Unless you thrive on the judgmental stares of others, you probably don’t like to get embarrassed or humiliated.
Sometimes the embarrassments of years gone by can pop up over and over again, especially when people you know keep bringing the humiliating situation back up. If you want to stop reliving the past, get over the shame, or even overcome what you might consider the unforgivable stuff you may have done, this article is for you.
(Portions of this article have been transcribed from the podcast episode in this post)
I’m going to share with you several ways to handle humiliation, and even how to avoid feeling it altogether. Humiliation is one of those events in life that when it happens, we just want to curl into a ball and hide from the world.
But why is that? What’s the big deal?
And, can humiliation exist without anyone else knowing what happened? In other words, can we feel humiliation when there’s no one else around? Or is it dependent on other people knowing about the situation?
When someone humiliates you, it’s a feeling you never want to repeat in your life. In fact, it might be the very reason you avoid doing things like public speaking, taking charge of a project or a group, or raising your hand when you think you know the answer to a question. Whatever it is for you, humiliation trickles from wanting to feel significant but is truly grounded in fear.
Fear of what exactly? Feeling insignificant? Feeling judged?
We’ll go over humiliation and what it takes to, not only learn how to recover from something humiliating but also how to prevent humiliation from occurring in the first place. So, whether you trip in front of someone, spill grape juice on your clothes right before an important speech you’re about to give, or you find out someone posted a video of you trying to eat a hamburger while intoxicated, the steps to avoid humiliation will be laid out in this article.
It may surprise you to learn that if you want to avoid humiliation altogether, you will need to embrace the faults of others. I’ll expand on that shortly.
The Day My Brother’s Humiliation Made Me Laugh
When I was about 26, my younger brother and I went inline skating. The weather was amazing and we were having a great time.
We came across this empty parking lot that was next to another parking lot about six feet lower, separated by a grassy hill. We decided that it would be fun to gain some speed and jump from one parking lot to the next. Thinking about doing this today makes me cringe. But we were much younger with a lot more belief in invincibility back then.
I decided to go first. I skated to the back of the parking so that I could have enough room to pick up speed and clear the gap. It may have been a six-foot drop, but it was about an eight-foot gap, so it was important to have enough distance to gain the speed needed to clear it. I was planning on a spectacular landing (without considering that what might happen was a painful crash).
I pushed off, skated toward the gap at full speed, jumped off the ground, and made the gap with only inches to spare. My brother hollered, congratulating me on my well-executed stunt. Seeing me clear the gap without issue, he lined up to take his turn. I grabbed the video camera to film his part, which I assumed would be just as amazing as my landing.
With the camera in hand, I watched him gain speed, leap into the air, come down for his landing, then missed the pavement by a couple of inches as his left foot hit the grass and dirt, causing his skate to sink in creating an anchor so that his momentum stopped. With one leg free and the other sufficiently buried in the ground, his legs separated as he immediately performed an unintended split.
He tried to recover by pushing off his stuck leg but instead fell forward and landed on his face. He looked down, in shock I think, then looked up at me with an alarmed look on his face. This is the moment I saw what happened to his face. His mouth was cut up and he had blood over half his face.
Quickly, I put down the camera, then inexplicably started laughing so hard, that I was crying.
My brother’s fall seemed so comical to me that it overcame my compassion and concern. Of course, I immediately skated over to help him but could not hold back my laughter. The whole scene seemed almost like choreographed physical comedy.
After getting a closer look at his face, it looked a lot worse than it was but it was still real pain that my brother was enduring.
We skated around the back of the strip mall and found a water spigot. After he cleaned up, it didn’t look too bad at all. But I could not get that image out of my mind. Even today, I start to chuckle thinking about that moment.
Unexpected events, even ones that should make us feel terrible for the person, don’t always activate the appropriate responses. But what is appropriate? Can you control your response?
Humiliation, embarrassment, shame, and other similar feelings come from a deeper place within us. However, there is a way to live your life not so concerned with feelings of embarrassment or humiliation. I’ll tell you how coming up.
What Is Humiliation?
Humiliation has two definitions really. One is the feeling of embarrassment about something you did, or something that someone pointed out about you, especially in front of others. The other definition is when someone is doing the pointing out. In other words, you are either humiliated or humiliating, depending on the position you take on.
These aren’t the official definitions of course, but I prefer to stay away from terminology if at all possible. But interesting to note, humility derives from the word “humble”, which when you follow the etymology or the origination of the word, it literally means “on the ground”. It just seems appropriate in a way, since when you trip and fall to the ground, you might feel a little humbled. Not that tripping is the only path to humiliation.
Anyway, humility is one of those feelings that all of us have experienced at one time or another. And let’s be really clear about what humility is before moving on:
Humility is viewing yourself as no more or less important than anyone else.
So when someone is pointing something out that you did that you feel embarrassed about, they are not really the cause of your humiliation, they are only helping you to see more clearly your own views about yourself.
