Embarrassing moments happen to us all — coping with it in a healthy way can help minimize the effects.
Nearly everyone experiences embarrassment from time to time. Whether you’ve said something you didn’t mean, made a mistake, or had an awkward social moment, you aren’t alone. Embarrassment can make you feel self-conscious and often involves feeling out of place, shameful, or uncomfortable in a social situation.
Although you may not be able to avoid embarrassing situations entirely, there are tips you can follow to help move on from embarrassing moments and to shake off shame a little faster.
Many events can lead to feelings of embarrassment. But the overarching theme of embarrassment is that it occurs when there is an audience of people watching you and you feel you have not done something well.
For instance, a 2015 study found that people tend to feel embarrassed when they believe they have failed at something publicly. These feelings of embarrassment are heightened in participants who are more prone to anxiety.
Signs you might be experiencing embarrassment include:
- heart pounding
Many people try to avoid embarrassing situations at all costs, but an occasional slip-up happens to nearly everyone. When embarrassment does happen, you may ask yourself: “How do I get over it?” If you feel major blushing coming on, try these tips:
- be kind to yourself
- confront the situation
- stay calm
- take a deep breath
- consider what you’ve learned
- laugh it off
We all mess up because we’re human. If you experience an embarrassing moment, practicing compassion toward yourself can help you move forward. Beating yourself up for making a mistake only puts you in a self-critical mindset.
To practice self-compassion, you may consider reciting positive affirmations. For example, making a statement, such as “Mistakes do not define me,” or “I am confident and I am enough,” can be beneficial. Positive affirmations can increase your self-confidence and improve your well-being.
The key to self-compassion is to consider what you would say to a friend if they were feeling embarrassed. You likely would tell them that no one is judging them as much as they think and that this one event does not determine their worth.
Try to speak to yourself just like you would to a friend and to remember we all tend to be our own harshest critics.
When you are embarrassed, your fight-or-flight response kicks in. If you can admit when you made a mistake or correct yourself when it is a fixable situation, this can help you move on. Avoiding the situation that makes you fearful only increases the chance of embarrassment, shame, and anxiety reoccurring.
Addressing the embarrassment in the moment increases confidence. It’s okay to say “I’m embarrassed,” “I messed up,” or “Can we try that again?”
It can be hard to keep it together when you’re embarrassed. The anxiety can be overwhelming, but keeping calm in the situation can improve the circumstance. For example, apologizing when you make a mistake or continuing the conversation in a different direction can help you remain calm.
Applying self-soothing techniques may also be useful in staying calm. For example, taking a break from the situation or practicing a grounding exercise can help you deal with intense emotional responses in the moment.
Deep breathing has numerous benefits for mental health. If you find yourself dwelling on an embarrassing event, practicing deep breathing can help reduce anxiety when you think about the event. Deep breathing also slows down the physical symptoms of fear, guilt, and shame.
A good strategy for focusing on your breathing is to count your breaths. Try breathing in through your nose for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 4 seconds, and then breathing out for another 4 seconds. Continue this cycle until you feel yourself calming down.
When we get through an embarrassing moment, we can learn a lesson. For example, maybe you weren’t as prepared for a work or presentation, which caused embarrassment during a team meeting check-in.
Next time, you know what you can do to prepare for the meeting. Finding the lesson can help you better prepare for the future and avoid being embarrassed by the same situation later on.
Humor is an excellent mechanism for dealing with embarrassment. A 2016 study that explored the effects of humor on cancer patients found that using humor to deal with embarrassing, frightening, or overwhelming experiences can help build a sense of community, decrease feelings of isolation, and encourage honest dialogue.
Using humor can also assist with regaining a sense of control when times are tough. It’s important to note that using humor as a coping mechanism is different than avoiding your feelings. Humor is often used to make an overwhelming situation less threatening.
The next time you are feeling embarrassed, therefore, try making a joke about it and turn the situation into a funny story. You don’t have to be self-deprecating or pretend you aren’t embarrassed to use humor. Instead, the point is to alter your mindset and to take yourself a bit less seriously.
Embarrassing moments don’t have to stick with you forever. By applying these tips and tricks, you can move forward with your life with greater ease after an embarrassing event.
Sometimes a few deep breaths, a small joke, and a kind word to yourself can turn an embarrassing event into a funny story you tell at parties.
Additionally, seeking professional help from a mental health professional when you feel stuck with shame, guilt, or fear can be beneficial for not letting embarrassment control your life.
If you deal with social anxiety related to fear of embarrassment, you may check out the National Social Anxiety Center for helpful resources, stories, and tips for coping.
Remember, embarrassing moments happen to just about everyone, but how you handle them can make all the difference.
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