The Theatre of Embarrassment
May 18, 2010
A good title for what this life is sometimes, don’t you think?
I had an experience this past weekend when I found myself in the middle of a surprise anxiety attack and needing to call on my friends to help me out. I found myself face to face with my inner demons, and it freaked me out.
I could say more about the anxiety and the demons, but what I’m left with right now is recalling how I felt compelled to apologize to my friends over and over again for needing their help. At least I thought I had to. They, being good friends, were happy to be there for me. But I always put so much value on keeping everything about me so together all the time! So when I lose it (my cool; my equilibrium) I feel like it’s some kind of failure. Like I’m supposed to live up not only to my own expectations of how I think I’m supposed to show up, but everyone else’s as well, and all the time. I was embarrassed I broke that unspoken contract that asserts that “You act like ‘you’ over there, and I’ll act like ‘me’ over here, so neither of us will get exposed to the unexpected and suffer the discomfort that results”.
This is where the concept of “dignity” becomes a dungeon and “self” a straightjacket. Imagine that I felt the urge to apologize for needing help! Or for exhibiting a part of myself I normally keep under wraps. A good friend of mine referred in a recent email of grappling with “…the places within my psyche where I’m reluctant to believe it’s okay to be me”. Yes – especially those parts of “me” that are not cool; not calm; not together.
Then again I always was embarrassed to be afraid, which is mostly what I was suffering from the other night.
How much energy does it take to carry these fears around? And how much energy does it take to keep them buried underground?
Or to keep from feeling embarrassed about something?
It makes me sad to think about it. What else do I carry? What else do I try to hide? What don’t I want you to see?
I’m scared you’ll see how scared I am, and how often.
I’m scared you’ll reject me if you’ll see my “ugly” side – my lust; my greediness; my neediness. My judgmentalness. My bigotry. The bully in me. How ungrateful I am sometimes. How petty or stubborn.
So yes, sometimes life feels like a theatre, or a play set up to play with our pride. Perhaps we’ll be embarrassed less often if we expect this. A lack of levity (or transparency) about ourselves can lead to embarrassment, just as a lack of humility often leads to humiliation.
Put another way, we often play the fool, but maybe the most foolish thing is to be embarrassed we’re playing the fool.
Hey — any thoughts about this?