The positive in embarrassment


yu tang

My high school building was a huge labyrinth of steps. The scariest stage of a dreadful embarrassment if you accidentally had a misstep. The day I arrived there for the first time I said to myself: you now have 5 years ahead of you of avoiding falling on one of these steps in front of hundreds of people.

In adult life, I find quite often a reminder of that is accidentally send to a bunch of people a message that is originally meant for only one, like when you work in a big organization and you click by mistake the reply button on an ALL STAFF email, while your message is only to reply to the person that sent the latest email of the chain.

And nevertheless, there are some people who maintain the cool in such a gracious way that makes you think, why is that we spend so much energy in trying desperately to avoid any embarrassment in life? Quite interestingly the few times I did something really dumb, after an initial impetus of moving downstairs in the ground and disappear, I actually found a lot of compassion and people laughing with me, while I was expecting to go straight back at those high school years when the whole school might have probably turned into laughing at the person on the ground.

Also, something quite interesting usually happens when the shame has found its place and some time has passed. A strange feeling of extra-strength coming from realizing that, well, I can’t do much worse than this! Have you ever thought about it? The survival effect that makes us feel quite powerful, not a bad emotion at all for a little while.

Another good note on embarrassment is that it is one of those human emotions that are 100% natural and reactive, so in being very vulnerable and showing to the entire world, we might connect with someone kind enough to offer us a hand, on a very quick and deep level.