It’s time we come to terms with the awkward elephant in the room.
A few days ago, I found myself in a sticky situation. I was the host of a weekly poetry workshop series, in which the very last event would feature a guest speaker: a distinguished poet in the area. I looked up to her as a role model and mentor, so naturally, I prayed that this event would turn out successfully. The previous workshops had gone smoothly with quite a few students in attendance, so I didn’t think much of this one. As I logged on, however, an immediate thought jumped at me. Where were all the students?
At exactly 5:00, the guest poet and I sat on the Zoom call, waiting expectantly for students to arrive. There were none. My heart began to race as I thought of all the possibilities that could’ve happened: maybe the kids forgot about the workshop. Maybe they didn’t receive the meeting link. Maybe…they didn’t care.
Worries upon worries rose in me, but I managed to make small talk with my gracious guest. We chatted about the weather, her life experiences, and advice for my upcoming year. And so thirty minutes on the call came and went, my fears slowly subsiding. Instead of being hung up on our missing audience, I grew to appreciate this impromptu 1-on-1 with a mentor I so cherished. I was able to impart so much of her wisdom and knowledge about poetry and life. Eventually, a single ding chimed in the waiting room of the call: a student.
With only 15 minutes left of the workshop, I quickly taught this one student as best as I could, leaving ample opportunity for the guest poet to shine. As it turns out, it was worthwhile waiting 45 minutes for our audience of one. Although the student didn’t know it, she opened my eyes to a new perspective: that teaching one was just as valuable as teaching a whole class.
Now, I’m no stranger to some good, old embarrassment—it’s human nature. However, I was able to set my feelings aside that day and quickly assess the situation to change plans. By taking time to network with my mentor and eventually teach a single student, I logged off of that workshop with quite a story to tell. And it didn’t hurt that I now had a connection to go to for advice whenever I needed it. So how can you, too, leverage an embarrassing moment to your advantage?
It’s admittedly easier said than done, but the most effective way to combat negative feelings about yourself is to release your inhibitions. If you ever find yourself blushing out of control, consider the following: why are you embarrassed? Whose impression do you care about? How will this incident actually affect you? Oftentimes, we inflate an incident to make it seem like the end of the world, when it most likely isn’t. As Psychology Today suggests, you should focus on helping others and creating a positive impact on the world, rather than wallowing in the outcome of your own actions. If a situation was truly out of your control, let it be.
Speaking of control, your mind has more over your attention span than you may think. Huffington Post helpfully explains that “all embarrassment takes place in the past,” so if you hypothetically lived in the moment every minute, you would never feel any embarrassment. This isn’t to say that you should never relive past experiences, but if they truly affect you, it’s best to lift your eyes up to a fresh start. And above all, embrace yourself—from your quirks to your flaws to your personality. For example, I have a habit of laughing at some pretty unexpected times. If someone ever points it out, my go-to is “That’s just how I am.” And as for the poetry workshop flop? Later that evening, I even laughed with my family as we recounted the incident. I’m no comedian, but it’s fair to say embarrassment sure elicits some jokes.