When You Feel Embarrassed By Someone Else


Doctor Neha: Hi and welcome. Today, we have a special guest, Julie, who is willing to ask her communication questions so all of us can learn. Just before we got on, Julie was talking about what do you do when you have a family member who you feel behaves in a way that is embarrassing? Does it reflect on who you are? Julie, what did you say to me? You said there’s a way that you talk yourself through this. What do you say?

Julie: I would say that this person is not a reflection of me. Be myself and not take ownership of the way they’re acting.

Doctor Neha: That’s great because what you’re doing there is you’re starting to separate yourself so you’re not like enmeshed [unhealthily] in a relationship. A lot of times people don’t know where they end and another person begins. So one way to handle this is to say, “You are not a reflection of me.” This is reminding me of when I was younger and my dad would say things that would embarrass me. I would want to crawl under a table—I wish I had that line for myself at that point in time. What’s dawned on me is that all of us probably have that type of person in our lives who doesn’t care as much about what other people think as we do. So bring a person to mind for a moment. Now we should ask ourselves, “What can we learn from this person?”

We might say they should keep their behavior more in the box, be a little more contained, more socially appropriate, not ruffle feathers. But the truth is this person is actually authentically being themselves; they’re showing up as who they are. They’re not pretending to be somebody else so that the world will like them. They’re showing up as exactly who they are, and the world gets to decide, do I like the person who is in front of me?

So where is one place in your life that you think you could show up a little more as who you are? What’s something you might do if you didn’t worry about other people judging you or thinking negatively of you? Maybe you would crack more jokes, let your hair down. Would your wear something a little bit fancier? Where might you take some risks if you weren’t so worried about other people judging you?

Julie: That’s a good question.

Doctor Neha: I can see that asking that got you a little uncomfortable.

Julie: I don’t know. I guess I’d be more silly.

Doctor Neha: Ah, I like that. A little silly? A little playful?

Julie: I guess I do notice maybe this person is reminding me that back when I was in college I had a lot of friends and I could be me. I didn’t really care how I acted because there really wasn’t any judgment. In fact they would tease me, but it was a loving kind of a teasing, and I’d just laugh at them myself. I couldn’t believe when I would go to the same person’s house millions of times and every time call to ask, “How do I get to your house?” It was airheaded, but they would laugh and make fun of me. My other friends would just say, “Yeah, that’s Julie, she’s always coming to the same place and getting lost every time.” The teasing would sort of lighten it up and make me feel loved. It didn’t matter what I said or did or if I did something wrong or made a mistake.

As a parent now, I feel this sense to be responsible. And so maybe responsibility has taken over and I’m nervous if I make a mistake or do something that looks bad in front of the kids. If I mess up, they might think of me differently because they don’t really know that side of me.

Doctor Neha: Ah, so I think we [found the issue]. How old are your kids?

Julie: Twelve and fifteen.

Doctor Neha: Twelve and fifteen. Do you want them to go out into the world and be contained and worried about how they look? Or do you want them to experience the you in college who was carefree? Carefree and loving and connected, don’t you want them to be able to do that?

Julie: Yes.

Doctor Neha: So it sounds like motherhood got you into responsibility and containment, and the person in your life [who you find embarrassing] is there to remind you about freedom and being carefree and connection and silliness. How about if you start doing one silly thing each day? Something you wouldn’t have done otherwise or something spontaneous. Maybe cracking a joke or waving at the person next to you whom you don’t know. Whatever you decide to do, notice that part of yourself and allow it back in—because it sounds like she’s already there.

Julie: It’s actually funny that you bring this up now. It’s coming to more fruition recently: My family and I went out to dinner, and my husband and my son were saying to me, “I dare you to ask the waitress we’d like to order Fa-Jitas [pronouncing the ‘j’]. I did it because I thought, What do I have to lose? And they were cracking up because they couldn’t believe I actually listened to them and said Fa-Jitas to the waitress. I let go and didn’t care.

Doctor Neha: Oh, I love it.

For all of you out there who know that responsibilities have come into your and may have changed you, it may be time to do a little reflection. Instead of making the people who embarrass you wrong, the ones who show up unfiltered and authentic, let it be a little reminder for you to find your fun side again. Let go of worrying about how other people reflect on you. Take responsibility for yourself and join in the fun with them. For you, Julie, it sounds like your dinners will be a lot more fun with fajitas.

Thank you so much. I love this story and think it’s going to bring a lot more fun and light into the day. So thank you, Julie.


Awareness Prescription

When You Feel Embarrassed by Someone Else’s Behavior

  1. Pay attention the physical signals in your body (e.g., heart racing, flushing, sweating, muscles tightening).

  2. Slow down and take three deep breaths to reset.

  3. Identify the story you’re making up about their behavior (e.g., inappropriate, impolite, breaking the rules).

  4. HERE’S THE TWIST: Focus on yourself!

  5. In what ways do YOU alter your behavior (in an opposite way) around others? For instance,

    • If you think someone is too free in public, are there ways you restrain yourself in public?

    • If you think someone is too emotional, are there ways you suppress emotions?

  6. What’s one thing you would do or say to be more yourself if you weren’t so concerned about what other people thought?


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