When someone laughs at you for dropping a plate of food, and you check inward to experience how that feels, you can either laugh with them or feel shame and embarrassment. And depending on how you feel about yourself at the time, you will either feel humiliated or not. It almost sounds like a choice, but life isn’t that easy to make it appear that we have a conscious choice on how to respond to someone laughing at us… is it?
Don’t worry, I won’t tell you that you have a choice on how to respond. After all, if you did, you’d already never feel humiliated about anything. You’d choose not to, and go on with life. The truth of the matter is that we already feel a certain way about ourselves before anything ever happens that might be a humiliating experience. And when something does happen, the quickest reaction is always the unconscious reaction. That’s the response we give that comes from the programs that are always running in the background of our minds. These programs continuously run waiting for the perfect time to respond.
So if you believe you are not important or valuable in any way, then situations that expose that more vulnerable side of you will make you feel more humiliated. If however, you believe that you are important and worthy, there is very little that someone can do to humiliate you. Even if someone were to post that picture that you wanted no one to see, you can still get through it without too much emotional scarring.
And if there are things that you’ve done in your life that would be so humiliating if people found out, that you would never be able to face anyone, ever again, you may have more going on that you need to address before humiliation takes the stage. If you can’t bear the thought of your past getting exposed, then it’s time to deal with your repressed anger, fear, or regret, so that if and when the past sneaks up on you (and it always seems to), you will be better prepared for the emotional ride.
Whether that means talking to a trusted friend, or even a trusted stranger, it’s best to deal with the unbearable past now so that it doesn’t lay in hiding all your life, waiting to reveal itself at the worst possible time.
That is of course if it needs addressing. Not everything from the past needs to come up to be addressed as long as no one has suffered, or is suffering from it now. I’m not saying don’t fess up to crimes you’ve committed, but sometimes so much time has passed and wounds have closed, and the negative emotions have been worked through, and the past is now in the past.
But if there is any regret or hurt that still exists from the past, those events tend to have a way of re-appearing when you least expect it. Almost as if prompted to do so.
Let’s talk about some of the things you can do to prepare yourself for possible embarrassment and humiliation. Or, even more important, recover from something that has already happened.
The very first step to take after you feel humiliated is to say, “So what?”
That’s it. “So what! So what about it? What’s the big deal?”
If someone says, “Yeah, but you were an idiot!” All you need to say is, “So what! What else you got?”
It’s a “bring it on” mentality. Seriously, in the grand scheme of the entire universe, of the billions of galaxies and cosmic events where our little planet is merely a microscopic speck of all that is known and unknown, SO WHAT?
We are so used to only perceiving the world through our own filters. Our eyes, our ears, our touch, our smell, and our taste are how we interpret reality. And our consciousness gives it meaning. So what if there’s a revealing picture or video of you online? What does it matter? So what if people continue to bring up that day you were so drunk you got that tattoo on your face? When it comes down to it, your actions do not shape the universe as we all know it. You do create your own world and your own reality, but you don’t shape it for everyone else.
Whatever you did that people found humorous or evil or whatever is just a speck in the universal perspective of things. Even when it’s so embarrassing, you can’t face anyone ever again, what are those people going to do with themselves if you don’t react the way they expect you to react?
That’s one of the best ways to thwart or divert anyone’s attention on you, is to have a “so what” attitude.
“Hey, remember when your pants fell down and you tripped into that mud puddle, God you were so stupid. I’m still laughing about that to this day.”
“So what? That’s old news. What else you got?”
I really love that “bring it on” attitude when it comes to things that people can’t let go of. I said this in the Letting Go of Attachments episode (here), but it’s worth repeating:
Every behavior in human interaction requires a counter-behavior
When people bring up embarrassing situations from your past, just develop a “so what?” attitude, and soon the event will fizzle because those people cannot get the same reaction from you anymore.
When you don’t react the same way, they have to change their behavior or move on. Otherwise, it’s an exercise in futility.
The next step after feeling any sort of humiliation is to ask yourself why you feel humiliated. The first answer you come up with is usually the farthest from the actual reason. You might say to yourself, “I am humiliated because I don’t want people to think bad about me.”
If that’s the case, why? Why don’t you want people to feel bad about you? Many people stop asking themselves questions when they come up with an answer like, “just because”. They’ll say, “I don’t want people to think bad about me just because I don’t want them to think bad about me.” Then they won’t think beyond that, as to why that matters.
And many people would agree that they don’t want anyone to think bad of them. But again, why? Why does it matter if someone thinks bad about you? I’m almost ready to go back to the “So what?” segment, but since we’ve already talked about that, let’s move forward on this idea.
When something thinks badly of you for any reason, it’s always because of something that you don’t feel comfortable about within yourself. No one will ever know who we really are inside, because no one can be us – ever. So they only know what they hallucinate to be true. I say they hallucinate because someone else has no idea what’s in our thoughts, what our intentions are, and what we’re going to do next. And because they only make educated guesses about all that stuff, they’re really just hallucinating. They are making up in their own minds all of that stuff about us, and really have no clue if we’re inherently good or bad.
