Today I want to tell you a story of a time I escaped a true catastrophe.
After I went to the movies last night, I was using the restroom, and as I was walking out of the stall, one of the worst possible things ever happened. That’s right, the dreaded toilet paper stuck to my shoe. THE HORROR. Luckily I noticed before I left the ladies room, saving myself from unthinkable mortification.
Crisis averted. All was well.
I mean think about it, if any of the other 1,000 people at Disney Springs last night had seen me walking with toilet paper on my shoe, that would’ve killed my street cred with all those tourists and strangers. I would never be able to show my face again, and I guess I would have had to burn my shoes. What an embarrassing occurrence from which I simply never would have recovered. Thank goodness for my keen eye and poise in averting such a social boo boo.
Okay, okay, sarcasm aside, here’s a real question for you. Why is toilet paper stuck to your shoe a bad thing? Because as I non-dramatically picked up the toilet paper and threw it away last night, I genuinely couldn’t come up with an answer to that question. I mean, we all go to the bathroom, we all use toilet paper, why is it such a crazy thing when a piece gets stuck to our shoe? Who decided that a little square of paper was something to be mortified
These lovely bathroom thoughts led me to a bigger question, who decided that being a human had to be embarrassing? Especially considering, we are literally all doing it. This may come as a shock, but each one of us is a human being, which means each one of us is not perfect, and we’ve all done something embarrassing. Guaranteed.
Do you remember middle school? I know for some it's a time we’d rather forget, but I’m going to encourage you to think back for a minute. Remember when you would get embarrassed because the cool kids saw you at the movies with your family instead of your friends? Or because you showed up to school in almost the same outfit as someone else? Or because you still liked watching Disney Channel when everyone else had moved on to the CW? (Definitely not based off of super real life examples from my middle school days, no sir.)
What a time to be alive - when your deepest fears were tripping down the hallway or having someone else tell the whole school you had a crush on that cute boy in biology class.
It’s weird because as adults, I feel like we’re all so relieved and grateful to be done with those embarrassing middle school days. But then it hit me that so much of my life, even today, is spent trying to avoid little embarrassing moments.
I want to make sure the toilet paper is off my shoe. I ask people if there is anything in my teeth when I smile. I constantly check that my fly isn’t down and that my hair is in place.
I don’t laugh too loud in movies so I don’t embarrass myself. I don’t speak up with a new idea at the meeting so I don’t embarrass myself. I don’t ask a person I’d like to get to know better out for coffee so I don’t embarrass myself.
I don’t live my life fully, just so I don’t embarrass myself.
Yes, mistakes happen and sometimes we should be a little ashamed of how we behaved in certain situations, but the things I just listed that are simply a part of being a person, those aren’t worth getting worked up about.
It all comes back to shame. We’re ashamed for anyone to see us as less than perfect. Usually shame is associated with deep setbacks like a long term relationship ending or failing out of school. We’re so scared to feel ashamed of these deeper things that we become paranoid about everything. When failing in a big way causes such emotional pain, even small failures become embarrassing and we want to run away from them.
Now, I won’t sit here and pretend that embarrassing moments can just be wished away. I get embarrassed all the time. I mean, I refer to the ostrich as one of my spirit animals, because “whenever they get embarrassed they just stick their head in the ground and panic” (Boldt, many different occasions). Any time I make a mistake at work or on this blog or in life in general, I feel immediate anxiety and I want to go hide because I’m so embarrassed. It’s not something you can just turn off. Humans aren’t perfect, therefore we feel embarrassment and shame. But even though we can’t avoid those feelings, there is a way to reign it in and not let it control your life.
First off all, we could all start by being a little kinder to our fellow humans. I mean, admit it, we’ve all laughed at someone falling down the stairs or thrown somebody under the bus for farting in public. Which is crazy, because at some point in time we’ve been the person falling down the stairs or trying to cover up the fact that we just farted in public. If we all understand how crappy being embarrassed feels, why do we jump at the chance to make someone else feel that way?
The next thing that we can do, is stop taking ourselves so seriously. If you put on the pressure to be a super human who never screws up, even in a little way, then of course every little speed bump is going to embarrass you. The sooner you realize that embarrassment comes with the territory of being human, the more you can just let loose and enjoy the life you’re living. No hesitation and no reservations.
To me, it’s something to practice. Like, the next time I get corrected at work, instead of immediately sticking my head in the sand, I can just say “hey I learned something new” and, here’s the crazy part, just move on.
Why waste your valuable energy on something like being embarrassed by little things? So yesterday, I had a piece of toilet paper on my shoe. So what? Tomorrow, I’ll probably have a booger in my nose, and the day after that, I may mispronounce a word during a conversation. I’m a human being. These moments are going to happen. They’re going to happen to you, too. They’re going to happen to your greatest idol and your worst enemy and your best friend.
So let's take back the power from the people who decided that being a human had to be embarrassing. Instead of judging mistakes and pointing out imperfections, let's join together and own that embarrassment. Let's all acknowledge, “I am a human. It can be embarrassing. But it's also the most terrific fun.”