How Embarrassing!

“How Embarrassing!” New Era, Mar. 1990, 46

Special Issue:
Surviving—and Thriving—in the 90s

How Embarrassing!

A recent survey of teenagers showed that one of the greatest anxieties you face is the fear of embarrassment. The scary thing is that no matter how hard you try, there is probably no way you can avoid at least one major embarrassment in your teen years.

There are ways to deal with it, however. It doesn’t have to be as excruciatingly painful as it might seem. We talked to a number of people about their most embarrassing moments during their teen years and how they dealt with them. Maybe their insight can help you.

Kim relates the time she ran for a student-body office and got up to make her much anticipated campaign speech. She wasn’t too nervous about it, since she was used to speaking in church. But that proved to be her undoing. After elaborating on how she could help the school, she closed her speech, “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” It brought down the house.

Kim says it really helped to acknowledge the mistake instead of ignoring it. Everybody was laughing about it anyway, so she decided she would rather laugh with them than hide out. It made everyone much more comfortable, and even though she didn’t win the election, she was included in conversations instead of being whispered about.

Ben will never forget the baseball game his girlfriend’s parents came to watch. He hadn’t played at all until the last inning, when the coach put him in as a pinch hitter against a powerful pitcher. The game was at stake, and the pressure was on Ben. He whiffed the first two pitches, then made contact on the third—hard contact that sent the ball rocketing up the right field line for an easy single, a double if he hustled. Ben got so caught up in watching the ball that he tripped and fell on his way to first base. The other team made an easy out—the last one of the game. He was devastated.

“I was glad,” Ben says, “that baseball was not the only thing I had going for me. I had other interests in life, like art. When I didn’t excel in one thing, I would apply myself harder in another. My entire self-image was not based on success in one area.”

Sara had an embarrassing sports experience as well. She was a pretty good basketball player, and right in the middle of an exciting game she got her directions confused and scored in the wrong team’s basket.

Sara wanted to crawl under the bleachers, until she saw how nice the other girls on the team were being about it. When she realized that this one little mistake would not be the end of her high school career, she was able to laugh the whole thing off and be a lot more empathetic when others made embarrassing mistakes.

Anne had finally managed to strike up a conversation with the new boy in the ward and was feeling pretty good about things until she turned to leave. She tripped over something around her ankles. To her horror, she discovered it was her skirt. Sometime during the conversation her wrap-around skirt had unfastened and fallen to her ankles.

“I just want you to know that this is not a Freudian slip,” she said, as she gazed down at the white slip she was grateful she’d remembered to wear that day. It was her humor that saved her. When the boy discovered she could laugh about her mistakes, he decided he wanted to get to know her a little better.

Wade remembers making the mistake of asking his brother for advice on what to wear the first day of junior high. “If you really want to make an impression,” his brother told him, “wear a suit and tie.” Wade believed him, donned the suggested attire, and set out for school. When he realized his mistake, he wanted to go home and kick his brother.

Even with such an embarrassing start, Wade managed to have a decent year. He realized that what you wear is not half as important to other people as it is to you. Most people hardly notice.

When Matt was in junior high, he was standing at the bus stop absentmindedly kicking rocks. One of them accidentally hit the shoe of a fellow classmate—the wrong classmate. He was smaller than Matt, and younger, but he just happened to be a member of a very wild gang. The boy began pounding Matt in front of all the other kids at the bus stop. Matt didn’t fight back, knowing that if he did he’d have the entire gang to deal with. He went home humiliated.

Matt got over the incident when he left junior high. Everything was much better in high school and got even better in college. What he learned was that, basically, there are very few situations in life that are permanent. Time heals wounds, and embarrassment.

The embarrassment Devon suffered was her own fault. The boy next door invited her to a dance, and though she wasn’t wild about him, she consented to go. A short while later another boy, who she was wild about, asked her to the same dance, so she told her neighbor the second guy had actually asked first. The embarrassing part came when her dear little brother told her neighbor the actual truth.

Devon learned that if you never tell a lie, there’s no danger of embarrassment when the truth actually comes out.

So there you have it. You’re not alone in your humiliation. Smile, pick yourself up, and go on with life.

Survival Tips

  • Expect to be embarrassed now and then.

  • Acknowledge mistakes; don’t ignore them.

  • Pick yourself up and go on with life.

Illustrated by Rob Westerberg