Sure, they can judge us by our behavior. But even that can be misinterpreted. When you see a mom smacking her kid on the head, you may believe she is disciplining him. When I see it, I might see her as swatting a mosquito. We will hallucinate what we believe to be true. And even if what we hallucinate turns out to be true, it doesn’t mean we are always right about everything.
Have you ever felt someone was a bad person only to find out they weren’t so bad after all? And if not, have you ever done something that others might see as bad, but you know you weren’t being intentionally mean or hurtful?
There’s a belief I have that may not be popular, but I have adopted as true to me. It’s this:
Behind every behavior is a positive intention
What that means is that even some of the most evil behavior is from a place where the person wants to thrive and survive. In other words, if someone has the intention to kill someone, as horrible of an act as that may be, the act will have behind it a benefit for the person doing it. People who smoke and take drugs have the intention of wanting to feel better or calm their nerves. People who abuse other people want to feed internal desires to feel better in some way.
I’m not excusing any of this behavior, because a moral compass guides us and needs to be recalibrated in some people. But I am saying that no person is inherently evil, they are just trying to fulfill their needs. The problem is that some people only care about their own needs, so they take lives, abuse others, and do many other things that most of us would find unacceptable and downright evil.
However, even in the worst people, there is a positive intention behind their actions. Now, I’m mainly referring to people who are generally mentally stable, and without any type of neurosis or psychosis. Sometimes a brain is just miswired and you can never predict what a neurotic person will do. But for the majority of the population, every one of our behaviors has behind it a positive intention. Most of the time, that intention is to fulfill a need within us.
So when you find someone looking down at you, remember that they have a need within them that needs to be fulfilled. There is something missing in them that hasn’t been fulfilled, so they need to look down at you to fulfill that need.
Does that make sense?
When people judge you, or look down at you, hoping you’ll be embarrassed or humiliated, they are fulfilling a need in themselves. It really has nothing to do with you. Because a person who has no needs has no care whether you do something or not. A person with needs, however, which is pretty much everyone I’ve ever met, is more likely to look down upon someone else when they themselves are uncomfortable with a situation.
This is a tad challenging for some people to comprehend because if someone was looking down at us, let’s just say someone we know and trust, we tend to turn inward and ask, “What’s wrong with me?” But the real question to ask is, “I wonder what that person is lacking within themselves to see me this way?”
When you ask that, a whole different perception appears, and you are suddenly freed from judgment. Well, that’s what I am hallucinating anyway.
Alright, what’s next? When someone reveals something about you, or exposes something about you, or simply laughs or is disgusted by you, you have a tendency to turn inward and think from a deep place inside you. As soon as you start to feel bad about yourself is when the real humiliation and embarrassment begins. This is when the process begins – when you check in with yourself.
And when you check inward, you are looking at your own values, your morals, your self-esteem, self-worth, and how good you feel about yourself. And one thing that happens when humiliation kicks in, is that how you feel about yourself is put to the test. If you are confident in who you are, you absolutely cannot be humiliated. If however, there is any doubt in who you are and what you stand for in life, then humiliation and embarrassment comes easier.
People’s comments and behaviors put our feelings of self-worth to the test all the time
As soon as someone mentions something that makes you feel bad, it’s not them causing that feeling in you. It’s you causing that feeling in you. I’d love to tell you that it’s your choice, but because that feeling comes up too quick to choose not to feel it, it’s really not a choice. But you do have a choice on whether you want to deal with it when it comes up. If you deal with it, process it, and come to terms with it, then the next time it comes up, it won’t be an issue at all.
What does that mean? Well, as I said earlier, no one knows who we really are inside. They can only assume who we are and interpret our behavior through their own filters. What one person sees as funny and OK, another person sees as bad and unacceptable. So, everyone is going to have a different perspective of us no matter what we do or how hard we try to be seen in a certain way.
Even with this show, I expect people to be turned off by some of the things I say. There’s no possible way that what I teach is going to be acceptable to everyone. In fact, I don’t want it to be. I don’t expect everyone to be in the right place in their life to apply what I am saying. Sometimes it’s not the right time for them or even the most appropriate information for their circumstances.
So no matter how hard we try to come across as good or righteous, someone will come along and see us as the opposite. It’s unavoidable. So remember that when someone looks down at you or judges you, your feelings about yourself will be triggered. The stronger your own self-esteem, the less likely you’ll be humiliated (see articles on building your self-esteem here).
People can’t humiliate you if can stand proud in who you are.
Even the most embarrassing situations will not affect you when you are proud. I don’t encourage pride too much as it can lead to an inflating ego, but when it is an intrinsic pride where you feel it more than you brag about it, then humiliation is less likely to happen.
