Embarrassment phobia is an intense fear of being perceived as incompetent by other people. People who suffer from embarrassment phobia are very uncomfortable in the presence of others and avoid social situations and being evaluated by others. They might also have problems with speaking up and asking for help.
If you're a person with a strong case of embarrassment phobia, you may be anxious when:
- You're in public
- In front of a class, group of friends, or strangers
- Talking to people you don't know
- When others ask you questions
It's important to know that embarrassment is normal. However, if you feel like you can't stand when others look at you, you may have an embarrassment phobia.
All anxiety disorders tend to promote shame because of the thoughts, behaviours, and emotions associated with the disorder.
It is easy when you cannot cope with having your thoughts and feelings spiral downward, leading to more intense, self-defeating behaviours. This leads to feeling helpless and hopeless.
Once shame kicks in, it becomes hard to change your behaviour and feel better. Shame is like a vicious cycle that is impossible to break. Shame is a way of thinking that leads to low self-esteem and negative thoughts about oneself, which in turn cause people to feel ashamed and embarrassed about themselves and their feelings.
Shame also makes it difficult to reach out for help because of the social stigma associated with mental health conditions. It is often associated with things like being weak or having poor self-control.
Shame is an emotion that often gets misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated and can be even more difficult to treat than a physical illness. However, with the right treatment plan, shame can be overcome.
Extreme fear makes embarrassment harder to manage by blocking our rational mind and our ability to be in control.
When we are afraid of something, we are also more likely to think about the consequences of our actions. We often find ourselves thinking, “what if I say or do something embarrassing?”
Fear tends to amplify negative feelings, making us feel worse about what we’re about to do. When we’re worried about making a mistake, we are less likely to take action.
Embarrassment happens for a reason and is often a useful emotion. Our emotional brain tells us that we might be doing something that’s inappropriate or embarrassing and that we should probably back away from it before we make a mistake.
In extreme cases, embarrassment might cause us to avoid certain situations altogether because we are so afraid that we’ll make a mistake or come across as incompetent.
The best way to manage extreme fear and embarrassment is to acknowledge the feelings but then do the opposite of what we are feeling. When we feel embarrassed, we need to tell ourselves to focus on what we are doing right instead of worrying about the things we could mess up.
The physical symptoms you experience when feeling embarrassed can differ depending on the situation. This ranges from a mild blush to sweating, increased heart rate, light-headedness, dizziness, rapid heartbeat and chest pain. It is a very real condition that many people suffer from every day.
If you can relate to these symptoms, it is crucial to remember to feel anxious or frustrated about the symptoms themselves because this will only increase the intensity of the emotions that cause them. You don’t want to compound your anxiety or frustration by adding an emotional layer to it.
Instead, it would help if you reminded yourself that your feelings are abnormal and try to use this as an opportunity to focus on something else. For instance, take deep breaths and think about how this feeling is similar to the feeling you might get when you are experiencing anxiety. Focus on the fact that your body feels stressed, but you can still function and behave normally. Try to focus on a positive outcome for your situation and keep this outcome in your head for a bit. You may find that your emotions will decrease by thinking of a positive outcome.
Some environmental factors and negative experiences that may promote feelings of shame include:
1. Feeling as if you’re being watched or evaluated. If you feel that someone is watching you, you may begin to doubt your abilities.
2. Feeling as if you’re not enough. If you are being looked down upon, you may feel like you don’t measure up to those around you.
3. Feeling as if you’re not competent. If you feel like you don’t measure up, you may start to question your skills.
4. Feeling as if you’re not worthy of others’ respect. Feeling unworthy can create self-doubt and cause you to think less of yourself.
5. Feeling inadequate or worthless. Feeling inadequate can lead to feelings of inferiority and worthlessness.
6. Being ashamed. Being ashamed can cause you to lose confidence in your actions and thoughts.
7. Losing control. When you feel out of control, you may not be able to handle what is happening.
8. Being judged. If you feel like people are judging you, you may think you are not doing a good job.
9. Being criticized. If you’re being criticized, it can be not easy to accept that you’re not living up to others’ expectations.
