Why Do Humans Blush? (Part II)
Continued from a previous piece posted Wednesday, 12/26...
Don't Let Your Embarassment Take You Hostage
I can say this much based on personal experiences: my blushes have never been related to rage. For me, it’s hard to equate rage with embarrassment. Instead, my blushes have always been the result of making a supposed social faux pas, such as the time I told that girl about my crush on Ben. I’ve never repeated that same mistake, but I have encountered any number of situations that cause my cheeks to flush and my heart to race frantically.
Oddly, however, I know people who couldn’t muster a blush if their lives depended on it. These same people are outspoken, confident, and blissfully unaware of what others think of them. Truth be told, when I’m out in public with some of these individuals, their uninhibited behavior is enough to embarrass me and bring on the dreaded blush. But still they remain oblivious.
Could it be, then, that embarrassment – whether or not a sign of contrition – is a waste of time? If that were true, it would stand to reason that blushing is equally wasteful and awkward, and that it might not exist if humans ceased to be embarrassed. After all, embarrassment, or the fear of it, can be enough to keep you from doing what you want or need. Embarrassment can, for instance, keep you in an uncomfortable, inconvenient, or unfavorable circumstance simply because you don’t want to move proactively and free yourself from it.
It's Clair, Not Blair!
I have the perfect example of this very scenario. In college, I worked at a bookstore my freshman year with a number of older students. Needless to say, I was self-conscious around these other well-spoken and more mature individuals, but I wanted to appear cool. Well, one girl in her senior year thought my name was “Blair,” and I spent nine months without ever bothering to correct her. Why? Because I was embarrassed that she didn’t know my real name, but to appear cool, I chose not to rock the boat and tell her. Needless to say, I don’t look back on that year with fond memories.
At its most basic level, embarrassment can cause us to miss out on the opportunities of life. Some coping mechanisms may thus be necessary, and I have a few ideas that may be useful to you.
Stay in the Moment
Remember that all embarrassment takes place in the past. Theoretically, if you were able to stay perfectly in the moment, you would never feel even an ounce of embarrassment. Sometimes it’s all but impossible, however, to keep the right tense when that voice in your head is screaming this message at you: “You can’t be trusted to do anything right, you idiot!” But if you can remember for even a moment that your attention needs to be on the present, you will be relieved of much needless angst.
You also need to stop apologizing in order to get over embarrassment, and this is a lesson I desperately need to heed for myself. I am that person who trips over myself, sometimes literally, in my haste to apologize for everything at least a dozen times. But this is incredibly counterproductive, and it only relates back to the last tip: stay in the moment and stop fretting over the past.
Harness Your Fear
Moreover, embarrassment is essentially fear of being perceived in a way that is less than flattering. So learning to be afraid will allow us to handle embarrassment in a way that is more psychologically and physiologically tolerable. Although we can’t stop fear altogether, we do have the power to change how we relate to this emotion, and that is what really counts. The more we learn to welcome our fear and anxiety, work with them and weave them into our lives, the less beholden we are to our own emotional whims.
To Thine Own Self Be True
Finally, we must always remember to be ourselves. Even if we’re neurotic, obsessed, doubtful, or overwrought, we can never be more than who we are at our cores. Most of us experience embarrassment at some time or another, and if this is the price we pay for being ourselves, then so be it. The moment will pass, and life will go on.