Also, remember that embarrassing circumstances are always in the past. Always. Even if they just happened 10 seconds ago, it’s now in the past. You aren’t the same person you were, and you’ve learned lots of new things since then. The past no longer exists. And even when someone brings it up, that’s old news. “So what!? Who cares? That’s the past. That’s not who I am now. Let it go because I have.”
Though, what if you have done something that you can’t let go of? What if something is still so humiliating to this day, that you just can’t seem to get past it no matter what? What if you can’t be proud of who you are and what you represent because that something you did was so embarrassing, and maybe even so shameful, that it pops into your head every time you start feeling good about yourself?
That sounds like something we need to talk about. Let’s get into that next.
When something is clearly bothering you about your past, you can ignore it, or deal with it. If you ignore it, it eventually represses back into the depths of your unconscious mind to show itself another day. And as you go through life, those thoughts are always in the background preventing you from experiencing full satisfaction in life.
When you start to get happy, those thoughts creep in and remind you of what happened, and you are limited in the amount of happiness you’ll feel because of something that you keep repressing. It’s not a fun way to live, and you will likely always be unfulfilled, looking for quick ways to feel better. Whether that’s through habits, vices, uncontrollable urges, or full-on addictions. What’s ignored keeps reappearing throughout life, and you deal with it in new situations over and over again.
If however you deal with it, process it, and work through it, then at least you can gain some clarity, if not, real peace. Instead of turning on the TV when you start to feel bad, you ask yourself questions. Or at least, acknowledge any emotions that come up for you.
The past has a funny way of affecting our future. In fact, the people I meet who try to avoid thinking about the past usually have a lot of pain they’re repressing. They avoid it so much, that they create problems for themselves in the present by giving in to addictions and impulses. I have a family member that can’t stop taking drugs because of past pain she can’t let go of. The past is continually ignored or avoided in hopes it will eventually go away, but it never does. And the temporary measures people take to forget about the past, for the time being, are just that: Temporary.
So what can you do? How do you move beyond the past so that it doesn’t affect you now?
It’s going to be different for everyone, but I’ll share with you some of the things that I did to get over years of mental abuse and fear while living with an aggressive alcoholic.
The first thing I did was admit to myself the people I truly hated in life. This is something a lot of people have trouble doing: Admitting that they hate someone. After all, if you hate someone, you must be a bad person right? You’ve heard things like, “It takes hate to know hate” or something similar. But I give you permission to admit it. Hate, hate, hate! If you feel hatred, then admit it to yourself right now that you feel it, and about who you feel it towards.
And let me free you of any negative feelings you have toward that word now. “Hate” isn’t real. It’s just a strong emotion that needs to be set free.
Hate isn’t meant to be permanent, it’s just an intense, unexpressed emotion
Hate isn’t supposed to last. When hate happens, it’s because there is a boiling point that is reached with someone. It gets to the point where you hate the person for what they did or said. But hate isn’t meant to last. It’s an expression of negative emotion from deep within. Once the true feelings of hate come out, they decrease and soon disappear.
And if the hate doesn’t disappear, then you haven’t expressed everything you need to express. It’s true that you can hate some people so strongly, that the hate may seem like it will never go away. But remember what continuous hate does to you. Continually feeling hatred, day after day and year after year decreases your energy, makes you give in to addictions and affects your health. People with a lot of continuous hatred are usually more sick, and play more of the victim role than those without an underlying hatred.
But you need to express hate. You don’t want to feel it indefinitely. Sometimes the negativity is so built up in you, that if you’d just allow yourself to feel it come up so you can let it all out (in a safe environment by yourself or with someone you trust), then that hatred has no choice but to decrease in intensity.
If you think hatred is such a strong word, and “hate” to use it, then that is the perfect word to use for you. What we tend not to say is sometimes exactly what we need to say in order to release years of pressure that’s built up inside of us. When you release the hate in a minute, an hour, or even a day, the hate decreases, and you feel better.
It doesn’t mean the subject of your hate is now forgiven, it just means you finally let off some steam. We tend to hold onto things that make us angry, in a way to make sure we never forget what happened. But believe me, you’ll never forget, but you can choose to remember and not hate. It doesn’t mean you have to love instead, you just need to release the pressure.
Continuous, unexpressed hatred builds pressure inside of you. When you release that pressure by verbalizing it, crying it out, yelling it out, or whatever method you choose, the hatred also has a way of dissipating. And because hatred is inside you, by ‘hating’, you are essentially making yourself feel bad and become less and less healthy. Which begs the question, if you hang on to hate, which is worse – hanging onto it to show the other person that they are not forgiven? Or hanging onto it so that it continues to decrease your health and well-being, eventually leading to mental and physical issues that get harder and harder to fix as you grow older?
What do you think wins every time?
Again, a quick release of hatred by full expression turns the valve to release the pressure. But if it’s never expressed, you stay in ‘hate’ mode and keep going downhill.
