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Embarrassment

Embarrassment is the uncomfortable feeling you get when you’ve done something you’re ashamed of, or that you think will make you look bad. You might feel anxious, get hot or red, or feel everyone is looking at you. We all feel embarrassed sometimes. 

Teenage boy covers face with handWhat is embarrassment?

People can feel embarrassed in all kinds of situations. It can be a general feeling, for example when you meet someone new and find it difficult to know how to talk to them.

Sometimes it’s a particular thing that makes you feel embarrassed – like saying something which came out wrong, or doing something you think other people will laugh at.

Other people’s behaviour can embarrass you too – if someone makes nasty comments about you this can make you feel awkward or humiliated.

Coping with embarrassment

Whatever you’re feeling embarrassed about, it can be helpful to remember that often it’s not your fault you feel this way. It may not make the embarrassment go away completely but it can be good to remind yourself that everyone gets embarrassed and does things they feel a bit stupid about. It is impossible to get things right all the time. If someone makes you feel bad for making a mistake, they are being unfair and are forgetting that someday they will be the one who feels the way you do.

A difficult situation can be made more stressful when we feel embarrassed about what is happening.

If you feel embarrassed, it can be really useful to talk to someone you trust about how you feel – this could be someone from your family, a teacher, a friend, or ChildLine.

Don’t let embarrassment stop you from getting help

When we feel embarrassed about something, it can feel really hard to ask for help. It can be difficult to talk about something you feel is not important, weird, wrong or too private to share. It’s normal to worry that how you feel is ‘stupid’ or ‘not important’, or that other people will laugh or not understand.

Even though it can be hard to share some things, it’s important to know that there are people who can support you and take you seriously. We talk to young people about all sorts of issues - even if you feel embarrassed or ashamed about what has happened, we understand your problem is important and will always listen.

  • What other feelings or situations can lead to feeling embarrassing?

    Embarrassment can be caused by a particular situation or it might be triggered by a general feeling including:   

    • Feeling anxious in social situations. For example, it can be scary to meet new people. Being scared of ‘embarrassing yourself’ can stop you from going out with friends or taking part in activities. Embarrassment in these situations can be mild (you might feel a bit awkward) or can involve strong feelings such as panic.
    • Feeling exposed or vulnerable.
    • Being made to feel embarrassed because of bullying.
    • Self-harming: worrying that other people will make fun of you or think you are ‘strange’ because you self-harm. These feelings can make it hard to ask for help and get support.
    • Experiencing abuse: even though abuse is never your fault, some people feel embarrassed to tell someone about it. It’s important to remember you are not alone and there are people who can support you.
    Feeling guilty about something that has happened.

  • What can I do to feel better about an embarrassing situation?

    Make a joke about it - if something isn't that serious, laughing about what went wrong can help you to feel it isn't something to worry about. Making a joke out of embarrassment can also encourage other people to feel it's something you can all see the funny side of together. You might even find that other people share their own embarrassing stories.

    Try to play down what happened or ignore it, sometimes this can stop you from blushing or feeling really stressed. It's important to remember that just because you feel something was really awkward or humiliating other people might not have noticed.

    Face up to what you've done and think of ways to stop it happening again. If you feel your behaviour might have upset someone you could try to apologise to them and tell them how much you regret what happened.

  • What does embarrassment feel like?

    Feeling embarrassed can be a very upsetting experience - you can feel weird, picked on, stupid, ugly or worthless, even when you have done nothing wrong. Embarrassment can be a passing feeling that’s not a big deal or an overwhelming feeling that is hard to cope with. Sometimes it can seem like the feeling will never go away.

  • What kinds of things do people say they feel embarrassed about?

    There are lots of situations in which people can feel embarrassed. These can include:
    • Meeting new people.
    • Moving schools or house.
    • Talking about things that are very personal.
    • Changes to your body, such as going through puberty (getting a period or when your voice changes).
    • Talking about sex and sexual health or sexual identity.
    • When you feel uncomfortable about how you look. This can be more difficult if your self-esteem is not that high.
    • When you feel other people expect you to do things you don’t want to, for example, if there is a lot of peer pressure to act a certain way.
    • When you do badly at something or someone criticises you.
    • If you’re trying to hide how you feel and someone points out what you’re really feeling. It can be embarrassing to feel everyone knows what you’re thinking.
    • If you’ve done something you regret.
    • If you’re getting a lot of attention for something you’ve done, such as being given an award at school.
    • Your family’s behaviour, especially around your friends.

  • If I’ve done something wrong I’m embarrassed about, should I admit it?

    Firstly, it’s important to remember that something that seems really embarrassing to you may well not seem that way to other people. But when you’re embarrassed it can help to actually come out and say you’ve done something ‘wrong’, if you have done something you regret. It's worth thinking about whether people around you are sensible enough to listen properly. If they are just laughing at you or being rude, you may decide you don’t want to say anything.

    Admitting that you have done something ‘wrong’ can be a sign that you are mature. It shows you can take responsibility and learn from mistakes.

    If feeling embarrassed is getting you down, try talking to ChildLine. We won’t judge you or tell you what to do. We are here to listen and support you

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Embarrassment