The Joy of Humiliation
It’s a dreaded discussion — and an even worse experience. However more than anything else, learning to acknowledge and accept your flaws, glaring or hidden, can be a true test of your strength and a favor to your confidence. I’d like you to try letting go of your ego, and learn from those moments where you say or do something absolutely humiliating at work or elsewhere. Allow me to clarify what this means exactly with a story from my work —
I’m an actor. Most recently I was eating lunch on the set of Investigation Discovery’s “Evil Lives Here,” an episodic crime reenactment series about the signs of living with a murderer at home. Having only worked in film and voiceover, I had wanted to make a good first impression among the TV veterans I was on set with. Being given the lead role, I felt as if I was there on a fluke, and wasn’t deserving of a role of this caliber. I was nervous just being there, let alone having a camera on me all day for three days straight. There I was on day two, eating and pondering the next scenes we were shooting that day, when the Executive Producer came over and sat next me. He had a video on his phone of me from filming the day before. I was playing a murderer in this episode, so after the intense scene ended he looked at me and said, “That. Is. Scary.” I felt a boost of confidence. We started talking about the show, and naturally I asked how the first season of “Evil Lives Here” performed alongside some of the network’s largest titles. It truly was to my surprise when he said, “…I mean, this is the highest rated show on the network.” Now, instead of playing it cool like I knew this already (which I should have, but certainly did not), I instead responded with a dragged out and borderline cartoonish, “REEAAALLLY?!” which was followed by a short moment of awkward silence, then by me laughing out of discomfort (*cringe*) until a crew member at the table said:
“Ok, next time an executive producer tells you their show has good ratings, you should try not to sound so ridiculously surprised.”
Those words will always stick. To us, being humiliated is what breaks the illusion of perfection that we all want for ourselves. As an actor, I always try to keep my ego in check. It can be easy to let any success I’ve worked hard for inflate my head ten sizes (or however egotistic minds are measured). It would have been too easy to go into what I call “ego protection mode,” and blame the producer for misunderstanding what I meant. Maybe if I tried to make him look like he was in the wrong, the tension would melt off my shoulders. But that attitude… who is it good for? If I took that common approach, who wins? I was the one in the wrong. I simply owned up to what slipped out. I even joked about it the rest of the day. Here I am now writing about it for the world to see! I know this sounds like an absurdly simple and almost juvenile way to go about recovering from a flub at work, but so is blaming other people for your mistakes. Even over the small things, like what happened to me. So, why should you feel humiliated for a genuine mistake that you’ve owned owned up to? Give the people around you more credit. If we can laugh about our daily/weekly/monthly bloopers together, then what’s the big deal? Don’t feel bad. Embrace it, and keep moving forward. Next time you humiliate yourself, see it as a humbling experience, and keep moving forward.