So if you let go of hatred, it is one step toward building your self-esteem and self-confidence. Remember, you can’t be humiliated or embarrassed if you have a strong sense of self. That includes self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem. At least two of those can’t be built upon if you are in a space of indefinite hate. Release the hate so that you can start building yourself up today.
So what else could be in the past that keeps you from moving forward? Have you done something so embarrassing or shameful that you simply can’t bear for it to come up? Let’s just say for a moment, this embarrassing thing did come up. And the person you wanted to make sure never found out about it, found out. What would happen? Is it so bad, that person would never want to see you again?
Is it unforgivable? Let’s go to the extreme here and figure out what we can do to get past our own, unforgivable past. This is the toughest one yet. But once you come to terms with what you haven’t been able to forgive yourself for, then the chance for future humiliation and embarrassment can substantially decrease. Almost everyone I know has some dark secret they don’t want anyone to know about. And it’s likely those secrets will never be mentioned or found out by anyone, ever. So if you have no repressed negativity about those secrets, then they’re probably fine just staying in the past, never to be brought up in your mind again.
If however there is something that is eating away at you, and the shame you’d feel about it coming up is too great to think about it, then we want to think about it right now. Let’s talk about the deepest, hardest process of all: Coming to terms with our own crap.
Here it is, the hardest part of the journey to healthy pride and self-esteem: Coming to terms with the darkest parts of your past.
Humility is when you have a low view of your own importance. If you ever feel humiliated, then there is already a part of you that feels low and unimportant, otherwise, you can’t get humiliated. When you have a strong and healthy pride in yourself, no one can humiliate you – it’s just not possible. Pride can overcome silly attempts at humiliation and embarrassment. If however there are parts of your history you haven’t come to terms with yet, then humiliation comes a lot easier. Having done something you aren’t proud of can be a recipe for shame and/or disgrace. So what’s the answer?
Let me share with you someone I used to be. When I was about 14, I took care of my 4-year-old brother while my dad was at work. Back then, I hadn’t done any personal growth on myself, so I still had quite a few problems, mostly due to my upbringing in an alcoholic home. I became quite a manipulative person and wasn’t very nice to people who I felt I could control.
Being 14 and thinking I knew everything about the world, I found a way to feel control in my world by babysitting someone younger and weaker, and quite dependent on me. This was my younger brother.
When my dad was at work, for the most part, I was nice to him (my brother). But I wasn’t always nice. I never physically abused him, but I did manipulate him. I remember one incident where I made him eat cat food. It was funny to me, but he trusted me as his older brother, and I betrayed him by practically forcing him to eat cat food.
This wasn’t the only thing I did to him, but it is the one thing I’ll admit to the world. After a few years, I moved out of my dad’s house and back into my mom and stepfather’s house, eventually moving out of there and going off to live on my own. I saw my brother on occasion, but soon, we lost contact with each other. I found out that he got into the wrong crowd of people and was soon doing things I didn’t necessarily approve of.
Fast forward about 27 years when my brother calls me out of the blue to let me know my dad was on his death bed. I flew out to Florida to rekindle my relationship with both my dad and my brother, both of whom I hadn’t seen in about 10 years. Before I flew out there, I felt this embarrassment and shame start rising within me. I remembered all the times I was mean and manipulative to my brother, and wondered if I had influenced him to become the person he eventually became. I realized that I likely had a big influence on him, and was probably at least partially responsible for the decisions he eventually made in life. You know, those decisions I didn’t agree with.
Was I the one who pushed him into the wrong crowd of people? This was a question I started battling with a few years previously, but it was now coming to a head because I was about to go see my brother once again. So before I left for Florida, I told myself that I would apologize to my brother. Even though he never mentioned his childhood, nor did he ever say that I was mean to him, I still felt responsible, and I still felt that it was unfinished business. You may have heard me talk about open loops before. I thought this was an open loop in my life, and I wanted to close this loop one way or another.
So I decided that no matter what he thought about me, whether he believed I had anything to do with his decisions in life, I was going to apologize to him. And after arriving in Florida and getting settled, I had a heart-to-heart with him and told him how sorry I was for the way I treated him when he was younger. He wasn’t sure what I was talking about. I said that was okay, as long as he knew that I remember what I did, and I’m sorry. He accepted that, and the rest of my visit went great. Well, except for my father dying, it went great. My father didn’t die during my visit, and I was happy to see him of course. There were definitely multiple reasons for my visit.
Ever since then, even though I don’t feel pride in what I did to my brother, I feel good knowing that I somehow made it right. I came to terms, admitted what I did, and apologized.
The point of my story is to ask you what can you do to come to terms with your past. Is there someone you need to apologize to? And is that person still here? And if not, and you still feel the need to apologize, are there other ways to do it? Maybe you can visit them in your mind, or somewhere where you can be alone where you can imagine them next to you, there are many ways to be with someone that is no longer here. And maybe it’s not an apology, or maybe it is. But whatever it is, if it needs closure, now is the time.
