When I was in high school, I went to a bible study every week at my dearest friend Laura's house. I remember one day she asked our group of young women a question that ever since has continued to perplex me. She asked us,
Why do we feel embarrassment?
Seems like a simple question, but we grappled with it for nearly an hour. Since we were coming at the question within a Biblical framework, we found it nearly impossible to answer. We threw around definitions and explanations and to each one, Laura would answer with, "But if God is saying that you are beautifully and wonderfully made, He loves you, and He is seeking out your heart, then why does it matter what other people think?" And then our group would go back to square one trying to solve the puzzle of why feelings of embarrassment permeated our everyday lives as teens.
Even if you're of a different faith or hold a different system of beliefs, how many times have you heard someone encourage you by saying, it doesn't matter what other people think about you. Isn't the ultimate life goal for most people to live their life and be who they are without caring about judgment from others? If this is true and if this is what we strive for, then the question remains the same. Why do we feel embarrassment?
It's a complicated question about a very complex emotion that I still struggle with today. I even had reservations about including some lovely shots from my teen hood to give you a visual for a story I'll share with you.
There was a turning point in my life that made me realize that my own embarrassment was determined by the actions and opinions of other people. I realized this when I was in 8th grade. I had braces, a crush on every boy that talked to me, and a good number of bullies that targeted their misery at me. One day when I got home from school, I saw on Facebook that one of the bullies in the group had posted on Facebook. The post read, "Ducky Ducky blonde and ugly." Ducky was my nickname throughout middle and high school- a reflection of my duck obsession. I remember sitting in my bedroom thinking, "You can cry about this or you can own it."
So the next day, I walked into Martin Middle decked out head to toe in yellow. My yellow shirt read "DUCKY" on the back in black lettering, my ponytail was tightly cinched with a yellow scrunchy that was appropriately adorned with a little plush duck on top, and duck earrings dangled from my earlobes. As if that wasn't enough to make my statement, I also took a yellow sock from my drawer and used paint, googley eyes, and hot glue to fashion myself a duck hand puppet. Cool, Meg. You're the coolest. I wish I had a picture of the glorious ensemble, but here's another brace face gem in its place. Let your imagination do the rest.
So I walked down the hallways of Martin Middle all ducked out and I had never held my head up higher. I remember the heads turning and the girls who had commented and liked the Facebook post from the night before sneered as I floated past. But what they never knew, was that later that day, Cory, the cutest guy in school that year approached me in the hallway and told me that he thought my duck hand puppet was super cool. He even asked to try it on himself. Middle school me was on cloud nine.
I know it's a silly story, but that experience did something to my heart. Probably a good 97% of who I am today is a reflection of my attitude towards embarrassment. I've learned that #1, I don't and will never fit in a box. I'm not a cookie cutter kind of girl. If I played it safe all the time, I wouldn't make a difference in anyone's life. I wouldn't bring my chicken to a Miss Taunton appearance and play the ukulele with her in my sweatshirt. That story wouldn't have made the front page of the Taunton Gazette, and every little girl that met me during my reign wouldn't have seen me live by example and be a total unapologetic weirdo.
#2, I learned that fear is never a good reason not to do something. Once I stopped being afraid of what negative people would say about my words or actions, I started making real change. And spoiler alert, negative people always have something negative to say. Recently, I had somebody totally drag my missions work to an entire class of people who are going to school to make positive change in the lives of children and families. I'll admit it boiled my blood a little, but it sure as heck isn't going to stop me from seeking out opportunities to love on the people of Guatemala.
#3, I learned that embarrassment isn't good for anything or anybody. The only thing embarrassment is good for is holding you back from achieving your goals and grabbing hold of your dreams. If I had stayed in my lane and tried to blend into the background, I wouldn't have had the incredible opportunities I was given throughout my years as a dancer. Once my instructors figured out that I was blessed with the "crazy gene", they cast me in roles that allowed me to flourish and make the audience laugh. Several of these roles earned me and my team awards for stage presence and commitment to the art. And we had so. much. fun.
Finally, #4. Not everyone is going to get you. Recently, I was in a position that required me to work with supervisors, who on more than one occasion, mistook my independence for insubordination and my autonomy for disrespect. Shortly thereafter, I was granted a new position under a supervisor who saw these same attributes as major strengths that earned me a stellar work review. It is especially important to keep in mind that embarrassment is routed in self doubt. If you get anything out of this blog post, I hope that you remember to take the opinions of others with a grain of salt. If you don't, you'll find that those opinions have a way of coloring the decisions you make, and ultimately, how you live your life, with a veil of anxiety, doubt, and fear. Bottom line, YOU DO YOU. And do it the way only you can do. I've said it before and I'll say it again:
Guilt, shame, and embarrassment are NOT ingredients in your recipe for SUCCESS.
Seek out opportunities for growth, make mistakes, and learn from the tough stuff. But overall, don't allow yourself to be embarrassed by who you are in your heart of hearts. It's not just what makes you you, it's the tools and gifts that only you possess that give you the power to touch people's hearts and truly make the world a better place.