I’m an embarrassing person. I manage to completely screw up every social encounter I’m in. I’ve embarrassed myself in an elevator with stranger on the first floor, and then gone up 20 floors with them in ashamed silence. I’ve enthusiastically touched the upper thighs of people I’ve just met. I was sitting on a desk the other day at an audition and it flipped over (no call back for me). And if you’re also an embarrassing person, you’re bad at everything. Except embarrassing yourself. You’re great at that.
There’s this theory that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery at something. Like the Beatles practiced for 10,000 hours and then they were just music gods. I’ve spent roughly 10,000 hours embarrassed and I’m so good at dealing with it now. That’s my one talent. Here are some tips I’ve compiled to help you get through the red cheeked haze you must stumble through after accidentally tripping nuns or whatever you kids are up to these days:
1. I like to call this one “Helen knows the owner.”
If you guys have ever seen Bridesmaids, you might remember the scene where Kristin Wiig is making fun of a woman named Helen and says in a mocking voice, “Oooh, Helen knows the owner” That is the voice I always use in my head when I embarrass myself. I have no idea why its so effective. Say you fall down a flight of stairs in front of a gaggle of male strippers. Now your first reaction may be “Oh my God, I just face planted in front of all these attractive men! How will I go on?” But now, try thinking that sentence in the most nasally voice you can. See? All better! I don’t know what voice will work for you, but making fun of the moment in your head gives you back the power after that shameful moment and helps you move on approximately 300% faster.
2. Laugh it off right then and there.
What’s really embarrassing is when you mess up and no one says anything. It just hangs in the air. You call yourself out right then! Let the world know you recognize that you did not excel at whatever you just attempted to do! You are embarrassing and you are proud! (For the record, this can sometimes make things worse. Read the crowd first.)
A lot of times, you get embarrassed if you already feel like you don’t belong somewhere.
In my senior year of high school, I was the National Honor Society President and it was not a role I felt comfortable in. At the end of the year, we had this huge ceremony which I had to run. I felt like a huge fake, having to assume the role of a solemn and respectable leader in front of my family, my classmates, and of course, the boy I liked that I always embarrassed myself in front of. And I messed up every single part of the ceremony. I still don’t know how I managed to do it. Except I also had a microphone in my hand, so I was adding this running commentary throughout the ceremony. When I had to light ceremonial candles and the lighter wouldn’t work, I did a 5 minute bit on it. I messed up every single part of the ceremony! I didn’t even think that was possible! And afterwards I was really disappointed with myself, but this underclassman came up to me the next day and we were talking about it and I asked “have you ever seen someone mess up that badly before?” and he told me that he was impressed. He didn’t view it as a failure like I did, but a victory that I could make people laugh while the ceremony crumbled around me. And everybody felt that way, it turned out. I felt like I didn’t fit in to what I was supposed to be, but by laughing at it with everybody, I just made my own thing to be.
3. Let it boost your empathy points.
WOW does it suck to be embarrassed. But when you’re used to the mortifying moments that punctuate every event of your life, you see other people embarrass themselves, and its not funny anymore. I am extremely empathetic to people who embarrass themselves; the people who fall in public, whose skirts are tucked into their underwear, who begin a sentence and trail off as they realize no one’s listening. As much as it hurts, realize this moment of shame you’re dealing with will make you a much more caring person. And that’s always worth it.
4. Keep Perspective.
Here’s the anatomy of an embarrassing moment: everything’s going swell, you stumble into an awful situation, you wallow in it (“this is the worst thing anyone’s ever done ever. how will i go on? i am going to die alone. this is the moment that marks my descent into failure”) and then, that last step that everyone always seems to forget about, you move the fuck on. You move on. You develop that horrible gut-wrenching moment into a funny story to tell your friends and you move right on. And you embarrass yourself again and again and then you tell those stories to people you just met and then you two swap embarrassing stories together, and then thats all it is. A story. In the past. It’s over and it can’t hurt you anymore. And here’s how you deal with embarrassing moments: you just expedite that process as much as you can. Once it happens enough, you can go through these stages in under a minute. Practice makes perfect. And like it or not, you’re gonna get a lot of practice.
But do not let embarrassing moments scare you off from taking risks. I don’t know about you, but I’d always rather be embarrassing than safe.