And what if there is something unforgivable in your past? If that’s the case, then how can you come to terms with it? What can you do that will help others through the same situation? Do you know people or organizations that have dealt with things like this where you can volunteer your time? I’m not saying you have to do this, but if there really is no getting past what happened, then it’s time to give as much as you can. You may not be able to take back what happened, but you can give back.
What you give and where you give is something you need to decide. But something happens when you give. Something that is unexplainable. But everyone and I mean everyone I talk to who gives seems to get something back. And those that give with absolutely no strings attached get the most back. These are people who don’t want anything in return, yet it comes.
When you have a hole in your past, it slowly fills by giving and helping others. We’re all told to volunteer and give where we can, but when you have lost something along the way in life, then giving is a way to get some of it back. Not because you should give to get back, but because giving is the gift of fulfillment, to both the person you are giving to and yourself.
So if there’s something that is unforgivable in your life, then it’s time to for-give to others. Not for what you will get in return, but for the meaning and purpose it will bring to your life. I believe that our meaning and purpose in this life is defined by how much meaning and purpose we can give to others in our lifetime. I realize that not everyone believes that, but if you were to adopt that belief, do you think that somehow your life would get better as a result?
It wouldn’t hurt to try, that’s for sure. You don’t have to live in the dark anymore. If you have that unforgivable past, then let the light shine out of you and onto others. You obviously have that in you, otherwise, you wouldn’t be interested in learning and growing by reading articles like this!
When there is meaning in your life, there is passion and drive. There is true purpose. That is when life gets interesting.
So let’s go over what we learned. First thing, it’s hard to be embarrassed or humiliated about anything if you develop a “So What” attitude. “So what? What else you got? Is that the worst of it? So what!”
When you feed to others what they want to hear, you’ll keep the fire lit. When you say, “So what?”, people will start to realize they can’t affect you anymore. They may say, “So what? You don’t care? What kind of person are you?” But don’t let their words steer you into anything else but “so what?
You can usually stop the cycle of abuse, which is what it can turn into when people won’t drop a subject, by simply adopting a ‘so what?’ attitude.
The second thing we learned is to ask ourselves “Why? Why do I feel humiliated?” The first answer is never the answer, it’s a lead into a deeper place. Continue asking probing questions of yourself, and you’ll find that the deeper you go, the more revealing the answers become. If you have trouble doing this with yourself, find someone to help you. Usually, people can see us more objectively than we see ourselves.
Also, when others are attempting to humiliate you, remember people look down upon other people because of how they feel about themselves. The way they feel is never about you, otherwise, they wouldn’t feel that way. You have to feel negativity to express negativity. But also remember that behind every behavior is an intention to help ourselves through a situation. We learned how to survive by developing behaviors that got us through the tough times.
When someone makes fun of us, they are using what they know in order to survive. It’s extreme to think that way, I realize, because most people don’t have to figure out how to survive, but a lot of our thinking does derive from pure survival needs. So it’s no surprise when people display somewhat unusual behavior. It’s helpful to realize that they learned this behavior somewhere along their journey in life, but haven’t realized that it may no longer work for them.
The third thing to remember is that people’s comments and behaviors toward us are putting our feelings of self-worth to the test all the time. People don’t cause us to feel bad, we can only do that ourselves. If there’s already a self-worth issue inside of us, then by someone commenting or putting us down, we check in with our self-worth to see if it’s true. If there’s any part of us that believes it, we feel bad.
This doesn’t excuse anyone’s behavior, but it does remind us that other people must also be in a fragile place too, and they don’t know how to express themselves in a resourceful way. Remember that people can’t humiliate or embarrass you if you can stand proud in who you are.
The fourth item we talked about has to do with preventing humiliation to begin with. And one thing you can do is to admit to yourself the worst of the worst. Who do you hate? Who do you want dead? Whether it’s true or not, it doesn’t matter. Verbalization of emotions helps release the emotions.
You’ll find that after you express this in a safe environment, the energy behind the emotions dissipates, and maybe you won’t feel the hate anymore. Maybe you’ll just be indifferent towards that person. You can still dislike someone and want nothing to do with them, but your anger or disdain towards them will no longer have power over you.
Remember, the more intense the negative emotion towards someone else, the more power they have over you. Release those emotions, and you are free of their power. It’s possible you are stuck with them in one way or another, but your psychological state will be free of their grip.
Hate isn’t meant to be permanent, it is meant to be expressed. Once expressed, there’s no need for it to exist anymore.
The last item we talked about is that if you have an unforgivable past, by your own definition not anyone else’s, then give. Give what you’ve learned to others so that they will not follow the same path. And if you can’t do that, find other ways to give. Giving brings meaning, purpose, and passion to your life. There’s no need to live with the pain of regret, especially when there are other people that really need what you have to offer to the world.
