Why I Decided to Make Embarrassment My Friend

Throughout my whole life, I have suffered some pretty embarrassing moments.  There are some instances from my childhood that still make me cringe when I think of them because they were so mortifying to experience.  Despite these repeated occurrences, however, I never actually tried to understand how I felt and reacted to embarrassing moments.  It was almost like I had this mindset of avoiding as many of these events as possible because when they came, I was knocked off my feet with mortification and overthinking.  It never occurred to me that I could actually learn how to be less embarrassed overall, and to not let it be such a big deal when something embarrassing did happen.  So, for the sake of my argument, I am going to relive two embarrassing moments that I have endured this week.  For some reason, I have experienced an endless amount of embarrassment this week, and through these rather unpleasant experiences, I am slowly but surely learning how to be ok with them and myself.

 

#1.  The Target Adirondack Chairs

Here at my apartment located in beautiful Tampa, Florida, I have a balcony that sat empty up until this week.  It never really crossed my mind to go sit outside and enjoy the view, up until the last few weeks.  However since I did not have any furniture out there, every night I would take my chair from my makeup vanity and haul it out onto my balcony.  I finally decided it was time to break down and just buy some patio chairs, even though I knew it would be rather expensive to do so.  I went to Walmart where they had Adirondack chairs that were $97 each, which I was sure would be the cheapest I could get them.  But by some miracle, I was poking around the Target app when I saw that they had Adirondack chairs for $22 each (and better yet they had all 5-star reviews)!  I was so excited that I rushed over to Target by my house and marched straight to the back where the outdoor furniture is.  It was like heaven beamed down onto these beautiful stacked chairs with their glorious $22 price tag as I approached.  I couldn’t believe my luck!  I took two down off of the stack, tested them out, and then loaded them into my cart.  Now, this is the important part- when I went to stack them in my cart, I put them both in separately rather than stacking them together and then putting them in the cart.  This seems like an irrelevant detail, until we move farther ahead to when I went to check out.  I am a self-checkout type of person, so I went right up to one of the open stations to scan my items and pay with seemingly no worries in sight.  When I got the little scanner gun thing down, I quickly realized that the barcode for the chairs was on the lower/underneath side of them, so I would have to take one of them out to scan.  Once again, no worries.  That is until I actually start to take one of them out of the cart.  As soon as I went to move one, the other began to fall.  Since I was alone, and do not have arms that are 10 feet long, I was unable to balance both of them.  By this point, a line of people began forming at the self-checkout station.  So all of these people got to witness me finally balance them enough to remove one chair, quickly swing it out of the cart and then rebalance the other one.  However as I swung the chair out of the cart, I nearly knocked this poor Target employee in the face with it.  I apologized profusely, and he was really sweet about it and offered to help me.  But, me being me of course, I thanked him but told him I had it all under control.  This was a lie.  I did not have it under control.  I started to put the chair I had just scanned back into the cart (EXACTLY WHERE IT HAD JUST BEEN SITTING PERFECTLY FINE) which of course knocked the other one out of the cart, and into the display of gum and candy they have at each register.  The nice Target guy came running up to help (again) after watching me struggle for a while, at my own expense.  When he finally approached, I admitted defeat, and he very smoothly took both chairs from me, stacked them and then loaded them back into the cart like he was the cart loading gold medal winner.  So, not only did I suffer from the embarrassment of trying to get them in and out on my own, I also looked like a complete moron for not doing the obvious and simple solution of stacking them first before putting them in my cart.  As if I wasn’t embarrassed enough, when I turned to leave finally, I realized there were probably at least 10 people turned around watching the whole ordeal.  My face was redder than a tomato as I walked out to my car, and I literally felt like crawling into a hole at how embarrassed I was.  But unlike in the past when I would have never told a soul about it because of how embarrassed I was, as soon as I got in my car I called my mom and laughed at myself with her.  I filmed a very dramatic yet comical Snapchat video and sent it to my friends, laughing the whole time.  And most importantly, I learned that it’s ok to let people help me.  It is ok to suffer a minor embarrassment (letting the guy help me the first time), rather than being stubborn and making things exponentially worse for myself.  

