If I had a nickel for every time I said or thought “How embarrassing” I would be regularly featured in Forbes Richest People in the World magazine.
Early in my career, I was on my way to a sales call and thought it would be fun to stop at the McDonalds drive thru to get breakfast. Unlike most people that may order something simple like an egg muffin, I chose something highly complicated to eat in the car (scrambled eggs and pancakes). I was feeling especially accomplished as I finished eating and made my way to the appointment with a full 5 minutes to spare. The sales presentation started as they do, yet I felt my customer was strangely preoccupied. I sensed this fact, as their eyes kept wandering over my left shoulder. Perhaps someone had walked in to their office and I just couldn’t see? Maybe they were having a hard time focusing because there was something important on their mind? After several minutes, the customer stopped me in mid sentence and said, “Ah, I’m not sure how to say this Melissa, but there’s something on your shoulder.” Oh no. I slowly shifted in my chair to look. Perched in all of its fluffy yellow glory, was a huge clump of scrambled egg resting on my shoulder. How embarrassing.
Another time, I was at a customer site unpacking a large printer from its box. It was ridiculously heavy and cumbersome. Making it additionally challenging was my outfit that day. I was wearing a narrow pencil skirt, pointy high heel shoes, and a silk shirt that buttoned all the way up the back (circa 1980’s). While the customer looked on, I reached to the floor and flexed all of my muscles to wrestle this thing out of the box. Suddenly, I felt a pulling sensation, and then heard the systematic popping off of every single button on my shirt. The offending article of clothing now flapped like a dishtowel, held on by only the shoulder pads and armholes. How embarrassing.
One time, I was waiting for a co-worker in the parking lot of a car dealership. I was having service done on my vehicle, and this man was nice enough to agree to pick me up and bring me to our office instead of waiting for half the day at the garage. I didn’t know this co-worker overly much, and I was a little nervous. I held my briefcase self consciously as I watched cars come and go. Finally, I see his described blue Honda hatchback pull into the service entrance driveway. As he made his approach – I was suddenly struck with this wonderful idea that I would JUMP out in front of his car to be funny and break the ice. He had to swerve to miss me. Worse yet? It wasn’t him. It was a complete stranger that nearly had a heart attack avoiding a pedestrian catastrophe. How embarrassing.
As I am clearly an expert in the art of embarrassment, I’ve also learned to quickly identify the emotional reaction of embarrassment as it courses through my physical body. I feel flushed in the face, my heart rate skyrockets, and I immediately feel deep shame (in my stomach) for something I’ve done. As I continue to practice the art of self-awareness, I’ve also lighted on the fact that sometimes I have this reaction unnecessarily. I will feel embarrassed when there is no real reason or I am perhaps judging myself too quickly or too harshly. Isn’t that interesting? As I’ve begun to connect my body reactions to my feelings and thoughts more, I think this week I will ponder the familiar feelings of embarrassment and give myself a moment to explore the feeling. Is this reaction warranted? Or, am I choosing to judge myself unnecessarily? And just for fun; what’s been your most embarrassing moment?