Embracing the Embarrassing

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Sometimes you just need to brush off those awkward moments; because why should you be embarrassed at all?

By Shalissa Pulak

Ask anyone. We all have an embarrassing moment—or two, or three—to share. We don’t willingly bring them up, and when they’re finally uttered, we sheepishly grin to only our closest friends.

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Yet this sense of embarrassment only happens when others are present. Have you been embarrassed over something silly with nobody around? Typically, no.

Though she surely has some embarrassing moments of her own, Marti Hope Gonzales is an expert on other people’s blunders. As an associate professor and area director for the Social Psychology program at the University of Minnesota, Gonzales knows about these cheek-reddening social situations.

“One of the beauties of embarrassment is that it’s a pretty much automatic reaction when we find that we have violated social expectations or social norms,” Gonzales said.

giphy (1)That heart-stopping moment of embarrassment is the result of feeling exposed and self-conscious—whether those situations are positive or negative. If someone praises our talents or compliments our looks, we tend to feel uncomfortable. But maybe we should step over the embarrassment and own those flattering remarks.

“We probably all use the term embarrassment to talk about that feeling of discomfort,” Gonzales said. “It’s a kind of discomfort we feel when attention is focused on us in ways we don’t expect it to be.”

In fact, we worry so much about what people think of us that we sometimes take it to the extreme: agonizing about things that we know everyone does.giphy (3)

Take pooping for example. We all do it. Yet the “girls don’t poop” urban folklore serves as fodder for silly jokes and embarrassing confessions. Turning to the online Urban Dictionary, “girls don’t poop” refers to “the widely accepted theory by many men that the female gender does not defecate or pass anything out of their anus. This theory is contrary to the theory that girls do, in fact, poop.I mean come on, everybody poops.

Aside from silliness, we often feel embarrassed about serious situations, too.  As society changes and adapts, new norms and technologies emerge, such as Tinder. Who hasn’t used Tinder at least once? It may not be the novelistic romance found in a Nicholas Sparks book, but there are only so many Noah Calhouns to go around.

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Marysia Peterson is one of many who has a personal experience with a Tinder romance. While she was on spring break in Gulf Shores, Alabama, Peterson decided to try out the online dating app. In a moment of success, she followed up with a guy, who “was so handsome,” and met him on the beach.

They hung out the rest of her spring break, and when she came back to Minnesota a week later, she decided she wanted to be with him. Knowing full well the stigmas associated with packing up and leaving to follow an online love interest across the country, Peterson went for it anyway.

“I just drove down there. I didn’t even tell anybody I was leaving. I called my mom when I was halfway there and said, ‘Just so you know, I’m moving to Alabama.’” said Peterson.

 

But just like the stigma associated with spontaneously leaving, there is a stigma connected with admitting to mistakes. The man was not the person she thought he was, and as she began to see the real him, Peterson decided she needed an out.giphy (5)

But rather than come home blushing, Peterson took her less-than-ideal situation in stride.

“I don’t regret it, though, because I got to go live on the ocean for six months,” Peterson said.

Many of us can relate to embarrassing situations that we put ourselves in, but as humans we learn from our mistakes.

Each moment of embarrassment can be met in two ways—crippling panic or a quick sigh and shrug before learning and moving on. So rather than shy away from these moments, we should embrace them. We are human after all, and we tend to learn from these moments more than anything else.

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