After my brother crashed on his skates, we managed to find a water spigot at the back of a building and got him cleaned up. He was a little dazed and confused, but we managed to skate home to get a better assessment of the damage to his face.
In the end, it turned out the cut wasn’t so bad, and his teeth were stronger than we expected. He managed to get through the ordeal in a matter of days, but for months and even years later, I laughed about that event. I often wondered why I laughed instead of jumping into instant compassion mode. It was a mystery for the longest time. That is until I learned why we sometimes laugh at the misfortune of others.
When he stumbled it was like physical comedy. But knowing he was in pain didn’t stop the laughter at all. I felt bad for laughing yet I couldn’t stop. Why?
There are several theories out there. I’ve read about the activation of mirror neurons inside of our body which basically triggers the same neurons in us as the person going through the experience, triggering us to respond or react. I’ve also read about the term “play frame” which tells us that something serious in a non-serious context creates a polarized response in us. In other words, to some people, watching someone walking on a balance beam and falling off is common, and appropriate for the context. After all, people learn how to use a balance beam by learning how not to fall off. It’s all part of the experience.
However, if you watched that same person crossing a parking lot and tripping over a curb, you might have the urge to laugh. It’s not a common occurrence. Though I’m sure if you saw people trip over the same curb over and over again you’d finally get used to it and it wouldn’t be funny anymore. You’d expect it therefore it wouldn’t make a comical impact.
And that’s where laughter tends to come from Unexpected circumstances in a safe context.
An unsafe context might be someone running from a burning building and tripping as he runs out the door. This may not be humorous. But a person running from a building for seemingly no reason and tripping out the door could be seen as hilarious. At least to some people.
The unexpected makes us laugh, especially when there is no apparent danger. I thought my brother would be fine when I watched him crash but it was so unexpected. So I laughed. It was probably a defense mechanism inside of me, or those mirror neurons, or something else, but the cause was the unexpected occurrence of the event. It has to be surprising or it won’t be funny. So when your pants fall down as you lift that box, you will surprise others and they will likely laugh.
Even the most empathetic people have laughed at things that weren’t funny to the person it was happening to. Not because they didn’t care but likely because they were surprised, and it triggered their nervous system to respond. And once the nervous system kicks in, it’s hard to stop the laughter.
I don’t know the science behind it, but I do know that it isn’t a judgment and more of a knee-jerk, unconscious reaction. Similar to when you are threatened and fight or flight kicks in. When you are surprised by something non-threatening, a laugh or cry kicks in. It’s automatic.
So the next time you hear someone laughing at something you did, just say “So what!” and laugh along with them. Life will be so much easier when you can enjoy the ride.
Know that almost everyone has something they are embarrassed, ashamed, or humiliated about. You are not alone! Just think about that for a minute. What’s the difference between slipping on a banana peel in front of your friends and slipping on a banana peel with your friends? If you treat them as one and the same you can’t be humiliated. After all, humiliation comes when you feel you are alone in a situation.
And if you find the sudden urge to laugh at someone else, it may be hard to stop. But you can say this to yourself, “That could have been me”. This will help to bring you back to a more compassionate place. But don’t feel bad if you can’t help it (just try to conceal it as best as you can!). 😉
What a fascinating topic Paul! For me, it boils down to having a sense of humor and not taking myself to seriously. I don’t find most people to be vicious or go out of their way to embarrass me. So if I embarrass myself, it’s my own feelings I have to deal with. Thankfully I’m able to laugh most things off and let them go!
Excellent! I should have mentioned that in the episode, great point Charlie. Having a sense of humor about life itself is so helpful to deal with a lot of the challenges that are thrown your way. Thank you so much for your great comment!
Another great episode! Oh, I have so many embarrassing stories about myself I could tell… and one of the thoughts that I love when I feel humiliated either by my own behavior or by what someone else might be thinking of me is “what you think of me is none of my business!” <== it works!
Haha! Excellent! I haven’t heard that before. What a great reframe. I may steal that. Thank you for that wonderful comment.
Great article! Well, I guess everyone has his/her own embarrassing story. And sometimes that unpleasant experience will hold us back in some things and it really does help if we will just laugh at it.
“Life will be so much easier when you can enjoy the ride.” <-- I like this. 🙂 Awesome post!
Yes! The ups and downs of life come no matter what, so just go with the flow. Thank you so much for your comment Justin!
Great episode Paul! You’re right you have to overcome the fear of humiliation. However, if people are outright trying to humiliate you… then those aren’t really people you want to surround yourself with. I choose to ignore those people and not let them try to bring me down.
That’s so important Anthony, and a great point! Don’t hang around with those who bring you down. That could be a whole show in itself. Thank you so much for your comment!
Paul, another fantastic episode! I really never thought of the definition of humility to be what it actually is: Humility is when you view yourself as having low worth, low value, and little importance. Instead I thought it had to do with being humble, though rather it’s humbled to the point of self value.
