Why Embarrassment is A Waste of Time « Pun Intended
Written by Bamboo Forest

Photo by your host Bamboo Forest

Embarrassment is an emotion that is highly toxic and highly unnecessary. Who needs it and who wants it?

Today we’re going to be talking about embarrassment: the cause of it, whether it’s really worth it or not, and what we can do about it.

Is Embarrassment Worth It?

Could embarrassment prevent you from asking a cute girl or guy out?

Could embarrassment coerce you into staying in an uncomfortable, inconvenient, or unfavorable circumstance simply because it would require a proactive move to free yourself from it?

Could embarrassment discourage you from doing what’s right, simply because it would be uncomfortable doing so?

What do all of the above have in common? Simple. Embarrassment can cause you to miss out on the opportunities of life. And this is why, it must be conquered.

Choosing not to act on the basis of preventing embarrassment can cause tremendous regret. But, you will never feel regret for having felt embarrassed. This is the great irony.

Embarrassment has never and will never cause regret. Doing something you believe in while embarassed will always give you great reward and satisfaction. Regardless of whether you succeed or not.

You act in a way that’s unfavorable for you to spare yourself embarassment. Yet, doing what’s favorable for you, while being embarrassed, will give you the most profound sense of accomplishment you could ever conceive. This level of irony is for the books!

The Cause of Embarrassment

This may come as a surprise, but the cause is our own selves. Some people easily get embarrassed while others are more impervious to it. Embarrassment happens inside our own skin. It’s not a natural response like the beating of our heart, or the picking up of vibrations from our ears. Instead, we kindle the flame of embarrassment. But, we can also put it out.

When something embarrassing happens, your reaction is everything. Let’s list three circumstances most of us can agree are embarrassing:

  1. Farting in public.
  2. Asking a girl for her number, only to be rejected.
  3. Tripping and falling.

When any of the above happens and people stare at you, or whatever, they aren’t really looking at what you did; they’re looking at how you feel. So, feel at peace and they will be confused and not know who to feel embarrassed for. That’s ok.

Embarrassment Being Carried into the Next Day

With high school, or even the work place, this can be highly relevant. Doing something, or having something happen to you that is really embarrassing can cause suffering not only at the time it takes place, but also into your tomorrows. Carrying the embarrassment into your tomorrows is a colossal mistake.

The following is a zen story titled “Obsessed” that captures this concept beautifully:

Photo by TheLizardKing

Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.

As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!”

“Brother,” the second monk replied, “I set her down on the other side, while you are still carrying her.

Sometimes we carry an embarrassing incident with us into the next day or into our next hours. Leave it where it was like you should and like everyone else did. Why would you not leave it back at xyx; why would you put it on your shoulders to carry into your future? Are you trying to see how far you can bring madness into your life?

Sometimes we think people pay much more attention to things that happen to us than they actually do. I can assure you, they pay far less attention to it, than you and your mind does. No one latches onto it like you do.

Your mind may say that everyone is concerned about what happened yesterday or an hour ago, but your mind says a lot of things, doesn’t it? Haven’t you noticed by now that your mind consistently lies to you? Yes, our mind is a liar. That is one of the primary reasons we suffer so much. We listen to the lies…

Truth is, no one really gives a dung about us. We just aren’t that important, or special. And, if someone is obsessing over us, then they need to get a life. Maybe we can help.

Methods to Prevent Embarrassment

My favorite method to deal with the winds of embarrassment when they begin to blow is to remind myself of something. That being, “someday I’m going to be dead.” I like to think of all the layers and layers of dirt that is going to pile up on me some day. When I put this contemplation into action, whatever it was that I was beginning to feel embarrassed about pleasantly begins to lose strength.

Another great way to confront embarrassment is to look at it through different lenses. Taro Gold, the author of, “Open Your Mind, Open Your Life,” says,

“What would your current frustrations look like from the vantage point of the final days of your life?”

In the final analysis, embarrassment is an illusion and a way of thinking. An illusion we either feed, or find folly in. Sometimes I feel like looking for scenarios that will embarrass me. I so disdain this emotion, I want to dive into its illustrious pool, swimming through its waters, just so I can tell it, “you are only a way of thinking, but lack all substance.”

Embarrassment has the capability of causing suffering, emotional and circumstantial. It can even cause us to miss out on opportunities. I’ll go over that topic through another angle in a future post.