10. Being rejected. Being rejected is often a way to feel as if you don’t measure up.
11. Not being able to express your feelings. Not being able to express your feelings can be very painful.
12. Having to hide your emotions. Hiding your emotions may lead to feelings of guilt and embarrassment.
13. Feeling trapped. Feeling trapped can make you feel anxious and helpless.
14. Feeling hurt. Feeling hurt can lead to sadness, anger, and despair.
15. Being alone. Being alone can cause you to feel alone and isolated.
16. Being judged or criticized by others. If you’re being judged, criticized, or embarrassed by others, you may feel inadequate and guilty.
17. Feeling like you don’t have friends. If you feel like you don’t have friends, it can be difficult to feel supported and accepted.
18. Feeling that you’re not in control. Feeling like you’re not in control can cause anxiety and panic attacks.
19. Feeling that you’re not lovable. Feeling that you’re not lovable can cause you to feel like a failure.
20. Feeling like you’re not important. Feeling as if you’re not important can lead to feelings of isolation and depression.
21. Feeling like you’re not important to others. If you feel like you’re not important to others, you may feel that you are insignificant and worthless.
22. Not being liked. Not being liked can make you feel worthless, unloved, and insignificant.
23. Feeling lonely. Feeling lonely can make you feel depressed and isolated.
24. Losing a relationship. Losing a relationship can make you feel sad and hopeless.
25. Feeling abandoned. Feeling abandoned can make you feel like a failure.
26. Feeling that people dislike you. If you feel that people dislike you, you may feel worthless.
27. Feeling embarrassed. Feeling embarrassed can lead to shame and guilt.
28. Feeling scared. Feeling scared can cause you to feel anxious and out of control.
29. Feeling helpless. Feeling helpless can lead to feelings of isolation and depression.
30. Feeling as if you don’t matter. Feeling as if you don’t matter can make you feel as if you are insignificant.
31. Feeling like a failure. Feeling like a failure can lead to feelings of shame, inadequacy, and low self-esteem.
32. Being treated unfairly. Feeling treated unfairly can lead to feelings of inferiority and worthlessness.
33. Feeling unwanted. Feeling unwanted can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
34. Feeling as if people are critical or judgmental. Feeling that people are critical or judgmental can make you feel like you don’t measure up.
Social demands that make us feel embarrassed are everywhere—in our family, at school, in the workplace. They are almost always related to our social identity. As a child, we may have felt embarrassed about showing our family photos at a birthday party or a friend’s house, because our parents said so.
At school, we may have been embarrassed for failing to perform a task or embarrassing our teachers, classmates, or friends for something we did. At work, we may have felt embarrassed for being late or embarrassing co-workers with an off-colour joke or by taking credit for something another colleague did.
Our social identity is always present at the centre of our sense of self. And it's that sense of self, rather than our physical body, that makes us who we are. When someone asks us to do something we're afraid of, it feels like our social identity is being attacked. And that attack often leads to a sense of shame and fear that shuts us down.
In other words, when we feel shame or fear, we shut down. We freeze. We can't think, act, speak or move. And then everything goes wrong. We end up doing something foolish, like flubbing an audition, getting fired from a job, or making a bad decision at work.
How do you cope with social situations when you feel embarrassed? It's hard to put yourself out there in front of new people when you're afraid to be judged. You don't want to look stupid. You may feel like you want to hide in a corner when that happens. You probably wish you could go home and lock the door and hide inside the closet until everyone left. You think you'll never feel comfortable again. And yet, that's when you need to be the most outgoing. So how do you get over that fear?
First you have to admit that it exists. The first step in overcoming your fears is identifying them and understanding that they exist. Don't try to suppress them or ignore them. Just acknowledge them. Letting them out loud can help you gain some perspective. And the next step is to get a better handle on them.
We all get nervous when we have to speak to someone we don't know well. We might say things that we'd never dare to say to someone we were friends with. We might have certain expectations about the outcome of the conversation. So what are these expectations? What is the worst that can happen?
You're going to make a fool of yourself. A lot. When you fail to follow through on what you said you would do, the person is disappointed, and you're embarrassed.
The key is to acknowledge that you're nervous before you talk and not let it overwhelm you. If you focus on what you want to accomplish and what you're planning to say, your fears can work for you instead of against you. So ask yourself: Am I nervous about this? Why? Is there something I'm trying to avoid? If so, why? Are my fears justified? Would this fear make me anxious?
