Wow… That’s Embarrassing

By Amanda Tonoli

It’s that embarrassing moment that happened three years ago you can’t let go. Of course you’re afraid everyone remembers — how could they forget? Do they really remember though? Or is it just you beating yourself up over one stupid mistake? It’s probably the latter…

In “Oh No You Didn’t: Embarrassment Acts as a Social Glue that can Strengthen our Relationships, but it also has a Dark side, Research Finds,” published on the American Psychological Association’s website in November 2012, Kirsten Weir discusses the science of being embarrassed and why it is essential to feel it from time to time.

We often think back to the time described above, be it a year ago, three years ago or even one hour ago. Why do we continue to relive it if it makes us feel so… awkward?

“Powerful, but also puzzling. Why are we so quick to feel an emotion that makes us so uncomfortable? What does a tendency toward mortification mean?” Weir said. “Psychologists’ research reveals this complex sentiment comes with both pros and cons.”

Weir said it’s actually good to get that “red-faced” expression we hate so much. It can be comforting to those around us — making us appear more human and more comfortable to be around.

Why do we hate turning red when something makes us feel awkward though?

It’s because we fear judgment. But Weir said that shouldn’t hold us back. She cites a study done by Duke University that found that the act of buying condoms can cause a high level of embarrassment — because of fear of judgment.

If that stopped the group who was studied from buying condoms, it has the potential to breed sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies.

Fear of judgment shouldn’t be the cause of irrationality. Buying condoms isn’t that big of a deal, especially when you think of the consequences of not doing so. My advice? Suck it up.

There are other, and probably better, ways to deal with being embarrassed though.

Therese Borchard stressed in “10 Real Ways to Overcome Embarrassment,” published on, that laughing at your own mistakes and laughing with others is the best way to overcome your embarrassment.

“When you’re in ‘sensitivity land’ laughing is a tad challenging, which is why you need a good friend to help you with it,” Borchard said.

Looking at others’ mistakes can make us feel less uncomfortable about our own, or even normal. We are humanizing ourselves whilst putting others on our same level. No one really wants to be out there all alone on the island of misfit toys.

“So, the next time you trip on the sidewalk, forget an acquaintance’s name or realize your fly has been down all day, take a deep breath and try to shake it off,” Weir said. “Your ruby-red cheeks and nervous smile may be broadcasting your best traits.”

And these traits are being shown to others who want to be around someone who makes just as many silly mistakes as they do.

It’s hard to overcome something as devastating as handing the cop who pulled you over your registration with a condom from your glove box inside, but if you can laugh about it, you can overcome it.

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