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Question: How many times do you think other people have experienced the same thing you did, or something similar to it?
It’s probably quite common if your memory involves drawing an awkward blank during a job interview or saying “you too” to the server who says that they hope you enjoy your meal.
Even something rarer, like completely bombing a stand-up set, is likely very normal for people who have done stand-up comedy.
Question: If a friend told you that this memory happened to them, what would you tell them?
A lot of the time, it would be a really funny story that both of you would be laughing about. Or, you might say that it doesn’t sound like a big deal and chances are nobody even noticed. Or you might say, “You’re right, that’s super awkward, but anyone whose opinion matters would still think you’re awesome.”
You probably wouldn’t tell your friend any of the things you tell yourself when you’re thinking of this memory.
Question: Can you try thinking about the memory from someone else’s point of view?
Say your memory is of stumbling over your words while giving a speech. What might an audience member think? What would you have thought if you were listening to a speech and the speaker made a mistake?
What if people laughed at your mistake? Even then, putting yourself in their shoes for a moment might be illuminating.
If someone treated you badly, or if your embarrassment was caused by acting in a way that conflicted with your own values, you might be feeling shame or guilt, not just embarrassment. In that case, this advice might not be applicable.
Otherwise, letting the memory happen, feeling the feelings it brings and asking yourself these three questions can help stop the cringe.
You can even write the questions on an index card and keep it in your wallet or somewhere else you’ll be able to find it easily. Let embarrassment be a reminder to practice self-compassion.
Solve the problem or leave the problem. But…… Do not live with the problem.
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