Do you constantly feel embarrassed? If embarrassment echoes in your head, there are things you can do to lessen the sensation.
Embarrassing moments can happen to most folks. Sometimes they’re easy to shake off, and other times they’re not. Whether you’re embarrassed about using the wrong word in a conversation or about the size of your house, feeling embarrassed can make you feel self-conscious and uncomfortable.
If you’re wondering, “How do I stop being embarrassed about everything?” Just know that while you cannot avoid embarrassing situations completely, you can learn how to move past these moments faster.
If the fear of embarrassment is interrupting your life or keeping you from socializing with your friends, there are things you can do to help overcome embarrassment.
1. Focus on the future
To put your problems into perspective, Dr. Holly Schiff, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Greenwich, Connecticut, suggests using the 5×5 rule.
The 5×5 rule is when you take a moment to think about whether this will matter to you in five years. If it won’t matter in 5 years, you shouldn’t spend more than 5 minutes stressing about it.
By thinking long term, you’re putting the experience in context and giving yourself perspective and permission to let it go, says Schiff.
2. Reroute your energies
If you tend to dwell on embarrassment, consider refocusing your energy on something more positive. For instance, instead of replaying your mistake over and over in your mind, try to refocus your thoughts on what you can learn from your misstep.
If you find the situation still ruminates in your mind hours later, you could refocus your energy on a task you haven’t had time to do, like grocery shopping or paying the bills.
3. Calm the body
When you’re dealing with embarrassing thoughts, you may find it hard to cultivate a calm state in your mind and body. A simple breathing exercise can work wonders, bring you back into your body, and make you more mindful of everything around you, says Schiff.
Combining deep belly breathing, holding breath, and long exhales is a great way to regulate your emotions and bring a calming response to your body.
4. Rethink the situation
You can use a technique from cognitive behavioral therapy to address any intrusive negative thoughts about your embarrassing situation: jotting down your thoughts and feelings during the situation. Then try creating a healthier perspective.
For example, say you blanked during a presentation and abruptly left the room. You might feel embarrassed and think you’ll get fired.
Instead, a healthy alternative perspective of this situation might be to:
- remind yourself no one is perfect and everybody makes mistakes
- take responsibility for leaving and apologize to your boss
- communicate you’d like more presentation training and possibly acquire a speaking coach
5. Look on the positive side
Getting embarrassed does have some upsides. For starters, all emotions have purpose.
Being embarrassed also helps us to relate to others. It helps us to self-reflect and correct our mistakes. “It can also help us fit into social circles, which is part of our survival.”
You are not alone. Feeling embarrassed is a universal experience. You can learn from your mistakes, and if you find through self-reflection that other issues are swimming beneath the surface, you can reach out to a friend or therapist to seek additional support.
There are unlimited causes of embarrassment, but it usually happens when you’re in front of people and feels like you haven’t performed or responded well.
For example, findings from a
Embarrassment can also come from unwanted attention to a personal flaw or mistake, which then triggers guilt and shame, says Schiff.
Brooklyn-based psychotherapist Emmy Kleine, a licensed mental health counselor, says clients tend to feel embarrassed about three things:
- their finances
- their sexual activity
- their physique
And they assume these issues are unique to them. They assume their behavior isn’t natural.
Washington, D.C.-licensed psychotherapist, Lena Derhally says her clients tend to feel most embarrassed at work or in social situations. She says this is where they feel most judged by their peers.
Folks feel embarrassed about making mistakes and wonder if they said the wrong thing at a get-together, for example.
Reasons you might become frequently embarrassed
Embarrassment is an individual experience. You may feel embarrassed of yourself or on the behalf of others. This may be due to having:
Kleine believes that embarrassment is a learned response. Whether certain behaviors are acceptable or not, she says we learn from:
- our caregivers
- our teachers
Sometimes we learn these lessons because someone shamed us.
Derhally believes some people are more easily embarrassed than others because they have a louder, harsher inner critic.
“If someone has a strong inner critic, the feelings of embarrassment and shame are quite pervasive and constant. Someone with less of an inner critic can laugh and shrug things off much easier.”
Where the inner critic stems from is more complex, explains Derhally. It might be a combination of personality traits:
Maybe you had critical or emotionally unavailable caregivers. Maybe you were bullied. Derhally has worked with clients whose inner critics were shaped by their experiences with bullies in junior high and high school.
Kleine said other deeper issues may underlie our embarrassment, such as:
- stress from work
- worry or concern
- your ego
For instance, if you work in a toxic environment, where you feel you have to walk on eggshells. Any time you make an error, it can easily become a source of shame for your. If you’re a highly sensitive person, it wouldn’t take much to make you feel self-conscious in this type of environment.
Embarrassment can happen to anyone. You can be embarrassed by something as fleeting as being put on the spot and not knowing the correct answer, or something less easy to change like feeling embarrassed about wearing hairpieces due to thinning hair or baldness.
Embarrassment is an individual experience that could be caused by:
- low self-esteem
- social anxiety
- ruminating past mistakes
If embarrassment is disrupting your life or keeping you from socializing, you can try these tips:
- the 5×5 rule
- refocusing energy on something positive
- using breathing techniques
- rethinking the situation
You can also try to look at the positive side of things. Remember, embarrassment doesn’t last forever. You can apply these tips anytime you feel embarrassed to help overcome and redirect embarrassment at the moment.
If you fear embarrassment due to social anxiety, consider seeking help from a mental health professional or check out the our anxiety hub for helpful resources.