The other day, I was talking to a group of fellow mums by the school gates. One of them asked me something, and instead of words coming out of my mouth in reply, the sweet I’d been sucking popped out instead. It slid down my chin, leaving a syrupy trail, then made a tinkling noise as it smashed on the ground. They all looked at me with a mixture of concern and fascination. And I’ll admit it, I was embarrassed.
It was only later that I realised that the incident, registered as ‘moderate’ on the cringe scale, would have been worthy of a house move 15 years ago. I started to wonder what has made me (slightly) less able to be embarrassed as I’ve got older? ‘Embarrassment is invariably driven by fear; a fear of looking stupid, not being liked, or being different from other people,’ explains personal development coach Cheryl Goldenberg of The Pickle Shed. ‘When you are young, you want to fit in and be part of the crowd. But as we get older, most people learn to trust their judgement and follow their instincts, even if they risk falling flat on their face.’
So is it age or experience? ‘Both,’ says Goldenberg. ‘As we mature, our confidence grows. Once we’ve experienced embarrassment, we get stronger and more resilient. At first, we feel like we’re going to ‘die of embarrassment,’ then we realise it’s just uncomfortable rather than terminal, and we become more comfortable in our own skin.’
How to nip embarrassment in the bud
Goldenberg suggests two ways to head blushes off at the pass:
- Knowledge is power, so practise, practise and practise when you need to deal with a big event that’s out of your comfort zone. Practise in front of a mirror, with friends or even with the help of an expert. A professional voice or job interview coach might be your greatest ally when you’re facing an important situation that makes you feel anxious.
- Remember a time when you felt super-confident and good about yourself. Where were you? What were you doing? Who were you with? Once you’ve immersed yourself in the feeling, spend a whole day with it and discover the joy of living with confidence. Whenever it begins to flag, just take yourself back to that moment and relive it again.
Read Be your own woman by Jane C Woods on LifeLabs
Read Don't hug a tree by Jane C. Woods on LifeLabs for more on unhelpful and helpful thinking