating itself in the mirror.”