Embarrassment, Awkwardness, and How to Deal With It​

Written by: Bianca Villanueva – BS (Psychology)

Last updated date : January 18, 2023

We’ve all been in a situation where we just want to curl up in a corner and never talk to another person again. As odd as it sounds, it’s a pretty common occurrence. Not everyone can be a social butterfly. So, embarrassment and awkwardness are pretty normal feelings. Even as babies, we’re capable of feeling some form of shame. It’s a painful experience, but it’s as important as our other feelings. It’s our way of learning not to do something again.

As natural as it is, it’s still a great source of frustration for a lot of people. So why do we feel this way? It’s because it’s normal to not be comfortable in all situations. Being in new situations, we should feel alert. We should keep an eye out for things that make us uncomfortable. It’s the way humans have survived for years, and it’s embedded into our psyche. Still, there are people who describe themselves as socially awkward.

Feeling this way shouldn’t be something to always be ashamed of. Moreover, it shouldn’t be something that stops you from experiencing new things. After all, these are natural feelings. It’s just people feel them stronger than others, and that’sokay. So, we will go over how to deal with it. That will be the goal of this article. So, let’s get into the definition of embarrassment and awkwardness.

Girl who experienced embarrassment from fall off a shopping mall elevator gets flashback

“Practical and insightful” David

70 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use
$9.00 $12.00

25% discount


Chapter 1:

What Are an Embarrassment and Social Awkwardness?

It’s important to note that these are two different concepts, but both are rooted in shame. This is the feeling of humiliation or losing face. When we act in a way people might think is weird, we feel it. When we give them any excuse for people to exclude us, we feel it. Of course, everyone wants to be accepted and fears rejection to a degree. So, it makes sense that these events affect us so much. Some of us even stay up at night for mistakes we made over ten years ago. However, when you ask anyone involved, it’s unlikely they’ll remember it as clearly as you do.

What Is an Embarrassment?

This is when you feel overly conscious about something you did. Even if it might be an imagined failure or one blown out of proportion, it’s a real feeling. It’s a real fear that we might have done something wrong to someone or ourselves. We start thinking that we broke some social rule that may or may not exist. Some people are more prone to feeling this way. Others, not so much.

Embarrassment can be caused even by positive experiences. Sometimes compliments can make us feel this way. We even feel it from watching others make mistakes. In a way, we feel embarrassed for them too. This feeling is all based on the idea that someone is judging you. Instead, the reality is that not everyone pays as much attention to you as much as you do.

What Is Social Awkwardness?

Similar to embarrassment, awkwardness is a real feeling, but it comes from how you feel about yourself. Any experience that makes us cringe and leave a situation can be awkward. Imagine being at a party, and someone you don’t really want to talk to just keeps talking. Maybe you’ve felt it when you think you’ve wronged someone and you have to talk to them too soon. In these situations, it can be hard to express ourselves. Words get lost, and uncomfortable silences ensue.

Still, it’s a real feeling, and it can be frustrating. For many self-proclaimed introverts, social awkwardness is their bread and butter. That doesn’t mean they want to be that way. They just find it hard to talk to other people because it’s hard to read them. In reality, our ability to feel this way makes us more sensitive to others. We can catch social cues or their feelings better. In short, it helps us read the room.

Although, there is a limitation to this advantage. When we’re too sensitive, we tend to panic. A hundred questions about whether we’re following social cues rise. It can make people want to avoid social situations altogether. For them, it’s too much work and stress to keep track of the smallest things about social interactions.

Chapter 2:

Why Is Feeling This Way a Problem?

Social Awkwardness

We have already established that these feelings are natural, and they even exist for reasons that have helped us survive for centuries. Social awkwardness in itself it’s a bad thing. It just means we’re uncomfortable, and we’re worried it might affect the person we’re talking to. Maybe we’ve missed social cues. Maybe we misunderstand something about them. If we feel uncomfortable in a situation, we have every right to step out, even just for a bit. So when does it become a problem?

When People Are Being Mean

When people call you names for being that way, since you’re already in a state where you’re overly sensitive towards people, you might take these things to heart. Even when others are joking, you might take it as a sign that you’re unwanted. This leads to feelings of rejection, and no one wants to experience that. Of course, it’s not your fault that they’re being mean. How you take it, however, can hurt your

When You Spend Too Much Time Thinking About It

It can be a problem when you spend too much time thinking about it. Many of us have experienced looking back at something we’ve done years before and just feeling embarrassed all over again. That’s common and normal. However, when you lose sleep over it, or you blank out thinking about it, it might affect how you work. You know something is a problem when it affects how you function day-to-day.

When It Stops You From Socializing Properly

Being anxious about what people might think about you can be emotionally taxing. When you think of yourself as socially awkward, it actually makes you more conscious about yourself. In a way, it perpetuates the cycle. When you think you’re awkward, you will end up acting that way. You’ll be sensitive and more careful about what you say. You’ll even think too hard about what other people say or do. Whoever you’re talking to might find your stiffness awkward as a result.