Please, remember these three rules. These three rules sum up this piece best:

1. Be embarrassed about nothing.

2. Be embarrassed about nothing.

3. Be embarrassed about nothing.

28 Responses to “Why Embarrassment is A Waste of Time”
  1. Scott McIntyre says:

    So true, Bamboo Forest… life is way too short to get red-faced about things that really don’t matter.

    The fear of embarrassing ourselves in public can be a powerful barrier to achieving anything new.

    Isn’t it weird how we never get embarrassed when there’s no one else around? 🙂

    I think this quote sums up perfectly the need not to feel embarrassed in life:

    “The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate.” (Douglas Engelbart)

  2. Michele says:

    What a true (and funny) post! I almost fell out of my chair when I read #1. 😉



  3. vered says:

    “Truth is, no one really gives a dung about us. We just aren’t that important, or special.”

    SO TRUE. I used to have a wonderful ski instructor, who always pushed me to do more. Once I told him, that I didn’t want to try something new (a jump), because I was worried about falling down. He asked “why?”, and I said “it would be embarrassing”. He then made me look around at the other skiers. When I did, it was obvious that each skier was minding her own business and not very interested in what others were doing. It was a true “a-ha” moment for me.

  4. Marelisa says:

    I think embarassment is an emotion that is meant to warn us that we’re doing something wrong: like if we’re caught stealing, cheating on our significant other, telling lies about others, and so on. But for little things like falling in public, we should just get up and move on. I like the story about the monk: “you’re still carrying her.”

  5. Avani-Mehta says:

    A lot of times, if we develop the ability to laugh at ourself, it can replace embarassment. At times like falling down, making some mistake while giving a presentation etc. I loved the zen koan that you shared. It’s one of my favourites.

  6. technokid88 says:

    Nice post, did you take that 1st picture? If so where did you take it.

  7. Kevin says:

    That was a really great post Bamboo, the irony behind embarressment is so true!!! I got to start taking more risks and acting prideful of myself to really enjoy the full merits in life!

  8. @ Scott: That’s a great quote. Thanks for sharing.

    @ Michele: Glad you liked #1 🙂 And, thanks for plurking it!

    @ Vered: That’s an excellent example of others not being involved in what we do. I like it.

    @ Marelisa: You bring up a very valid point. If we are doing something unethical, and it causes us embarrassment then it is accomplishing something of true value. It discourages us from doing the unethical thing! But if embarrassment is making us feel uncomfortable (for stupid reasons) or preventing us from living life, then it is a real detriment.

    @ Avani-Mehta: Laughing at ourselves is a great tool. True.

    @ Technokid: These are the folks I roll with. Heh. I was at the anime expo, and you can only imagine the stuff people were dressed in.

    @ Kevin: Thank you. Never let embarrassment hold you back from worthwhile and legitimate endeavors. I will try working on this too.

  9. JimBob says:

    Embarrassment – a condition of feeling stupid,awkward or just plain dumb. The conditioning of life has a lot to answer for.
    Great Post

  10. Good post! I am 45 years old and I missed out on so many experiences because I was afraid of looking foolish. A year ago, I decided enough’s enough and I just starting doing. And yes, sometimes I made mistakes in public, but I sure had fun doing whichever activity it was. And if the slip up was purely out of nowhere, say like..um..yesterday when I walked into a closed patio screen door…I am the first to laugh, which not only puts me at ease, but everyone around me as well. Not to mention the fact that my slip ups can make for very interesting fodder for my blogs! *grin*

  11. Yes…I am in agreement with Avani-Mehta. Stop taking ourselves too seriously and have a laugh! It’s true that when we can ease up, we will not let our embarassment have a hold over us!

  12. You are 100 percent right about this. I have held onto lots of embarrassments for far too long. It’s definitely gotten easier to let things go the older I’ve grown.

    The change for me when my spouse accidentally walked in on someone in a bathroom. My husband didn’t care or think less of the person, but their obviously embarrassed reaction made the whole situation awkward and painful.

    Your reaction is the key to whether something is humiliating or not. Vered nailed it: nobody else really cares, and it’s pretty egotistical to think they do.

    You can be sure that when someone walks in on me on the john, I’m just going to smile and ask how the weather is outside.

  13. Funny and true. I feel embarrassed too often and, when I do, for too long. Even if there’s no one to see it, it puts a damper on anything I want to do—you try to do everything smaller during the time you’re embarrassed.

    Of the various emotions to clean from oneself, embarrassment is pretty high on the list.

  14. Hi Bamboo,

    I love the story about the monks. That is so true, not only for embarrassing moments but for other baggage we continue to carry around with us. I say “let it go”, life is too short!

  15. Al at 7P says:

    Hi Bamboo – fantastic post! I totally agree that we can sometime be our own worst obstacle and that embarrassments shouldn’t have control over us. The zen story about the traveling monk is one of my favorites.

    Marelisa also has a valid point as well that I think should be noted. Embarrassment is indeed a warning sign. Whether or not it’s right, first impressions do affect people’s perceptions. I think the key is whether we should care about their perceptions.

    As you said Bamboo, we should put things in their proper perspectives. “Someday I’m going to be dead.” Now that’s putting things in perspective!

  16. Ryan ~ You can either call it embarrassment or worries but it boils down to having an excessive, compulsive ego centric thoughts that scare us from taking action. If we are obsessed about ourselves all the time, our thoughts obviously tend to protect a false image or greatness that we’ve created inside. The best thing to do is to focus on others more than ourselves.


  17. @ Jim: Thank you

    @ Urban Panther: I agree, the fear of looking foolish isn’t productive.

    @ Evelyn Lim: Easing up, good idea.

    @ Sara: That’s a very interesting strategy you have prepared for when that day comes.

    @ Arachne Jericho: I think just about all of us have some cleaning to do in this regard.

    @ Barbara: Yes, “life is too short.” Indeed, this is a good reason to let it go.

    @ Al: Thank you. Yes, embarrassment can at times be a valid warning sign, I agree. Wisdom is to distinguish if it is worthwhile embarrassment (preventing us from being unethical). Or merely embarrassment that holds us back for no good reason.

    @ Shilpan: I agree, embarrassment is a selfish emotion. True. But, still a very hard one to shake. I also agree that we should focus on others more than ourselves. That will indeed free us up, quite a bit.

  18. Excellent entry, brother. Those that can conquer farting in an elevator without blushing have truly mastered this.

  19. I think embarrassment is almost always tied to an embarrassing experience in our past. It does tend to go away once we get in the habit of not giving a damn about what anyone else thinks. It is interesting to watch what triggers our embarrassment and look at what we may learn from that.

  20. my comment might sound too techie… I am software performance engineer, i must be techie.
    I strongly believe that software performance best practices can be easily applied to humans. One of the biggest performance killers in software is exception handling – situation when the system is unstable and it tries to recover. In that situations performance bogs down. Sounds familiar? Embarrassment is a result of your exception handling. The more you spend energy on your embarrassment the less performance you gain. Humans are just like computers :). Scared? Read this:

  21. @ Llama Fish: Indeed that’s true Bro. Well said.

    @ Tom Volkar: I agree that our past can have a real influence on our tendency of getting embarrassed in our present. Good points.

    @ Alik: I like how you used the subject of technology to bring further insight into the discussion. Insightful points, and I agree.

  22. Tim Brownson says:

    Daggnabbit, why haven’t I been here before? I just read your 90- challenge and nearly wet myself. I wasn’t laughing you understand I just have a bladder complaint. Anyway, I digress.

    I love this article Bamboo and it may have just inspired me to tell the world about the Pizza Walk. Watch this space. Well not THIS space, another space, but you know what I meant.

  23. Lance says:

    I love this Bamboo Forest! Way too often we are too serious (I am anyway) and that leads to embarrassment when we do something foolish. Live, enjoy life, and actually embrace your foolish moments.

  24. @ Tim Brownson: Yes, why haven’t you been here before?!?! Welcome! ah, the 90 day challenge. Fortunately for me, I’m not doing it. My brother, Flying LlamaFish is. He wrote it. And I wrote this article. Well, at the top of each entry, in microscopic print, it says whether it was me, Bamboo Forest, or my brother Flying LlamaFish 🙂

    Pizza walk? Sounds interesting.

    @ Lance: Well said, Lance.

  25. Tim: Please tell us what the Pizza Walk is… we are all intrigued.

  26. […] of the story? No matter what you do with the 2nd hello, it will always be weird and awkward. So deal with it. I […]

  27. Alie says:

    You guys have all made excellent points. I find that talking about the embarassing moment with others really helps to take away its power over me. Each time I tell the story, the discomfort ebbs further and further away, until I too find the tale amusing.

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