Although I tend not to get easily embarrassed, I have been in a few embarrassing situations.
The first one was when I was out in Manchester and, being Manchester, it was raining hard and had been for some considerable time. I’m loathed to call it a date, but I was out exclusively with one person I didn’t know all that well for a meal and drinks and had gone to a reasonable amount of effort for me. As we were walking to a bar I was about to comment on how ridiculous the guy in front of me looked, dressed in a t-shirt and shorts late in a cold and wet February evening.
As I was about to point and laugh, a car drove through a puddle and drenched me. I’m not meaning a light splash. I was wearing a jacket, jumper and shirt, and the shirt was stuck to me. I was that wet. I found it harder to laugh at than did my company for the evening.
In this instance it wasn’t just myself that was embarrassed for me, I was embarrassed that the person I was with would be embarrassed by me. That was a feeling that carried on for a while!
At school I once fell very unceremoniously off a balance beam – one leg either side of it before rotating round and collapsing on to the crash mat, nearly crying. I’m still not sure whether it was my reaction or the fact I fell that was most embarrassing!
The last season I played Sunday League football I had a terrible match. I wasn’t ever the best player but I was OK. This game, though, nothing went right. I’ve never had amazing pace and was playing against someone who did, but that doesn’t explain the missed kicks, misplaced passes… I literally couldn’t do anything.
I think the reasons things are embarrassing are because they’re affecting something that we care about. It’s quite a public emotion that you feel because you think that what has just happened affects how other people view you. It doesn’t have to be negative situations like my examples, it can be positive ones too (like been publicly congratulated for doing something well) which can leave one exposed and leave us feeling that other people are thinking about it as much as we are, known psychologically as “the spotlight effect“.
Whether the embarrassing moment happened by poor judgement or just some fluke of circumstance, the best solution is probably to face it. Either fix the problem you’ve caused or laugh at it. I’ve been able to laugh at getting soaked and my lack of balance since, and was fortunate enough to have to play our next game thus getting the chance to put things right straight away.
Mary C Lamia PhD, in an article for Psychology Today, noted that those “people who display embarrassment at their social wrongdoing are also the most prone to be liked”. I’d like to hope that that’s as much because of a subliminal feeling of seeing someone care for what they’re doing, rather than them being seen as a constant source of slapstick amusement!
I fell on the playing field
The work of an errant heel
The din of the crowd and the loud commotion
Went deafening silence and stopped emotion
The season was almost done
We managed it 12 to 1
So far I had known no humiliation
In front of my friends and close relations
There’s my father looking on
And there’s my girlfriend arm in arm
With the captain of the other team
And all of this is clear to me
They condescend and fix on me a frown
How they love the sporting life
And father had had such hopes
For a son who would take the ropes
And fulfill all his old athletic aspirations
But apparently now there’s some complications
But while I am lying here
Trying to fight the tears
I’ll prove to the crowd that I come out stronger
Though I think I might lie here a little longer
There’s my coach he’s looking down
The disappointment in his knitted brow
I should’ve known
He thinks again
I never should have put him in
He turns and loads the lemonade away
And breathes in deep
The sporting life
The sporting life
The sporting life
How he loves…
The Sporting Life by The Decemberists