Is your fear of embarrassment holding you back?
When was the last time you felt embarrassed?
I remember some time ago listening to a programme about embarrassment which made such an impression on me I decided that one way to decide if I wanted to be friends with someone would be to ask them when they had last felt embarrassed.
I managed to find a recording of the programme and discovered it was a comment by Christopher Ricks and what he actually said was,
“I can’t imagine loving somebody whom I couldn’t imagine blushing.....if I couldn’t imagine somebody blushing it would seem to me that they were less than affectingly human.”
Why am I asking this now?
As we enter September there is a real “back to school” vibe. Even if it no longer signals a new school year. September has always felt a time for new beginnings after we return from summer holidays full of ideas and good intentions.
I have always found that going away on holiday gives me loads of new ideas. By stepping away from the day to day I can see more clearly what my next steps are. In fact, I used to write a list of what I wanted to do when I got back from holiday on a postcard and send it home. By the time the postcards arrived, I would often have run out of steam and they were a good reminder of the enthusiasm and clarity I had felt while I was away.
What stops us moving forward with these new projects? People will often claim that it’s lack of time or money but I think our lack of progress goes deeper. Any meaningful change in our lives requires personal transformation. That means we have to leave our comfort zone. Leaving our comfort zone is a risky business, it means putting ourselves out there and being prepared to look stupid or fail.
So our fear of embarrassment becomes one of the main reasons we don’t try new things which is why I love Christopher Ricks’ assessment.
If we keep doing the same activities we stagnate and very quickly our world can start to shrink.
Every time we try something new we risk embarrassment but we also grow hugely. As Brené Brown puts it “He or she who is the most capable of being uncomfortable rises the fastest.” That said, it’s no fun to be in a constant state of anxiety or embarrassment.
So how can we grow and take risks without constantly being held back by our fear of being embarrassed?
One way to make friends with embarrassment is to always be a “beginner” somewhere in your life. Being a beginner in a new class or activity is a great way to give yourself a safe space and permission to make a mess and get it wrong.
And lucky for us, September is when most new class timetables start!
So is there anything your fear of embarrassment is stopping you from trying?