Suddenly realizing you’re naked while at school or work is a nightmare almost everyone has experienced.
What if it really happened?
Imagine recess on a clear, spring day in northern California, children running and playing in a schoolyard, shouting, kicking balls, and swarming the play structures. There I was, five years old, at the top of the slide wearing my favorite cotton dress, ready to dare a head-first run.
Down I went. Wheee! Except, when I got to the bottom and stood up, my dress was still at the top of the slide, caught on a nail and waving in the breeze like laundry hung out to dry. I looked down to see nothing but panties, socks, and shoes. Oh, the laughter!
I ran to the school office where the secretary, giggling behind her hand, called my mother to bring more clothes to me.
Looking back, the incident is funny, even cute. But then! Trauma. I’m sure that’s why I have remembered it so clearly, and why it still ranks as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, even though, in retrospect, it was no big deal.
The question, “What’s the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?” can be the start of a fun conversation with friends, a contest in which we one-up each other for the funniest story. And it is, in retrospect, usually funny—that is, if we have enough time and distance from the event to get some perspective. Yet, if we think about it, what embarrasses us (embarrassment being shame’s close cousin) can reveal a lot about ourselves and our world views.
This Week’s Journaling Prompts:
- What’s your most embarrassing moment? Write what happened in two or three paragraphs. Answer four of the five W’s: Who, What, Where, and When. We’ll get to the Why in other questions.
- What was it about that event that made it so embarrassing? Dig a little into your emotions in that moment: who’s opinion most mattered to you?
- What were some of the underlying influences to your sense of embarrassment? Consider social and cultural norms, upbringing, and personal relationships.
- Was your embarrassment private or public? If you had been in a different situation, would you have been just as embarrassed?
- What do you think about that event now? Do you still get embarrassed or shamed when you think about it? If so, what would you have changed if you could?
- Think about a more recent embarrassing moment. What happened, and how did you handle it?
- What is your response to being embarrassed? Do you hide (cover your face or leave), or do you put on a brave face and pretend it doesn’t matter? How does your response serve you, and how does it not serve you?
Bonus prompt: When you are in the presence of someone, other than yourself, who feels embarrassed, how do you handle the situation? What do you say or do?
After you’ve responded to some, or all, of this week’s prompts, review your writing and consider: what stands out that you didn’t realize before? And how can can this self-knowledge help you in the future?
As always, I invite you to share your thoughts on this topic by leaving a comment.
Photo of embarrassed woman by Matthew Loberg