I like all the comments below. Having a lighter sense of humor about humiliation I believe is very helpful also tucking away the worry of what other’s are thinking, that is surely their own business and not mine. Thanks Paul!
Yeah, I get that for sure! I think we can have a *sense* of “humility” which makes us humble, but if we feel true humility, then we are certainly feeling a lot more down than normal.
Great comments for sure! Thank you so much for taking the time my friend.
I’ve had my fair share of embarrassing moments BUT what matters is how you handle it. You have shared some great points, Paul! And it’s greatly appreciated that you have shared this side of self-development. We are capable of making mistakes in life and you don’t have to belittle yourself. Continue to stand proud and don’t let these “failures” diminish your accomplishments. 🙂
Exactly! If anything, let the failures prove that you are taking action and doing something in the world. So many people choose the rut so that they can stay safe. That to me feels like failing more than anything else.
Thank you so much for your comment!
I always tend to laugh at the most inappropriate times. I think you’re right about it being a knee jerk reaction and not a personal insult. I know the more uncomfortable I feel, the harder I laugh. Which makes me feel bad, but I can’t help it. Thanks for the interesting content!!
Thank you so much for your content! I still laugh at inappropriate times. What can you do if we’re hardwired to do so? Ha ha, I’ll have to create another show on that. Thanks again!
Great topic! I used to get embarrassed when I was younger so frequently because I worried too much about what others thought of me. I’ve realized through age and maturity that even if I do get embarrassed, I am over it very quickly. I’m glad I don’t have time to worry about it too much anymore. Thanks again.
Wow, thank you for sharing Celest! I think age is a big factor in release embarrassment sometimes. You get to a point and think: Why did that bother me so much?
I appreciate your comment.
“next time you hear someone laughing at something you did, just say “So what!” and laugh along with them. Life will be so much easier when you can enjoy the ride” Amen Paul! Life is too short for any other response!
Ha ha, thanks for your awesome comment Frank! Well put. Sometimes you don’t realize how fast situations come and go. Soon, people forget what even happened.
For once I feel like I have listened to someone who thinks in a similar way to myself. Its very refreshing and It was a great podcast, good job I was very intrigued 🙂
Thank you Amanda! Nice to meet a like-minded person. 🙂
A site to bookmark: The Foundation for Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies:
A theory of Humiliation by Evelin Lindner:
Excellent share and addition to this article. Didn’t even know this existed. Thanks so much for sharing!
One of Linder’s best papers:
This paper plays out the dynamics of humiliation within the framework of Lakoff’s and
Johnson’s work on metaphor, combined with a Grounded Theory and a Psycho-Logic
rationale. Humiliation may be responded to within four categories of reactions: i) Humiliation
may be accepted, ii) it may be responded to with depression, iii) it may be countered with
aggression, or iv) it may be reacted to with the elimination of the humiliators, either by
annihilating their significance, or their physical existence, or by an unexpected method,
namely by gaining their respect. The last method is the only one that yields lasting peace. A
Nelson Mandela and a Mahatma Gandhi stand for this alternative. Instead of killing and
annihilating his humiliators, Mandela succeeded in convincing them that they ought to
discontinue their humiliation, thus ‘undermining’ the gruesome paradigm of humiliation. This
extraordinary psychological innovation needs to be better understood so that it can be applied
in other parts of the world where similar situations search for solutions. By presenting the
possible responses to humiliation in their spatial metaphorical form as they occur in commonsense
psychology, this paper hopes to contribute to the urgent learning process concerning
humiliation, in order to prepare for its future prevention and healing….”
This helped me out 100% with what I’ve been feeling for a few days now . I couldn’t go to work because I have been feeling down about how my significant other has hurt me in the past. You hit the nail on the head without me needing to seek therapy. I have the courage to develop a strong self esteem and courage to say So What!!!! Love it . Thank you so much to think more positively to either scream out how much I hate something and to just forgive a situation to release my hurt. Thank you again. A blessing in disguise.
I love it Dee Vee, thank you for sharing this! That’s exactly what I want for you.
I appreciate you. 🙂
Have you heard of derealization?
Until now, no. I just read about it. It reminds me of what can happen to someone during trauma, especially children. Children who go through severe abuse can dissociate, causing them to “check out” just as described in derealization. When they’re in this state, their body can hold traumatic memories but it’s almost as if their senses do not (typically visual and auditory). This can explain why some adults who were abused as children can’t remember the abuse but have PTSD about it anyway.
Humility is when you view yourself as having low worth, low value, and little importance.
Sorry. Nope. Humility is knowing you are no better or worse than anyone else.
So true! Good catch. I think I meant to say “humiliation”… need to double-check and fix this article. I appreciate this. Thanks for your astute observation. 😉
FYI, I’ve updated the article. Glad you caught this because I found many grammatical issues in this article. I wrote this over seven years ago before Grammarly. ;D
I have corrected some semantics as well. Thank you so much!