 

#2.  The Raised Hand and Zoom Mishap

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week I go to a class that requires me to be in person on Monday and on Zoom the rest of the week.  Even when I am in class though, the professor requires us to log into Zoom on our computers so that we can unmute ourselves and talk both in-person/online so that all of our classmates can hear us regardless if they are in-person or not.  Usually, this is a seamless process.  Today however, it was far from it.  The disaster started when I sat down at my desk, opened my backpack and realized I left my computer at home.  Immediately, I went into slight panic mode.  I had never really Zoomed from my phone, so I didn’t know how to actually use that version.  Also, my professor gives us random quizzes throughout the week via Blackboard (our online hub for classes) so there was a chance he would give one today which I would also have to do from my phone.  So, I got logged onto Zoom and quickly realized that I could not fully mute the audio on my phone (which I can do with my computer) which meant that everyone in class had to hear the echo of people talking in-person and through my phone.  This meant that the whole time class was going on, I was the annoying person giving everyone a headache because of this audio feedback loop I was creating. This alone may have not been so bad, but unfortunately my troubles did not end there.  My professor decided to give us a quiz (just my luck), which did not work for some reason on my phone, meaning I had to call him over in front of the entire class to manually grade my answers.  At this point, it was about 10 minutes into the class and I was ready to bolt with my tail tucked between my legs.  However, my suffering was not even close to being over because the final blow had not yet been dealt.  After the quiz, the professor asked a question to which I raised my hand to answer.  He gestured to me to answer, and I immediately tried to unmute myself on my phone, only to click the wrong button and have to utter profuse apologies.  Finally, after an agonizing few seconds, I figured out how to do it and I started to talk.  At this point, my professor interrupts me and says “Oh, I actually called on (classmate’s name) to answer the question”.  You know the soundtrack that accompanies the moment the main character makes a terrible realization in a horror movie?  That’s exactly what I heard when I realized that while I was embarrassing myself trying to unmute, he actually had not called on me at all but instead on the girl RIGHT BEHIND ME.  I was done. Finished.  Embarrassed beyond recognition.  Of all classes to have this happen during, it is the one that I feel most on-edge and nervous in.  It’s the one that has a professor who does not previously know me and my value as a student.  It’s the one where participation and “preparedness” is graded each and every day.  I have never wanted a class to be over quicker in my life.  Instead of going home and crying afterwards and just letting my embarrassment fester like an open wound, I decided to text one of my friends in the same class.  While normally I would have just sat in my misery, convinced that everyone in class thought that I was the stupidest and most cringey person on Earth, I decided to just tell her exactly how embarrassed I was.  Much to my surprise, she didn’t even realize any of that had happened (granted she was on Zoom, not in-person with me so she probably did not actually see/hear most of it) which helped me realize that most other people probably didn’t notice either.  Better yet, she had had the same “raised hand/thought she was picked to answer when she really wasn’t” incident occur in the same exact class, and I didn’t even remember it happening!  This thing that I was sure would label me as the class idiot for the rest of the semester had actually happened to someone else in the same class, and I did not even remember it.  This story really helped me see that embarrassing things are going to happen, and it's ok to feel all the feelings about it, but I don’t need to catastrophize it and make myself feel so much worse than I need to.

All in all, these stories may not sound that embarrassing to you.  You may think that it was silly of me to feel mortified over them.  That is fine, but the message still stands.  No matter your definition of what is embarrassing, the reaction you have to these things is completely in your control.  They do not have to make you feel totally stupid or insecure.  They don’t have to make you turn into yourself and decide that you can never show your face again.  It is ok to feel embarrassed, but what is not ok is to beat yourself up over these silly mistakes or random chance occurrences.  I wish I would have really figured this out earlier in life, that things like this happen to everyone and that I do not have to make them a big deal if I don’t want to.  I can’t save myself from being embarrassed all the time, but I can redefine how I react to and feel embarrassment.  Embarrassment has transformed from being my hated enemy, into a friend that sometimes says the wrong thing but ultimately has my best interest at heart.  When I embrace my embarrassment, I embrace myself and all of my flaws.