Raise your hand if you’ve struggled to fall asleep some nights because you’ve had this recurring memory of that one time you said or did something extremely stupid. The memory makes you bury your head into your pillow making a minor yelling noise as you cringe at the thought of that particular moment.
Now how many of those moments have actually made any significant impact to your life? I’m just guessing here but I’d say that 95% of those embarrassing moments can be chalked up to insignificant incidents that happen to put the spotlight of judgement on you, ever so short but ever so memorable. Falling over in a particular way, a regular conversation ending in you saying something that makes no sense, a joke that no one laughs at etc.
These moments, as insignificant as they are, have built up quite a grip over you. You see, embarrassment is just fear; fear of societal judgement. And why wouldn’t you fear the judgement of society? We’re social beings and we function best in a community. It’s only natural that we try to be as favorable as possible to the will of that community. This isn’t necessarily bad. It keeps social standards in order, it keeps the peace and it creates a mutual understanding and expectation of members of the community. The problem arises when these expectations or underlying ‘rules’ start dictating your actions and stop you from doing what you want to do, for fear of being ridiculed.
Living a life of excess caution, sticking to the crowd and not following what you believe to be the right path, will almost always leave you unfulfilled. Embarrassment is such a leading cause of this, that I’d argue that it’s a social epidemic.
Most successful writers are embarrassed about their newly written book, they believe it’s not perfect but they publish it anyway as they know nothing is perfect. Most successful startups are embarrassed about releasing their product, but they do it anyway because they need the feedback to grow and iterate. Insert another 20 examples here.
The people who do succeed, are willing to listen to a barrage of contradicting opinions, are willing to face fear of social ridicule, are willing to face embarrassment when they fail and spoiler alert, you will fail before you succeed. Now if you as a person, cannot fathom the idea of being in a situation where you’ve forgotten your wallet and have to ask someone to cover your bill, or you cringe at the idea of asking a question that was literally asked and answered a second ago in an important meeting, or face-palm while thinking about potentially making an inappropriate joke at the wrong time — How do you expect to handle the embarrassment and discouragement when you get laughed out of a room after pitching your heart out, the looks you’ll get after a you’ve told everyone about your business and it fails miserably 4 months in, or literally anything else that stabs at your most important sense of self.
Fear of embarrassment is that insidious feeling that will hold you back from doing meaningful things with your life. This isn’t just about the big things ladies and gentlemen, this is about the small things as well. Is embarrassment the reason you haven’t taken a dancing or a singing lesson? Haven’t started at the gym? Haven’t practiced using a language that you’ve been studying for 2 years? Take a long look at that un-lived life of yours that’s been caused by the fear of embarrassment. It’s not pretty but it’s the most useful thing you have, it’s a motivator, a reason for you to make embarrassment your lackey. A reason to weaponize it so when real shit matters, you’re immune to it. How do you do this?
The Golden Rule
It’s simple really — Purposefully put yourself in a position to be embarrassed.
When you put yourself in this position for the little things, you inadvertently train yourself to become immune for the big things.
Tim Ferris has mentioned a nice little trick he does where he asks for a discount while buying a coffee at Starbucks. In front of all the people, making a minor commotion for 50 cents off your coffee when you can damn well afford it. Terrifying, look at all that unwanted attention coming your way, you’re sticking out like a sore thumb but it’s worth the immunity to embarrassment that you’re developing. I like to go a little more in depth with my self inflicted pain.
I like wearing old ripped clothes, keeping my bed hair as is, not shaving and wearing old shoes or no shoes before going to a high end clothing store to just walk around browsing among people that are wearing designer everything, occasionally striking up a conversation with someone. I also like to lay down on the ground using my back pack as a pillow, in a popular street near a shopping centre. Last week I bought a very large ironing board and decided to carry it around like a surfboard through the busy city, then clumsily got it on a bus to take home — apologetically moving it several times to let people through the middle of the bus. All the while sustaining the feeling that people were staring into my soul.
You don’t have to make these self inflicted embarrassing actions a part of who you are. You don’t want to be known as ‘That Guy’ — all you want to do is coat yourself in a nice layer of embarrassment fortifications now and then.
When you’re getting stared down by hundreds of strangers because of x, y or z, you really become unfazed by embarrassment when it matters. You end up not caring when you get rejected by the lady/gentleman you fancy, you are unbroken when someone attempts to socially/professionally challenge you or mock you, you start living on your terms — attempting things you wouldn’t have dreamed of attempting. You begin to focus on you and not what others think of you. If it helps, realize that you’re only a side character in some strangers story, but you’re the main character in yours.
You may love the idea of everything I’ve mentioned, you may agree with it, but if you don’t practice it, it won’t be useful to you.
I want you practice embarrassment in a major way 4 times over the course of 4 weeks, this will make you uncomfortable, this will make you feel fear or an adrenaline rush but it will also eventually make you walk away with a big smile on your face.
You can try the couple below, but definitely make up your own. We all vary in the degree of embarrassment we can willfully inflict upon ourselves.
On your way to your work, campus or daily grind — stop a random person and say “I’m so sorry, but I needed to tell someone about this! I had the best Avocado on toast this morning that I ever had!” continue talking about your love for avocados as long as you can.
Plug your headphones in and loudly sing along to your favourite song in public while walking or moving to the beat.
You can thank me in a month :)
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Here’s another article that I think you’d like — It’s 8 Tiny Things You Can Do To Immediately Improve Your Life In Less Than 3 Minutes
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