Embarrassment is a part of life, but it can result in negative thinking that leads to unmanageable stress. It’s a difficult experience that can happen to everyone sometimes, and the feelings of regret associated with being embarrassed can linger on long after the event.

After an embarrassing situation the stories we tell ourselves are important. What we say to ourselves about what happened defines the way we think about the world. The way we think about the world shapes our reality. If we continue to tell ourselves negative stories about the embarrassing situation it can have a negative impact on the way we feel and how we behave. However, changing the story to a more realistic or positive one can help us to see the embarrassing situation as separate from who we are and enable us to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings and let them pass.

One way of coping with embarrassing situations is to practice using humour. Humour is a character strength that has the power to elicit positive emotions. Positive emotions are a resource for buffering the effects of negative experiences and help us to cope with difficult emotions. For example, when something is funny, we laugh. Laughter is our body’s nonverbal expression of joy, a positive emotion that produces feelings of wellbeing.

One way to help us see an embarrassing situation from a different perspective is to practice creating a funny story about situations that could potentially be embarrassing. This helps us to shift our attention away from the negative event which causes negative feelings to something positive that creates positive feelings.

Try this exercise to practise having a sense of humour and the ability to see the light in situations even when they feel dark at the time. With practice, this process can become automatic and help you cope with embarrassment more easily.
1. Describe a situation that could be embarrassing. For example, spilling your coffee over the table in a café.
2. Retell the story as if it were a sitcom, noting when the ‘laugh track’ would play. For example, imagine the main character walking into the café excited about their new shoes. Everyone laughs. As they sit down at the table, they knock the coffee over while admiring them. Everyone laughs.
3. Retell the story from the perspective of an alien from outer space who has never seen human behaviour. For example, the alien watches with curiosity as the human sits at the table and knocks the small container over. A strange brown liquid pours from the container and spreads across the table…
4. Retell the story from the perspective of your pet dog. For example, my human has a new game for me to play…