Another idea has crossed my mind in a similar vein to the last blog post I wrote about life and how anime stories can alter our perspective / expectations of it.
But this one tackles something else that we often see and experience in life.
And while the idea was inspired by an experience I had here in Japan, the topic itself is far from exclusive to Japan.
I teach at two junior high schools in semi-rural Japan. And recently, both schools had their yearly cultural festival. Each class worked hard making crafts, art, decorations, practicing singing, and dancing. Some students also worked on projects with their clubs in addition to their class.
And above all of that, the student councils worked tirelessly to plan and organize everything, including the theme for the festivals and opening and closing ceremonies.
Unfortunately I was only scheduled to be at one of my two schools for the festivals, so I missed one completely and can only speak about one of my schools.
What the student council from this school decided to do was make a video and perform a skit (continuing from the video) on stage to set the theme for the cultural festival both during the opening and closing ceremonies.
And it was funny, I really applaud them for doing what they did. But I caught myself thinking something while watching them:
This is really cringe.
Cringeworthy, cheesy, lame, whatever word you’d like to use. That feeling crept up within me while watching these students put on their cheesy skit that was calling upon the school’s students’ power of friendship to help defeat a villain.
It was as if a part of my high school self had resurfaced for that moment, to give me that single thought.
Why did I think that?
Back in high school, that’s who I was. My mottos were things like “I don’t want to call attention to myself”, “People who seek attention are insecure”, “I don’t need anyone else to be happy”. I was a real Hachiman Hikigaya type, although I did have plenty of friends at school and was fairly well known. At that time, I genuinely felt that I was smarter than everyone around me, and not in regards to academics (although I did pretty good in that area too).
The one area that I was adamantly opposed to though was “school spirit”, any sort of involvement in the school or clubs or anything like that. I had my part time job, and that was my excuse to never join in on anything. I used to always think that those things were lame. When we would have assemblies where the clubs would stand in front of the school, or when there were talent shows, or anything like that, I always used to think that it was so lame. Like I was above it all, too good for it.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that those very same students who got involved and put themselves into those situations that I’d labelled as “lame”… those were the students who had the best times. And the students who everyone would look up to in many cases. While I’d just go home or go to work, and duck out of most events, other students would be getting involved and having a great time.
While I’d stand on the sidelines and scoff, those students would be putting themselves in front of everyone, casting aside their embarrassment, and having a blast.
Me? I was too scared to even attempt something like that. Although I never acknowledged it as fear at the time. I always hid behind the idea that certain things were “lame” and that I was too good for them. I never joined any clubs, I never put myself out there. I was safe on the sidelines, content being that bystander who would scoff in his mind at others while doing nothing himself.
And so, in present day, while I found the words “this is pretty cringe” entering my mind while watching the skit the student council, I also realized and acknowledged that those students were doing what I was always too scared to do when I was a kid. I admit it, and I admire that they are casting aside any potential embarrassment to and put on a good cultural festival.
Was it cheesy? You bet. But it was also funny, and many students will definitely remember this years cultural festival – that the student council of 2020’s cultural festival put on a funny show for the school. I’m sure their actions were even an inspiration to at least some the students.
I can also tell you that among all of the students I watched during the cultural festival, the student council, while they were pretty stressed out at times, likely had the best time. Not only from the satisfaction of hosting a great cultural festival, but also from the memories they made leading up to the festival: filming their videos, planning everything, setting things up, and messing around all throughout.
In the end, as cheesy or cringy (eg. embarrassing) as something might seem in the moment, I believe that the admiration we hold for people willing to put themselves out there is what triumphs in the end.
When you think about it, isn’t a big part of cringing just us feeling embarrassed on someone else’s behalf?
But what if that person isn’t embarrassed at all?
What does that make us, cringing on their behalf?
I guess the overall point I wanted to make here is that there are many situations in life where we can back out of a situation that may put us on the spot and risk embarrassment. It’s what most of us will do. While there was one student council putting on the show, there was an entire school of kids sitting back and watching.
Only a very small number of people will actually be the ones to step up. I think that inside, many of us have desires to be one of those people in certain situations. To be the one that others look up to. But when a situation comes up where we have the chance to work towards it, we back out, prioritizing the status quo which is to do nothing.
Well, the solution is simple.
Just don’t be scared.
Just don’t be embarrassed.
It may actually be easier than you realize, but it definitely takes effort.
Oftentimes, we think that something will be embarrassing when it isn’t in the slightest. Like some of my students who are too embarrassed to speak English in class because they think their peers will make fun of the way they say certain words, as if the other students are even paying enough attention to care, or can even speak English that well themselves!
We tend to always put ourselves at the center of events.
“Are they laughing at me?”
Thoughts like this are part of the problem.
The fact is, in majority of situations, they aren’t laughing at you. They probably aren’t even thinking about you. In many cases, you may not even exist to them! After all, you aren’t up on the stage putting on a skit in front of the entire school. You’re sitting in the audience, watching with everyone else, right?
If you put yourself out there, and act with confidence, you will be rewarded. Even situations that you think should be embarrassing, oftentimes they won’t be if you just own it. If other people cringe on your behalf, that’s their problem.
A situation is only embarrassing if you MAKE it embarrassing!
Have you ever known someone who could make any number of mistakes, and they just shake it off like it’s not a big deal? Things where if you were in the exact same situation, you’d be screaming internally and trying to escape as soon as possible?
We have a lot more control over embarrassment than we think.
It’s important to remember that we are all human, we all make mistakes, and that many things in life actually aren’t embarrassing, as long as we don’t let them seem embarrassing.
Often confidence alone, just showing that “that’s not a big deal” with our actions, will convey the point to onlookers.
And I think that someone who confidently shrugs off an embarrassing situation will be forgotten much more quickly than someone who shrinks down to nothing and begins to act in a panicked nature.
To tie it all together, here are my two points:
- Fear of embarrassment can lead to us missing out in life.
- Embarrassment is what you make it.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. If you can conquer your own embarrassment, you will open doors that can definitely lead to enriching your life. Don’t miss out on life due to your own unfounded fears, because most people do, which can set them on a path that leads to thoughts of regret and “If only I had…”.
I would know, I was one of those people.
Still am, although hopefully to a lesser degree.
In the end, life is just too short to live in fear of embarrassing situations. If you never put yourself out there, you’ll end up living a life of regret wondering what it was that you were so scared of. Oftentimes we look back on moments of our lives with clarity and realize that there was nothing to be afraid of. But we have to conquer those fears in the moment.
Otherwise, life will just pass us by.
Let’s do better than that, and live the best we can by exerting more awareness and control over our own embarrassments and anxieties.
Try and take that step while you can, because for so many things in life you will not get a second chance!
And kudos to any of you reading this who have done just that. I was never one to get involved in pretty much anything in my life, so those of you who have, you have my respect. I know not everything involves getting up on a stage, but doing anything at all is still a step forward from doing nothing!
I’m sure many of you may be curious as to what the cultural festival was like in more detail, so I’ll probably write up another post in the future breaking down just that and maybe some stories too.
Until next time,
Thanks for reading.