It comes in waves. These are not serene calming waves, with their consistent lapping of the shore, and seafoam coasting over the rocks and sand. These are thrashing waves, ones that crush sandcastles and overwhelm moats and change the green flag to yellow and soak the beach in its toxic green waters.
It’s that feeling of embarrassment, sitting in class and tunneling down through everything you’ve ever done wrong before —Squirming in your seat wondering when someone will make a time machine.
Maybe those thoughts consist of something embarrassing you said as a kid, something that wouldn’t seem respectable if you said it now. Or that one time someone caught you dancing in a public bathroom. Or that other time they completely screwed up your order and you had to correct them because this time around you weren’t just gonna suck it up. Or the time you walked around all day with a smudge of sunscreen on your cheek and you were totally unaware the entire time.
But what about that time you caught someone dancing in the public bathroom? Do you look back and laugh at them and their actions? Or were you more worried about the fact that you bumped into someone on your way over? Were you picking apart your outfit thinking maybe they thought it was horrendous? Do you even remember the fact that they were dancing or is it just a side detail in your mind?
All of these things relate to “respectable manners,” taming your actions, and dulling happiness. It doesn’t focus or highlight growth. Instead, it tears down joy allowing for self ridicule. If you allow growth and happiness for those other people, why don’t you deserve it for yourself?
It all comes down to society: the boiling pot of expectations placed upon us. The perfection that riddles its waters, an expectation that seems to grow with each year that passes. But does it matter that much? Should we dull happiness when it’s a trivial moment? Then we’re left to question what we should be embarrassed about, what embarrassment is, and why it happens.
Embarrassment is a lighter shade of shame — a shame formed from the perception of others and what opinions they might have. There is a recent trend of being “delusional” and “shameless.” Sure, people say it jokingly — but what if we started taking it more seriously?
So what if we start living shamelessly, dancing in the middle of aisles, snorting while we laugh, and pursuing the lives we dream of? Embarrassment would no longer riddle our bones, and instead of dwelling on things we can’t control, we would move forward. We’d look back on our younger selves not with contempt, but with recognition of our growth. We wouldn’t stop dancing even if we were caught.
Embarrassment and happiness don’t work together, they are the antithesis of each other. Unfortunately, we can’t choose our emotions, but we can choose how we live and how we think of others. Thinking back on embarrassing memories, how many of them are of other people? Probably few to none. It’s the same way for everyone else. We are all living our own little lives. No one else can remember that one niche embarrassing moment you dwell on every night, so why should you?