Why are you embarrassed?

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:

  1. Fear of embarrassment can lead to us missing out in life.
  2. 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.

11 thoughts on “Why are you embarrassed?

  1. I was the same as you in elementary, high school, and my first university degree. I never joined anything and went home right away. I changed a lot in my last year of my second degree, which is the 2019-20 year. That year, I made the decision to become an exec for my university’s anime club. We had to do some cringy stuff… I was a little uncomfortable in the beginning but doing it made me more comfortable with these types of things. It’s still cringe but I’m more okay with it now? Looking back, it was a really fun year. Those cringy things I did made others laugh and made the club feel like a more inclusive space. I’m the type of person who feels embarrassed over a lot of things (a reason why I avoided a ton of stuff in the first place) but yeah, putting yourself out there isn’t that bad.

    I agree that people might not even be thinking of you or remember what you did. I guess there’s good and bad in that. Good because you don’t have to worry that much but bad because… people don’t care. 😓

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was that person in university too. My apartment roommate joined the anime club and met several good people. Even though I wasn’t in the club, he invited me to join them one weekend for D&D as they were starting a new game, which would be the first for most of them. I was going to go, but then backed out at the last second and studied for my Stats exam all weekend instead. I aced the exam, which was actually bellcurved because so many students did poorly on it, but I missed out.

      From then on, my roommate spent countless days playing D&D, watching anime, and doing other things with those people while I just shut myself in my room. He was basically never home, because he was always out with them. In that case, I guess it wasn’t necessarily embarrassment, but just being nervous to try new things that held me back and I missed out in the end.

      Yeah it’s interesting to think about. People are too concerned with themselves, consciously or not, to be concerned with others in many situations. Which is fair I think, especially in crowds or public situations. It’d be exhausting to try and observe everyone and feel concerned for them all, while we are on the train or something. Next best thing is to just leave everyone alone I think. And I think that we do care more the more we know someone, so we wouldn’t ignore a friend or family member.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think it’s ever too late to try out new things. The things you missed out on previously, you can experience in the future. I agree that it’s exhausting to be thinking about everyone. I think focusing on yourself isn’t necessarily selfish but necessary sometimes. Of course, being too self-absorbed wouldn’t be good either. It’s true that we wouldn’t ignore a friend or family member. We wouldn’t think that they are embarrassing either… maybe.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re right, but it’s definitely something where being proactive pays off. Some things it’s not too late, and for others, it is. Unfortunately it’s hard to tell in the moment which it’ll be.

        And I also don’t think us focusing on ourselves is selfish. As I said in my main character post:
        We all only know what we know, and anything beyond that we can only imagine.

        As much as we can try to think for someone else, in the end we can only do so through the lens of our own lives. And in the end, we can only experience life through our own eyes.

        Yeah or maybe the opposite haha, with family seeming even more embarrassing because they know us better, and have those embarrassing stories to share. But then, them knowing those things is part of what makes us closer to them.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. RE: “for others, it is. Unfortunately it’s hard to tell in the moment which it’ll be.” part of your comments scares me. It really does. As I live my life I sometimes wonder if I’m missing out or if I will regret not doing x in the future. It’s hard to say and I wonder if there is a way of knowing.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Unfortunately, and fortunately, that’s what makes life, life. Living and not knowing where we’ll end up next.

        There’s definitely no way of knowing for sure, but I guess if you really weigh whether it’s worth it to do something or not and think it through, you can at least hope to achieve a level of satisfaction in the decision you end up making. Something like “I really thought about it, this is what I decided, and I’m OK with that. Even if things change in the future, I can rest easy knowing that I made the best decision at the time”.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Around the Network | MoeGamer

  3. Yeah, absolutely agree. I used to be right there with you, thinking all those people putting themselves out there in front of others and not doing perfectly well at it were making fools of themselves and I was so much cooler than they were for staying at the side and not standing out. Not a particularly healthy way of thinking, and as I reflect on it now, seems to have come more from insecurity than anything else, that I wasn’t brave enough to stand up and do what they were doing, so to protect my own self image, I had to drag my image of them down below it. And yet, now, I think back on the things they did very positively, without even remembering the flaws I fixated on then. And they were going out and doing something, which makes them cooler than those who sit at the sidelines judging any day.

    It’s taken me some time to get over it, but honestly, life is better for those who enjoy stepping up and standing out than those who scoff from the crowd.

    Liked by 1 person

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