What Causes Embarrassment?By Dr. Margaret Paul
November 16, 2007
Discover what you tell yourself that causes embarrassment, and what you can tell yourself that leads to self-acceptance.
I was conducting a weekend Inner Bonding workshop. Amanda, one of the participants, was working with me in front of the rest of the group. As we touched on a painful issue, she started to cry, and immediately said "I'm so embarrassed that I'm crying."
"What are you telling yourself right now that is causing you to feel embarrassed?" I asked her.
"I'm stupid for crying, and everyone here will think I'm stupid."
Given that one of the teachings in the workshop is learning to be in touch with your emotions, it was highly unlikely that anyone in the workshop was judging her for crying. What was causing Amanda's embarrassment was her own self-judgment.
When we judge ourselves as wrong or bad for something we are feeling, doing or have done in front of others, we will feel embarrassed. Another person can do the exact same thing and feel no embarrassment at all. For example, the next person to come up to work with me in this workshop was a young man who also started to cry. Yet it was obvious that he felt no embarrassment at all for his tears. In fact, he seemed relieved to be able to cry.
What are the kinds of behaviors you have judged yourself for that have caused you to feel embarrassed?
Do you judge yourself for making a mistake?
What do you tell yourself when you make a mistake that makes you feel embarrassed?
"Now everyone will think I'm stupid."
'Now people won't like me."
"How could I have done such a stupid thing?"
Of course, any of these statements will cause you to feel embarrassed. But what if you said to yourself something like:
"Oh well, I'm human. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes."
"It's okay that I made a mistake. That's how I'll learn."
These kinds of statements come from compassion rather than judgment. You will not feel embarrassed when you allow yourself to be human in front of others - to cry, to make mistakes, to not know something, to be wrong about something, to mess up, to act badly sometimes, to occasionally forget something, to mispronounce a word, to get lost while driving, to be insensitive, to fall apart, to get angry, to sweat and smell bad or have problems with other bodily functions, to forget the words to the song you are singing, to forget the lines to the play you are in, to get a bad grade, to fall down, to miss the dance step - and so on.
Wouldn't it be great if you allowed yourself to be human?
Wouldn't you feel freer and more relaxed in your life if you allowed yourself to mess up without judging yourself? Allowing yourself to be human means allowing yourself to just be who you are - a wonderful human being who will make mistakes, who will mess up, who will be vulnerable.
Can you value yourself if you are different from other people? A friend of mine is embarrassed because he likes Barry Manlow and he thinks that "real men" don't like that kind of music. If he learned to accept who he is rather than judge who he is, he will stop feeling embarrassed and begin to value himself.
In our culture, many people have learned to be embarrassed about various aspects of their body, telling themselves that this is too little, or that is too big. How sad that we have been taught that we are not okay if something is not bigger or something else is not smaller.
We all have the option of choosing to accept ourselves just as we are, and when you make this choice, you will no longer experience embarrassment. Self-acceptance and compassion for yourself are the natural outcomes of practicing Inner Bonding.
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."
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Your emotions are a great gift, letting you know when you are on track or off track in your thinking and behavior, or when you need to attend to what is happening with a person or situation. Today, practice learning what your painful emotions are telling you, rather than avoiding them with your various addictions.
By Dr. Margaret Paul