The shame you feel when your inadequacy or guilt is made public

Feeling or caused to feel uneasy and self-conscious (embarrassed)

Made to feel uncomfortable because of shame or wounded pride

What is it that makes some of us feel embarrassed about certain things? I didn’t think I was easily embarrassed until I started to think about this topic several months ago. But it was so clear to me once I understood, that I let go of all embarrassment; and through that letting go, I felt free! Let me tell you how it happened.

I was working for a college that helped children with special needs, and just after arriving to pick them up and take them home one afternoon, I realised I needed to go to the toilet; just a wee ([Brit, vulgar] Informal term for urination), you understand. I went into the toilet block and saw that it was full, with one person waiting. Seconds later, a couple of other people came in. I couldn’t use the private cubicles because they were occupied too, so I waited my turn.

Secretly I was hoping it would be the end stall that became free, but to my horror, the boy who finished first was in the middle urinal. I was just about to say to the person standing behind me, “You can go first,” when I realised how stupid I would look to them.

I went up to the urinal, unzipped my trousers, and stood there with my penis in my hand. I knew it would happen, and although I tried not to think about it, try as I might, I couldn’t go – not with other people standing either side of me. What should I do? I had to think quickly! I’m sure the other people were thinking as they happily relieved themselves: “What’s wrong with him? Why can’t he go?”

They weren’t looking over, but I knew what they were thinking, after all they would know that there was no sound of splashing coming from my urinal. Maybe I could just zip up again and say “can’t go,” but that would be stupid. Maybe I should just zip up and wait for the private cubicle, but I desperately needed to go now. “Why does this happen to me every time?” I thought, whilst trying to give an outward appearance of calm. First the boy on my left was replaced by one of the queuers, then the boy on my right. “How stupid must I look?” I thought. They must be laughing at me now.
“Ha ha, a member of staff was in the toilet, and he couldn’t go because he’s embarrassed,” they would tell other boys. “He’s still in there now!” and they would all have a laugh about it.

Seconds passed although it seemed like hours, when I suddenly realised “Why am I embarrassed? What is it about standing going to the toilet, when other people are clearly not interested in you, which makes you freeze, and not able to go?”

“It’s me!” I replied in my head. “I get in the way. I am the one who is stopping myself from relieving myself. My own thoughts are stopping me from going to the toilet. I am in the way.”
“So get out of the way, so we can go to the toilet,” I replied.
“I will.” I answered.
And at that moment I started to urinate! And boy, did it feel good.

Mirror mirror on the wall

Sorry about that silly story for all you who hate toilet stories, but it is a true story, and it was true that I did get the flash of insight, that I was the one stopping myself from going to the toilet. From that day on I have never had another problem at the urinal (you will be glad to hear).

But in all seriousness, embarrassment is not a natural phenomenon, it is brought about by the “me” coming into play, which is caused by thought. We all worry what other people will think of us. Take for example getting changed to go swimming.
I have never felt I had a great body, I always had skinny legs from running, and a little bit of a fat belly from drinking beer, so every time I got undressed in front of people who obviously had more muscle than me, I felt embarrassed. Lying on the beach was fine, but when I stood up to run into the water, I was always self-conscious of the extra fat I had around (what should have been) my pectoral muscles!

I never once thought that all I had to do was go to the gym and do some chest press exercises to get rid of them – no, I was more content on feeling embarrassed at the beach. If I had never seen men with large muscles striding up and down in their minuscule speedos I would probably never have given it a second thought, but I saw those ripped torsos, and although I didn’t feel envious of them, I felt extremely low about my own physique. You see, I just didn’t match up. How were the women on the beach going to like me if I didn’t look like that? Why would they talk to me when they could choose someone with a great body?

For years I went through this, but more recently as I looked at myself in the mirror occasionally to check for body fat, I realised that this was my body. This was how it looked, and if I wanted to make it more muscle bound I could always go to the gym! Then one day recently, I questioned myself about this also.

