Why We Get Confused and How to Deal With It

In 2003, I passed an additional loan for my high school business law course. I perfectly intertwined what was essentially the story of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with a fascinating element of contract law. It was somewhere around 40 pages. You can guess what happened next.

This post originally appeared on the Crew blog .

A few weeks after I passed the project, my teacher took me aside before class, presumably to tell me what a genius I am. He began to speak very slowly, “Andrea … I don’t know. It was the strangest, strangest thing I’ve ever read in my life … I mean, I’ve read some pretty weird stuff, but this … ”His voice trailed off. “H-ha-Harry Potter?” I whispered.

Obviously, he had never read Harry Potter and was both very embarrassed and a little scared. My embarrassment was complete.

Everyone knows the feeling of embarrassment, many of us combine this feeling with reddening of the face and neck. As someone who is very easily embarrassed, I wanted to find out why we are embarrassed and if we can do something to prevent it.

Confusion is a reaction of fear

Embarrassment is an emotion of shyness, caused by a mismatch between how we feel we should react or act in public and how we actually react or act. We are more likely to get embarrassed when we think we are not meeting the demands of society, or when we receive unwanted attention . Context also matters, for example, you won’t feel embarrassed if you stumble in your own home and go outside, and that’s another story.

Why do some people turn red?

This is governed by the omnipotent fight-or-flight response. Our minds view embarrassment as a threat, just like our bodies. A unique feature of the veins in your face and neck is that they are able to respond to social threats . When we do something uncomfortable, these veins dilate thanks to the chemical transporter, adenylyl cyclase . This transmitter allows adrenaline to pump fresh blood and oxygen throughout the body (including the face and neck). While embarrassment isn’t the only reason our face turns red (it can also be caused by feelings of guilt, shyness, or shame), it’s a big part of it.

People can make it worse

You have probably contacted such people. As soon as your face starts to blush, they feel the need to tell you that your face is really blushing. As if you didn’t know. Research also shows that when people tell you that your face is blushing (even if it isn’t), you will start to blush. When people tell us that we are blushing, we hear: “I judge you negatively.” At least this is what weassume . According to research published in Behavior Research and Therapy :

“The belief that someone is blushing creates negative beliefs about the judgment of others and can even intensify the blushing reaction itself.”

Researchers have also found that our fear of blushing in front of others, or their admission that we blush, can cause us to change our behavior in ways that lead to worse judgment on the part of others. People evaluate us negatively not because of our redness, but because of how we change our response. After all, this is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

One study looked at the effect of gazing on facial flushing, and what they found surprised me in earnest. When people sang in front of a group of people (an embarrassing task), their faces turned red wherever most people looked. By studying where the blood flow goes, the researchers determined that simple gaze can cause an ipsilateral (i.e., affecting the same side of the body) increase in blood flow to the face. What came of all this? If you do something that confuses you and people look at you, you are more likely to blush. That is why I personally always sat in front of the class, never knew who was staring at me or not.

Can you prevent this?

Except for an operation that cuts the nerves that make your face turn red, no. The redness is determined by our sympathetic nervous system and we cannot control it. This happens without conscious thought or effort. However, you can aim for a healthy perspective.

The embarrassment response is influenced by the negative assessments that we assume people will about us if we are wrong. People tend to overestimate how negative people will relate to us, we get trapped in our own head and lose sight of how small people actually pay attention to us. Therapy can help restore a healthier perspective on how little people actually judge us.

Of course, knowing this personally has never stopped me from feeling embarrassed or blushing, so here are some other helpful tips I’ve found.

It’s not so bad

While we find embarrassment to be quite painful, it really isn’t that bad for us. Because embarrassment cannot be faked, it signals our peers about our true emotional state. It shows others that we are either ashamed of our behavior or we feel guilty. This emotional response indicates that we are trustworthy . At least this is what researchers from the University of California at Berkeley found out. They conducted five different research experiments that all led to the same conclusion: embarrassment is a pro-social emotion.

Researcher and psychologist Daher Keltner showed subjects an image of a typical embarrassed gesture and facial expression. When the researchers showed images of people in embarrassed postures, rather than those in proud postures, study participants preferred embarrassed people. In fact, they wanted to associate with these people much more than proud people.

Feelings of embarrassment and redness are sympathetic and can even help us avoid confrontation with other people. If someone blushes during a confrontation, we will see that that person is feeling bad about their behavior. This can de-escalate confrontation.

It is also a useful tool that we use to increase our mutual love for each other. For example, people who tease each other to cause embarrassment do so to test how compatible they are. If we tease someone and he is embarrassed, we are much more likely to get to know that person better. Embarrassment is a powerful and necessary social tool.

How to get rid of embarrassment

We all like to present ourselves in our best light, and doing something embarrassing destroys our vision of ourselves. We also assume that embarrassment negatively affects us both personally and professionally. All of this is not true, we are inflating this path due to the so-called spotlight effect .

How can you rise above the overwhelming feeling that everyone is looking at you? You can start with the following three steps:

1. Talk about things that confuse you. Much of our embarrassment stems from the false assumptions we have in our heads about how others are treating us. When you tell bad stories to friends or other people you trust, you lose the power of those moments. It will also show you that embarrassment alone does not lead to negative judgments from your peers.

2. Remember that blushing and embarrassment indicate that you care: partly we are attracted to other embarrassed ones because we see them as people who understand when they have crossed the line or made a mistake. This is an important human trait and no one should be ashamed of it.

3. Refocus your attention: Our intense fear of being negatively evaluated by others can increase our feelings of embarrassment and redness. Speaking to the New York Times , Jerilyn Ross, author of Less Worry, encourages patients who blush or embarrassed to ask themselves the following question: “I blush when I am anxious; what does it mean?”

Asking this question, patients again pay attention to the ongoing interaction and conversation, and not to their embarrassment. It can help you connect your embarrassment response faster than focusing on the embarrassment and blushing. He focuses on the outside, not the inside.

All of these steps are associated with reducing the shock of the embarrassment and removing its power. Remember that everyone is embarrassed, and it’s okay that you are too.

I will not stop being embarrassed in the near future and cannot imagine that I will be able to keep myself from reddening. Over the years, I’ve become a little more accepting of this part of myself. I now know that embarrassment has an important social function and that I can talk myself out of it when I’m in a difficult situation.

An embarrassment is here to stay, so with that in mind, I’ll leave you with this quote from Richelle E. Goodrich :

“Relax; the world isn’t watching so closely. It’s too busy looking at itself in the mirror.”

Why are you embarrassed and what to do about it | Crew


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