Why you should imagine being embarrassed more often
It could be the key to self-actualization
LIFESTYLE personal growth
There might be a lot of reasons that you can rationally form in your head for why you're not going after something you want. Perhaps you believe it's not the right time, or that it's not your place to ask for it, but more often than not, the thing that's holding you back is fear. But fear of what exactly?
In a recent paper published on Psychology Today, career coach Marty Nemko writes that, even more than our fear of failure, our self-actualization is most inhibited by our fear of being embarrassed.
Unlike the fear of failure, which comes with a certain degree of reasonable thought in terms of weighing the cost of actual failure, the fear of embarrassment is caught up in worrying about if other people will think less of you. Nemko summarizes this irrational fear in a few examples:
"For fear of seeming like a loser, being unwilling to ask one’s network for job leads.
For fear of sounding awkward, not asking someone for a date.
For fear of showing vulnerability, being too withholding."
Some of the best opportunities, the biggest doors, and the brightest moments in our lives remained locked away due to the fear of what other people might think.
While Nemko suggests mediating your concern with what other people think by asking yourself “What would the Wise One within me do?,” he also gives a somewhat more viable option for those of us who have yet to make a home for the Wise One within us: meditate on the embarrassment.
It may go against the positive-thinking/manifestation practice, but the principle is really quite simple. If you focus on imagining situations in which all the things you're afraid of actually happen, you'll most likely realize that they're not so bad, and they're probably useful—granted that these situations aren't destructive or illegal.
Take, for example, a scenario in which you're giving a presentation in a meeting and a colleague throws a difficult but valid criticism at you, activating the fear that people will think less of your intelligence. By rehearsing this situation in your mind, even if you can't minimize its perceived gravity, you can prepare yourself to react in a better way than getting flustered, perhaps by saying "Thank you," as Nemko suggests.
Approaching every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow is one of the best ways to tackle the paralyzing fear of embarrassment. No one is perfect, and you can never grow if you don't mess up every now and then.
Edith Zimmerman brings up a good point on The Cut when she says that the act of pinpointing the moment of embarrassment reminds her of the "20 seconds of courage" concept, wherein all it takes is a fraction of a minute of gut-wrenching confidence to put something major into motion. That relationship between the two is akin to a quote from Seth Godin who says, “Dance with fear. As you dance, you realize that fear is, in fact, a compass—it’s giving you a hint that you are onto something."
The things that most invigorate your fear of embarrassment might just be the greatest indicators of what you should being running full-speed towards.
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