Why did I want to go to the gym to get bigger muscles and a flatter stomach? Was it that I needed to be able to do some heavy lifting, or was I going to be a boxer? No. I realised I wanted to build bigger muscles so that people would look at me and say “Wow! Nice muscles.”
Was I this shallow? Was what other people thought of me how I measured my life? This couldn’t be right.

I realised that even standing looking at myself at the mirror in my bathroom with no one to judge me, I was embarrassed. Why? Because I was comparing myself to some ideal, some perfection, that probably never even existed, save in the magazines or on tv. Yes, that had to be it.

We are always comparing ourselves to others, and when we don’t feel as if we are matching up, we feel embarrassed, even if nobody has said anything to us. The damage that comparison is doing is far reaching and is engrained firmly in our minds.

Relation based on similarities and differences

So why do I compare? Well it’s not all about male and female body parts – who’s got the best breasts, the best legs, the most rounded bottom, the biggest biceps – we compare everything in life. Who’s got the best car, the best job, the biggest house. Whose football team scored the most goals last season; which company has the best burger? Who can drink more beer. Who can get the highest mark in the exam.

We compare everything. We take what we see as an ideal and we compare everything against it. My friend joe has a five bedroom house, I have a three bedroom house. In relation to him I am inferior. I earn £30,000 a year in my job, and my friend dave earns £18,000 a year, so in relation to me, he is worse off. My friend bob has two cars, and I only have one; that makes me inferior to him.

Do you see what is happening here? Instead of saying it is what it is, we say “I must see if I am superior or inferior to someone else.” I think to myself, “I got my wife a ring for christmas this year, but it is only a small one. I hope she doesn’t find out that her friend’s husband bought his wife a much bigger ring, as she will be jealous and think less of me as a man.”

Think of it another way. I weigh 75 kilos. Is that fat or is that slim? I don’t know unless I compare it to someone else or someone “helpfully” suggests that the norm is 65 kilos, so I feel embarrassed about being overweight. Remember there can be no embarrassment in isolation, it always exists in relationship.

How big is my house? It is adequate for what I require. It has a bedroom, a lounge, and a kitchen and I am satisfied. But one day I go to my friend’s house and he has six bedrooms, two lounges, and a swimming pool. I examine this relationship and compare the two. As I know that my house is smaller than his, I feel embarrassed or inadequate about asking him to come over to my house. Do you see?

Before we compare, all is perfect; but as soon as we start to compare, the “me” gets in the way and says “Oh, look at the size of his house, I should feel embarrassed about the size of my house.” So we end up always competing and comparing our whole lives when actually none of it matters.

Why do we care what people think of our house or our possessions, unless we want to impress them? Do true friends really care about how big your house is? We would like to think it is only shallow (lacking depth of intellect or knowledge; concerned only with what is obvious) people who are concerned with what they can see, but we have to be careful we do not engage in it ourselves.

It is what it is

A car is a car, a house is a house
A muscle is a muscle, a friend is a friend

We should not be comparing what are really just superficial objects – it makes no sense. Everything just is. Your bottom is a bottom, it is not a fat or thin bottom; it is just a bottom. The only reason you would get embarrassed about it is if you compare it to others, and conclude you are, in fact, not normal. It is what it is. Nothing more. It is the “me” that compares everything because it is clinging to the desire for status, and for recognition, that is all. Otherwise why would it matter what size your house is, how much money your friend earns, or what size your bottom is.

We are all concerned that we don’t measure up! To what? There is nothing to measure up to. You are a perfect wonderful human being, and once you become aware of that fact, the “me” will have nothing to cling to and will slowly disappear forever.

Let go of embarrassment. You have nothing to be embarrassed about.
But just a little bit of advice. You will know when embarrassment is rearing its ugly head again because if you pay careful attention to the movement of your thoughts, you will observe that once again you have been engaged in the business of comparing.

Stop it!


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