Have you ever considered that it might be a good idea to embarrass yourself on purpose? This practice, also known as “constructive embarrassment,” is similar to carrying out exposures in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
The idea is that by doing things that you find embarrassing on purpose, you will learn that you can handle your feelings in those situations.
How to Start
The steps to complete this exercise are quite simple, although the act of carrying them out may feel uncomfortable before you begin:
- Choose a situation in which to practice.
- Get into the right frame of mind.
- Complete the action that you find embarrassing.
Though this process is not easy, it is worth doing to change the way you perceive situations.
When you embarrass yourself you do the opposite of what you probably do on a daily basis. This is a mind shift that will help you to stop thinking about situations in such black and white terms.
You might find that you end up not even feeling embarrassed or that others do not even really take notice of what you are doing. You won’t know until you try.
When you practice these tasks, be sure to have a positive and open frame of mind. Smile, laugh at yourself and relax. Perhaps easier said than done, but with time it will come naturally.
Even better, practice these exercises with others who are socially anxious. Make it a group effort, somewhat like what might take place in “outings” during group therapy.
Potential Ways to Embarrass Yourself
Below is a list of potential items for your “constructive embarrassment” list. There are of course many items that you could add that would be more specific to your fears. As with exposures, choose the easier ones to do first and build up to the harder ones.
You might feel that doing some of these things is a waste of your time and the time of those around you. That’s okay.
Remember that your goal is not to gain something from doing the actual task but to seek out that feeling of embarrassment and be okay with it happening.
- Pretend to have a coughing fit.
- Wear a fancy dress to a casual occasion.
- Draw a terrible sketch and ask people what they think.
- Send somebody the wrong type of greeting card for an occasion.
- Pretend to forget your phone number when someone asks.
- Wear your shoes on the wrong feet.
- Sit in the wrong seat on an airplane.
- Ask where the garbage is in a restaurant when you are standing beside it.
- Call up a restaurant and ask to order food that they don’t serve.
- Walk into a movie after it has already started.
- Pay for an item with the wrong currency.
- Do a cartwheel in the park.
- Pretend to trip.
- Call someone by the wrong name.
- Ask a telemarketer if you can call him back.
- Try to buy movie tickets for a movie that isn’t playing.
- Spill your drink in a fancy restaurant.
- On an elevator, turn and face everyone instead of looking forward.
- Leave the house with food on your face.
- If you are a student, ask the question in class that you are afraid to ask because you might look dumb.
- Parallel park when you know you are holding up traffic.
- Take a really long time at the ATM and talk to yourself.
- Take an embarrassing item to the checkout without a price tag.
- Go to a restaurant on your birthday where you know they will sing to you. Tell them it is your birthday.
- Skip down the street instead of walking.
- Blank out during a speech on purpose.
- Make your hands shake on purpose when you sign something.
- Order a messy meal like spaghetti on a date.
While these tasks may seem insurmountable at first, over time you might notice that your fear of the worst happening is lessened. Actively seeking embarrassment can be quite liberating if you’ve spent your life avoiding it. However, if you try and fail to complete any of these tasks, it could be that your anxiety is still too severe. Consider speaking to your doctor about options to get your anxiety under control.