That was me today when I was teaching my English class. For over 3 hours, in front of 8 students. I knew they were laughing at something. And I only noticed after. When even the shiest and most modest student who barely ever smiles and definitely never laughs is suddenly laughing out loud, something’s got to be up.
That’s kind of embarrassing. But really, is it? What exactly is embarrassment – looking like a fool in a public place among your peers or people who you want to respect or like you? It’s something like that. It’s got something to do with a fear of being ostracised and banished from your pack. It’s got a lot to do with this. And it’s only humans who feel it (as far as we know).
We can learn a lot from dogs (and animals in general). They can teach us a lot about being happy, connecting to people and living a life of just being present in the now.
My dog Chunky often does something stupid. He slams his head into doors and cabinets, trips and falls over chasing the ball at the beach, or rolls off the couch right, smack bang, onto his face. Does he care when me and my girlfriend laugh at him? No. Is he embarrassed? Hell no. He just gets up, and that ’embarrassing’ thing just happened is just simply a thing that happened. There’s nothing more to it. It doesn’t affect him at all.
When I think of the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me, it was in Grade 4.
One night back in 1992, in Grade 4, this girl I liked, Elena DeMarco and I were in a school play, in front of all the parents and teachers. It felt like there was about a thousand people there, but looking back now, it was probably more like one hundred. It was some type of animal-themed production and at one point I had to put this necklace on Elena, but the necklace was made of these huge feathers or something equally as cumbersome, and when it came time, I couldn’t get it on her. She had some kind of headwear or hat or mask on and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get it over her head.
Time stood still.
I kept struggling to put it on her, and all the while people in the audience started laughing just as Elena was becoming more and more embarrassed. The whole ordeal, until I got it on her, must’ve lasted about 4-5 seconds, but it felt like an hour. I was so embarrassed. And it took me weeks to get over it and to bring myself to talk to Elena again.
Since then, I can’t remember another time in my life when I was really embarrassed (maybe one or two other times), but in any situation that could be seen as embarrassing, taking any embarrassment like a dog is the best thing to do. Just get up and move on. Embarrassment? Whatever.
On the bus home this afternoon, as I was about to get off, the driver asked me how my day was. I told him exactly that thing that happened to me today. My fly was open in front of my class. And it actually didn’t make me bad at all. In fact, the embarrassment created a bond between us. Embarrassment can actually bring you closer to people. It makes you look like you’re a real human who can make a stupid mistake, acknowledge it, laugh at it and move on like nothing bad happened. Because really… nothing did. It’s how a dog would take it.