It’s no secret that we’ve all faced countless embarrassing moments in our lives: especially being placed in uncomfortable situations at work. When these situations occur, many of us get cherry red, quiet, and develop an insecure and defeated demeanor. What if I were to tell you that there are ways to escape the burning, fiery, red hot of your cheeks and the mental replay of scenarios in your head? By talking to fellow college students and sharing their tips and tricks for powering through an uncomfortable moment in the professional or academic setting, I hope that we will all feel more comfortable and confident when an embarrassing moment is on the brink.
After asking various college students how they persevere through these awkward moments, many of them shared the following suggestions and tricks:
1. “Realize that each day is different and that the embarrassing moment has passed and can only happen once." This student is certainly correct. Those embarrassing or awkward situations you may find yourself in at your work or school will be over before you know it. It will pass. Both that moment and you at that moment exist for a second. Even though it may seem like it lasts for an eternity whilst you’re in it and understandably panicking, the important thing is to realize that it will pass. Eventually, you will move on and forget that it even happened. Every day is different. Don’t let one moment define your career or professional attitude. You will get through it. You have to get through it. And, eventually, that moment will cease to exist.
2. “Being confident and believing in myself and not caring whether people judge me for my actions." Being confident and believing in yourself is truly one of the most important steps towards success and self-love. However, confidence and faith in oneself may be hard to accomplish for many. It is a process that takes place over many years—a process of growth. I recognize that this may be a hard step for some to take. However, this statement remains true. Once you realize that only your opinion of yourself, your goals, your attitude, and your drive are the only truths that matter, you are one step closer to success. Success in work, school, your career, and your personal life. It is hard to not be embarrassed– to not feel judged. Especially, when it is in our nature to be judgmental. But, the truth is, we need to learn not to care what others think. Yes, it’s important that we value our teachers’, bosses’, and employers’ opinions and that we do our jobs correctly and satisfactorily, but at the end of the day we must meet our own expectations. We need to learn to build this confidence and to trust ourselves.
3. “When I feel embarrassed in an academic or professional setting, I find it best if I take a deep breath and tell myself that it isn’t as embarrassing as I think." “Breathe in, breathe out, move on”. Sometimes that is all you can do, and sometimes, it is the best thing for you. When being in the midst of an embarrassing situation at work or school, sometimes it is best for us to collect ourselves before we respond. We need to think rationally and be composed. It’s hard for some of us to not clam up, to not break down in tears, or to burst out in anger. We need to remind ourselves that this moment lasts for less than a fraction of our lives. It is temporary. We need to breathe, relax, and reassess the situation.
4. “I laugh about it. Humor always makes me feel better and it will ease the situation. No one will remember the mistake later, so why should I?” Laughter is the medicine for most of life’s hardships. If we can persevere through life’s hardships and challenges with laughter, that represents strength and character. Of course, however, the context and professional situation are important. You have to remain professional and appropriate in academic or work settings. However, a little bit of humor can go a long way. If we can pursue a problem or uncomfortable situation with a joke and some laughter, we are better for it in the long run. It is easier to laugh about it. It helps to make what seems like a serious and intimidating situation less scary and less embarrassing. It helps to approach these situations with an open and carefree attitude. We are so hard on ourselves and we are often our own biggest critic. Uncomfortable or embarrassing moments in the workforce will happen throughout our lives, so the easier and more efficiently we can handle and overcome them, the less we are affected. Again, “no one will remember the mistake later”. We need to stop being so hard on ourselves. Instead, we should laugh it out. We can recognize our mistakes and learn from them.
5. “I tell myself that the person in front of me is a normal human being going through the same struggles and winging it just like everyone else. That helps me not feel intimidated by them. Also, addressing the situation and mentioning that you are uncomfortable helps the other person to recognize how you’re feeling." It is truly important to recognize that at the end of the day we are human. Mistakes are normal, they’re allowed, and they’re expected. We need to make mistakes to grow. It’s even more important to realize that the other people in the situation are also people who have at some point in their lives made the same mistakes. We are learning and making these mistakes at different trajectories in our lives. Just because someone may appear that they have it all figured out doesn’t mean that their life is perfect or that you’re unworthy. Truly, we’re all “winging it just like everyone else”. No one has the perfect solution or remedy to the way life is or the way it’s supposed to work. Even though it can be embarrassing and intimidating to make mistakes, to be corrected, or to not know what you’re doing, that is okay. It is normal. And, you may find that once you communicate how you feel, you’ll find that the other person felt like that at some point in their life and perhaps even during the same job. They may have some quality advice to share with you to help you deal with that type of pressure, or at the very least, reassure you at the moment.
6. “One thing that helps me, especially in the academic setting, is to not take it personally. I think it helps me feel less like I’m always doing something wrong. Depending on the situation, I will stay after class and clarify things with the professor. If I feel uncomfortable or embarrassed in class, I usually kind of just let it pass because I know everyone is more worried about themselves than they are about me." Again, we need to realize that we are not the only ones who have or are going to make mistakes. Even though our professors may seem intimidating, they are human too. They have been in our shoes before. We have no one that we have to prove ourselves to except ourselves. We must learn to communicate when we are unsure of something or when we’re uncomfortable. By talking to the professor after class or an employer and clarifying your concerns, the situation can be alleviated in an instant with peace of mind. We must recognize that at the end of the day, we have accepted our job position or have applied to college to learn. To pursue a challenge. In order to grow. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same place or have been. Everyone is trying to succeed to the best of their abilities, so we must recognize that no one is as concerned as we think they are.
These fellow students share some wise advice. And, even though this advice may not apply to everyone or work to all our liking, it can be interpreted in many different ways. We all have unique situations and experiences, but we can learn to apply this advice to our benefit. We must learn to breathe and find a refuge of calm, to laugh it out, to be confident and not apologize, to recognize that life will move on and that it’s okay to make mistakes, and most importantly, to realize that we are all human and that we have to make mistakes to grow. As a woman in STEM, I can assure you that I realize how challenging or intimidating it can be to pursue science, to sit in a laboratory classroom, or to approach a professor. However, I recognize that these awkward moments are only temporary and that they further build resilience and character. By adopting these qualities, then, I hope we will all find it easier to persevere through any and all of the embarrassing, discomforting, and intimidating situations we may find ourselves in.
All quotes were taken from an anonymous survey.