After a particularly embarrassing snafu I made recently, I found myself wondering about that particular emotion. What is the purpose of embarrassment? Why does it come with that strong desire to run and hide from everything & everyone? Being a preschool teacher, one of my hugest responsibilities is to teach young children about emotions and also how to manage them. Yes, I feel this is even more important than learning their ABCs, 123s, and how to read or write. My first goal is to make learning fun, to inspire a love for learning, but my second goal is social skills. If a child is unable to appropriately deal with his anger, he’s going to miss a lot of learning time, not only that but he’s also probably going to have problems making friends. And everyone knows that school is no fun when you have no friends; thus he’s going to hate school (yes it’s a strong word, but very appropriate) and hate learning, and when you have an attitude like that your course is set for failure.
So all of that to say that we recently explored feelings in my classroom, and whenever we do that I analyze the subject deeper than the children can quite understand. I’ve got to get out of the vagueness that we typically define emotions as and find something concrete for the four-year-olds to understand.
And now I was thinking about embarrassment. Well the answer to my question came just this past week. Embarrassment
can be is humbling. That I do know. Embarrassment usually comes after being wrong or doing something wrong or the wrong way. It’s not just after a mistake, but after you really thought you were right and also when someone points it out to you that you were wrong or the mistake was done in front of others.
Not everyone experiences embarrassment to the same degree, and of course mistakes themselves vary in degrees as well. It is my belief that those who struggle with perfectionism and also pride (anyone who does struggle with ‘have to be right, have to be perfect’, also has a pride issues, it’s just a given), these people have the worst time with embarrassment. Insert me into the picture. God is working with me on this, but it’s a long battle.
What to do about embarrassment? Learn. Learn that it’s not the end of the world. Learn that mistakes happen; no one is perfect. Let me repeat that: NO ONE IS PERFECT (except of course Jesus Christ).
One of my more embarrassing moments of middle school was tripping over the metal track in a door frame and falling flat on my face. Not that one was not just embarrassing, but when all those around me laughed, was made humiliating as well. I was the smart kid, the good, well-behaved, star student. I didn’t fail. And failing to walk properly did not work for me and perfectionist mindset. I still remember my face getting tomato-red and walking the rest of the way to class with my head hung low.
Fast forward twelve years. People in my life are not as mean now. Sure the world is full of mean people, but we’re not forced to share the same space anymore, not like we were all required to go to school. So when my feet/body/ankle recently forgot how to walk, humiliation was not a factor in my emotions.
The concern and compassion of those around me when I fell shouldn’t’ve surprised me, as I was at church (We as Christ-followers should have compassion on others, as Christ had compassion on others). But still, I’m used to showing kindness to others and giving help. It’s an entirely different thing to be on the receiving end.
It’s humbling to have to rely on others to get the car, or to get inside the house, etc. Embarrassing? Yes, especially if you pride yourself on your independence, on taking care of yourself. But it’s better when you can make light of it and laugh about it. I’m sure those in the emergency care waiting room thought I was crazy or doped up on pain killers as giggly as I was hopping in there Sunday morning & leaning on mom for support. But better laughter than tears.
For anyone struggling with embarrassment (I’m probably writing this more for myself than anyone else), remember it’s going to be okay. Mistakes are part of life: forgive, forget or learn from, and move on. Don’t dwell on your past mistakes. Don’t allow Satan to keep bringing them up just so you’ll feel horrible and miserable. One last thing:
Don’t take yourself too seriously, no one else does.