When It Makes You Feel Rejected by Others

You don’t have to experience rejection to know how damaging it is to anyone’s mental health. While we can’t help awkwardness sometimes, it doesn’t make it any less painful. It even leads to people fearing interactions with others more. Getting rejected discourages people from interacting with others, which makes them less able to read social cues. At the end of the day, it continues the cycle of awkwardness.


Similar to awkwardness, being embarrassed carries some form of shame. This shame can lead to many negative outcomes. Apart from awkwardness, embarrassment carries a heavier sense of shame and guilt towards yourself and others. Although we did point out that embarrassment helps us stick to social norms better, let’s look into what makes it a problem:

When It Affects How You Interact With Others

We don’t need to delve too much into this because it’s almost the same concept as awkwardness. This simply means that embarrassment can affect you and discourage you in the same way. It can make you feel dejected and wish you would never have to interact with people ever again.

When Secondhand Embarrassment Affects You Too Much

Being embarrassed doesn’t just mean you are embarrassed. Seeing someone get embarrassed or feel embarrassed can make you feel just as embarrassed. While having empathy is a good thing, if you can’t detach yourself, you might get hurt. We mean actually hurt because secondhand embarrassment activates the same parts of the brain as a physical injury.

The reverse can happen too. People enjoy cringing at others at the expense of other people. That’s why people find it funny to laugh at others on TV shows. To them, it’s a form of comedy, even when it’s not intentional. This is a result of a lack of empathy that is a problem in itself.

When It Leads to Self-Destructive Behaviours

Sometimes embarrassing ourselves feels like a non-healing wound. It affects our days, months, and even years after. These memories or similar experiences can trigger the pain they caused. As a result, some people resort to self-destructive behaviours to cope. They isolate themselves from others. They criticize themselves emotionally. It might even cause them to take it out onother people. Men are particularly prone to this when they’re shown they’re not as brave or strong as they should be.

Chapter 3:

How to Deal With the Embarrassment and Social Awkwardness

After we’ve discussed why these are problems, we can’t leave out how to deal with them. Note that these solutions aren’t 100% effective solutions, and they’ll vary per person. Try not to expect immediate improvements. The idea is to get through this day-by-day. Eventually, we hope you’ll find it easier to cope with social interactions.

Not everyone can bounce back from an embarrassing event as some. Ruminating over these events can lead to sadness and anxiety. Sometimes it can take one event to discourage someone from going out for a long while. So how can you overcome this and shrug it off as well as other people?

Think About How Others Will See This Year From Now

It’s hard to realize it at the moment, but we overplay these events in our heads worse than what actually happened. Most of the time, the people involved don’t even remember what happened as well as you do. That isn’t to dismiss your feelings about it. Instead, see it as a way of taking the focus away from yourself. When you consider that other people don’t hold it against you as much as you think they do, it takes a weight off your shoulders. You can go ahead and ask them. You might even find they don’t remember the event.

Remember that everyone has experienced these feelings one time or another. Let’s say you slipped and broke your phone in the mall. As a result, everyone looked at you. At the time, it can feel like you just want to book it all the way back home, lock the door, and never leave. In reality, everyone who looked at you has probably experienced something similar in some way. Everyone slips and trips. What matters is you get back up.

Be Kind to Yourself

It’s frustrating to make mistakes. Anyone would be. Not everyone treats themselves the same. While some people can shrug off a few mistakes, some have a problem leaving them behind. If you’re anything like the latter, try to imagine if the event happened to a close friend or relative. What things would you tell them? Would you treat them differently from how you treat yourself? Most of the time, of course, you would. Many of us hold ourselves to different standards. Even so, learn to see yourself as someone deserving of compassion. This is not only from others but from yourself too.

Learn to Bring Yourself Back to the Present

Much of the pain of embarrassment is looking back at the past. Learn to live in the present and plan for the future. The whole point of making mistakes is to avoid them in the future. When you find yourself wandering into a downward spiral of some mistake you made ten years ago, bring yourself back to the present. Be mindful of your surroundings. Count down. Describe the things around you.

Stop Apologizing and Own It.

Saying sorry sounds like a courtesy, but when done too much, it’s a discourtesy to yourself. You might think you’ll feel better for apologizing again and again. The reality is, it doesn’t make you feel better. It doesn’t make the person you’re with feel better, either. In fact, it’ll make you feel worse. It’ll hammer into your mind that this was totally your fault when it was something out of your control.

Instead, learn to face it head-on. Instead of pretending the blunder never happened, it’s okay to admit that it did. It’s not like no one saw it. Make a casual remark, joke about it, or just laugh it off. Avoiding it will only make you assume how other people feel about it, and, naturally, our thoughts will assume the worst.

Tell Yourself That These Experiences Aren’t You.

In its essence, embarrassment and awkwardness are fears that we won’t be accepted at the end of the day. They’re fears that we’ll do something wrong and people will judge us for it. In turn, we’ll end up calling ourselves “clumsy,” “dumb,” or “a mess” because that’s how we think people see us. In reality, all you really need to be is yourself, and who you are is not the sum of the mistakes you’ve made. So, next time you accidentally drop a glass at the store, get rejected at a social event or feel like you just can’t get it right, stop yourself first. Then, tell yourself that you’re not who you think you are at the moment. You’re not who other people think you are.

"Practical and insightful" David

70 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount