Before we can discuss what makes people feel embarrassed and how to get over embarrassment, I want you to consider the following scenarios involving two college students- Mohit and Rohit:
Mohit was attending a lecture. After the lecture was over, the professor asked Mohit to stand up and answer a question.
Though it was a very simple question, Mohit answered incorrectly- not only incorrectly but he gave a totally irrelevant, dumb answer. The professor rebuked him harshly and called him a dimwit. Everyone laughed. Mohit felt very embarrassed. He looked down and his face turned bright red. He felt very bad.
Rohit faced the exact same situation. He answered the question that his professor asked in a dumb way. His professor criticized him harshly and called him names. The entire class roared with laughter.
Instead of feeling embarrassed, Rohit calmly asked his professor what his mistake was so that he could correct himself.
What is embarrassment?
We get feelings of embarrassment when we believe that the way in which we just acted in front of the others was inappropriate and socially unacceptable.
If you slipped in your wash-room then you won’t feel embarrassed but if you slipped on the street and fell down then you might. Embarrassment is believing that you made a ‘mistake’ that you shouldn’t have made publicly.
The roots of embarrassment
We keep forming beliefs throughout our life but our core beliefs are formed in our childhood. The reason why Mohit felt embarrassed and Rohit didn’t lies in the difference in their way of thinking, which, in turn, depends on the beliefs that are stored in their minds.
Let’s explore a bit of the past of our two students:
Since childhood, Mohit was always criticized severely by his parents when he made mistakes.
When he spilled a cup of tea in front of guests or when he damaged electronic appliances, his parents shouted at him, censured him, labelled his behaviour ‘inappropriate’ and left no stone unturned to make him feel embarrassed.
Consequently, Mohit developed a belief that making mistakes was inappropriate and unacceptable.
The sentences that his parents used were something like Why do you act so inappropriately? Why do you make such silly mistakes? What will people think and say about you? They will surely laugh at you.
On the contrary, Rohit’s parents rarely made him feel embarrassed whenever he committed any mistakes. Even if he did something wrong his parents kindly and calmly corrected him without being harsh in any way.
So he believed that making mistakes was normal human behaviour and an important step in the learning process.
Getting over embarrassment
In order to get rid of embarrassment, the first step that you need to take is to identify the situations and acts that make you feel embarrassed.
Then you need to figure out why you think that your behaviour is inappropriate. Then you need to change the entire thinking pattern because our thoughts, even if they occur unconsciously for a flash of a second, trigger our emotions.
Whether your unwanted beliefs resulted from the programming of your parents, relatives or peers doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you challenge your incorrect beliefs or not.
Once you challenge your unwanted beliefs you’ll change the way you interpret situations and consequently, you’ll no longer experience the feelings of embarrassment.
For example, if you convinced your mind that slipping and falling down on a street shouldn’t be embarrassing, then by practising thinking that way whenever it happens, your mind will learn to withdraw the feelings of embarrassment because your interpretation of the situation is changing.
A time will come when this thinking process will become automatic and you wouldn’t have to do it consciously anymore but till then have to be patient. Behavioural changes take time and rarely happen overnight.
You need to totally get rid of the belief that making mistakes is wrong. That’s the most powerful way not to feel embarrassed in any situation. We are all humans and we are all vulnerable to making mistakes.
A person who thinks that making mistakes is embarrassing does his best to avoid attempting anything that would cause him any public humiliation. He may end up becoming a perfectionist who never attempts anything and remains stuck in his comfort zone.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve written 280+ articles and published one book about human behavior on this blog that has garnered over 3 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.