Once you've identified the reason you're feeling nervous, you can start to control that feeling. You might be able to take some small steps towards conquering your fear:
1. Start by acknowledging that you are nervous, and you know that. Say this out loud. Say, "I know I'm nervous. I'm okay with that. It's just a fact."
2. Now that you've acknowledged that you're nervous, ask yourself why you're afraid. This helps you move away from the irrational fears and focus on the legitimate ones. Ask yourself questions like, "Is this going to cause me trouble?"
3. Now that you've established the specific reasons why you're afraid, you can work to reduce the impact those fears will have on your performance. You can ask yourself questions like, "Is there anything I can say or do right now that will reduce the impact of my nervousness?"
4. Finally, don't worry about what other people will think. If you're afraid of being embarrassed, let your focus be that your goal is to accomplish something, not on what other people are thinking about you. Focus on the fact that you can't control what other people think and that you can only control your behaviour.
A few personality traits that are bound to make you feel awkward at parties and social gatherings include:
1. People-pleasing tendencies. These people want to please others, so they're inclined to do things that make others happy.
2. Fear of rejection. Rejection hurts, but being rejected by someone who isn't important to you makes it worse.
3. An anxious personality. When you're anxious, you worry about everything, and sometimes you can't tell if something's going to be okay or not.
4. Insecurity around people. People-pleasers aren't comfortable being alone with other people. They feel vulnerable and uneasy.
5. Not good at reading body language. You might assume you know what someone's trying to communicate based on their facial expression, but they could be telling you something else.
6. An overthinker. When you worry too much, you're more likely to come up with many reasons why a situation will go wrong.
7. Lack of confidence. Confidence is the best way to get what you want.
Avoiding eye contact may feel like a good solution when you feel embarrassed around people, but it is the opposite. Avoiding eye contact makes you feel even more self-conscious because you feel like everyone is looking at you. This makes you likelier to act awkward and then mistakenly do things that make you feel even worse.
When you look at the people around you, you are more likely to discover that no one is looking at you. This can be an amazing source of comfort and might even help to boost your confidence.
However, looking up during embarrassing moments can be excruciatingly difficult. Hence it can be really helpful to use graded exposure to gradually increase your eye contact with people over time. Doing this will take a huge chunk off the feeling of embarrassment. Helping you move closer toward your goal of increased confidence.
Beta-blockers help to reduce the fear of embarrassment by inhibiting adrenaline production, which is released when we experience emotions such as fear and anxiety.
When people experience fear or anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system is activated. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight-or-flight response, where adrenaline is produced. Beta-blockers are an effective way to inhibit adrenaline production, helping people overcome the fear of embarrassment.
Commonly used beta-blockers include propranolol, atenolol, nadolol, and labetalol.
The fear of embarrassment is such a complex condition, so dealing with it as just one thing is impossible. The most effective way to treat embarrassment fears is to address the different problems that keep it alive separately. This is a very common process used in behavioural therapy techniques.
Here is a list of problems that promote the fear of embarrassment and the best strategies for dealing with them.
You may suffer from a generalized fear of rejection if you feel socially anxious. In this case, you might tend to avoid social situations, be afraid of being embarrassed in public or worry about what others think of you.
Common strategies for dealing with social anxiety include: Graded exposure, learning small talk skills, Practicing confrontation skills, imaginary exposure, and role-playing.
If you struggle with social anxiety and feel uncomfortable around people. Social anxiety can affect your ability to deal with pressure, perform your best at work or give presentations in front of a group. Quite often, this promotes an Imposter syndrome which leads to low self-confidence. This can lead to being less productive and less successful.
Common strategies for overcoming performance anxiety include: Focusing attention away from yourself, positive data logging, visualization, positive self-talk, mindfulness and practising self-compassion and self-acceptance.
This can refer to the fear of a physical change or an imperfection in your body. Body image can cause significant emotional distress and may be accompanied by several other issues, such as eating disorders, substance abuse and depression.
Common strategies for treating body image issues include: Creating mental flexibility in the way see yourself, Self-acceptance, self-compassion, Positive self-reflection.
This can mean striving for an unrealistic standard. It often leads to a fear of failure and being inadequate. When you are a perfectionist, you may set high expectations for yourself. You may try to avoid things you might fail at, such as asking for help or admitting when you’re wrong.
