We’ve all had moments of embarrassment that have left us red-faced and regretful. Here, our experts share some simple tips to stop obsessing over those moments and rebound stronger and more confident than ever.
Meet our expert panel
- Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT, is a therapist specializing in mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy. She is also the host of the podcast Your Anxiety Toolkit.
- Megan Logan, LCSW, author of Self-Love Workbook for Women, is in private practice in Florida. Learn more at MeganLoganLCSW.com.
- Melanie Dean, PhD, author of The Hidden Power of Emotions, is a psychologist, researcher and educator. Learn more at MelanieDean.com.
Identify the source
Embarrassment makes us want to hide. “That’s why facing our emotions is the first step,” says expert Kimberley Quinlan. “Simply naming your feelings takes away their power. First, take a moment to notice what’s happening in your body — your cheeks might flush or your stomach might drop.” Then ask yourself what’s causing this reaction: guilt, humiliation, shame? Getting to know yourself and how you respond to these emotions helps make you feel in control.
Realize it means you care
Whether you’re embarrassed about spilling your coffee on your boss or feeling guilty for inadvertently spilling a secret, the fact that you feel bad shows that you care about people. In fact, studies show those of us who embarrass easily tend to be well-liked, says expert Megan Logan. “When you can admit a mistake or make a joke about it, you’re signaling that it matters what people think of you, and it shows humility, a trait that builds connections.”
It’s easy to get down on ourselves if we believe we’ve broken a social or family taboo, says expert Melanie Dean, PhD. “For example, I have a neighbor who went to a get-together and got loud after she had a few drinks. She felt so embarrassed because she was listening to an old message she received as a child never to get too boisterous.” Ask yourself why you feel embarrassed. If it’s because of an old message, decide if you want to keep listening to it or if you want to reject it. “This helps you move forward on your terms.”
Notice your kindness
At the end of each day, note the small kindnesses you’ve extended to others, urges Dean. It could be anything from giving a friend advice to holding the door open for a stranger. “When you remind yourself of your own graciousness, it’s much easier to believe in others’ kindness,” she says. “The vast majority of people will give you the same understanding that you would show them if they embarrassed themselves. Just knowing that people are rooting for you builds your emotional strength.”
Keep living your life
“I like to ask my patients, ‘What would you be doing right now if you weren’t feeling embarrassed about something?’” says Quinlan. A lot of people withdraw from their usual activities because they feel so bad. “But doing things that line up with your values helps negative emotions dissipate much faster.”
Focus on your growth
“Reflect on a trait that you admire about yourself, such as your curiosity,” advises Dean. “For instance, I just took a music lesson and I’m proud that I’m trying something new. When we’re hard on ourselves, we get tunnel vision, but focusing on our strengths reminds that we’re far more than our embarrassing moments — they aren’t the totality of us.” Knowing who you are at your core will build your armor against negative emotions and help you bounce back.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.