Common strategies for overcoming perfectionism include: Setting realistic goals and standards, Accepting and celebrating your successes, Avoiding judgment, and Learning how to set healthy boundaries.
This is the tendency to put off tasks that are unpleasant or time-consuming. For some people, procrastination is a way to avoid doing unpleasant tasks. Other people may use it as a strategy to deal with the fear of failure or to protect themselves from the pain of doing something difficult. The more intense the procrastination, the more likely the task will never be done.
Common strategies for dealing with procrastination include: Focusing on the task itself rather than the discomfort of the task. Reassessing the task, completing tasks in little chunks at a time.
This refers to the fear that you are unworthy or incompetent and should not have been promoted to your current position. It is common in creative fields like music, writing, film, and design. In these areas, imposter syndrome often leads to over-confidence in your abilities, which can be harmful. It can also lead to under-performance and stop you from taking risks or trying new ideas.
Common strategies for dealing with imposter syndrome include: Accepting your limitations. Practising humility. Developing self-awareness. Recognizing when you are not performing to your best.
When you’re afraid of failure, you may be reluctant to try new things or to take risks. Sometimes, this can translate into avoiding anything that could make you feel embarrassed. It can also result in procrastinating, which can cause more stress and ultimately lead to failure.
Common strategies for overcoming failure avoidance include: Practising failure, Failing forward. Changing your mindset.
Shame is a feeling of guilt or inadequacy. You feel inferior to others and need to make up for that by working harder. When you are experiencing shame, it is often caused by low self-esteem, feeling that you are useless or worthless. When you feel guilty for something you did, this is often because you want to compensate for your feelings of shame.
Common strategies for dealing with depression include: Self-compassion, Accepting that you are not perfect, and Positive thinking.
Conversation anxiety can lead to a constant fear of saying something wrong and getting embarrassed if you are shy. During conversations, you may feel so anxious that you freeze up and fail to get what you want.
Common strategies for overcoming conversation anxiety include: Identifying your fears, and practicing overcoming them, conversational skills training and Learning to be assertive.
If you think negatively all the time, you might notice that you feel bad and start to believe that you are always a failure and that you will never succeed. In fact, you may even believe that you are not worthy of happiness and that you will never be happy. Negative thoughts may also lead to you making mistakes and giving up quickly when things don’t work out.
Common strategies for overcoming negative thought patterns include: Using mindfulness, Positive affirmations, Visualization, Listening to positive music, and Practising the “magic technique”.
if you fear having panic attacks in public because this might cause people to judge you as abnormal. This fear creates a vicious cycle where your fears create more anxiety and make you more likely to avoid public places or social interactions.
Common strategies for overcoming this fear include: Graded exposure, systematic desensitization, and imaginary exposure.
If you tend to feel anxious before an important event, this is probably related to your fear of performing poorly. As your fear is rooted in past experiences, you may expect the worst to happen and thus start feeling anxious.
Common strategies for overcoming anticipatory anxiety include: Accepting that you can’t predict the future and practising gratitude, Practising relaxation, Practising positive self-talk, and Practising the “magic technique”.
If you feel anxious at parties or social gatherings, you may feel like your anxiety is directly related to the fact that you will perform badly, and you are likely to feel worse as the event gets closer.
Common strategies for overcoming social performance anxiety include: Recognizing that you are having a hard time and asking for help, Practising relaxation, Practising positive self-talk, and Practising the “magic technique”.
This can refer to the fear of performing a sex act in front of a partner. Often this fear is associated with performance anxiety. People with performance anxiety are likely to focus on their anxiety instead of their sexual partners, which can make them less likely to enjoy sex and therefore less likely to engage in it. Sexual performance anxiety is associated with many psychological disorders, including anorgasmia, premature ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction.
Common strategies for overcoming sexual performance anxiety include: Learning relaxation and visualization skills, learning to control your breathing, learning to relax your muscles and relaxing your mind, using imagery, talking to a partner about what you are feeling, and practising the “magic technique”.
Take comfort in knowing that there are many things you can do to overcome your phobia. By taking control over your situation and by trying to build new habits, you will find that the fear of embarrassment will become a thing of the past. Read this article to learn how to overcome your embarrassment phobia.
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