The other day I was watching an episode of Friends where Rachel states she doesn't embarrass easily and then Ross makes it his mission to prove her wrong.
As I was watching I couldn't help think that I am the exact opposite, that embarrassment is practically a second skin to me. I can spend days agonizing over something I said or did that no one but me remembers. Oh man, I can't believe that I laughed so hard at the joke that no one else thought was funny, oh heavens to betsy everyone is going to talk about how annoying my laugh is, they're going to think my brain is made of tapioca, oh man. That's what they are going to call me. Tapioca Brain. Can't believe I did that.
Needless to say, I have never been called Tapioca Brain in my life. And honestly, it's kind of an awesome nickname. Anna "Tapioca Brain" Smith. I dig it.
I literally have Googled "How to get over embarrassment."
Who does that?
Anyway, I started thinking about why I'm like this and I started thinking about the most embarrassing moment in my life and it helped me realize some things. It's not a funny story and at the end of the day I shouldn't be embarrassed, but even thinking about writing this has made my hands shake and my stomach sick - 13 years later. Yowza.
Here's the story. Sigh.
When I moved back to the States after living overseas for the first 14 years of my life I was struggling to fit in (shocker, I know). I only had one friend at first and I was desperate for her to like me. She asked me about boys I liked and dated where I last lived (the topic of 99.9% of teenage girl conversation). Seeing as I was barely a teenager, and really a big weirdo to boot, my number of "boyfriends" was a big, fat 0.
Pause: At 27, I think it's absurd to think about kids that age dating, but at the time I felt like a failure.
I lied. I told her about this guy I had dated and how wonderful it was and blah blah blah.
I can list any number of reasons I lied, and honestly at 14 and in the middle of major transition they are reasonable explanations. But that's not the point of the story, because regardless of right or wrong actions on my part this story has haunted me for tens of years.
Pause: not only did I lie, I lied about a specific person.
Through a series of unfortunate events, with the aid of the newly blossoming technology at the beginning of the millennium, people at my old school found out about my lie, knowing of course that I was a liar liar pants on fire.
How did I find they knew? I'm glad you asked.
Pause: It is important to note that I moved in the middle of the school year, so the following exchange was with the home room class I had just left behind.
I was sitting one night on AIM (those were the days) when my old teacher IM'ed me and said "I heard you told people that you were dating so and so. Why did you lie about that?" followed by "Don't actually answer, the whole classroom is reading this."
Pause: Time change made it the middle of the school day there.
It's over a decade later and thinking about those messages makes me want to vomit.
I flung myself off of my chair, unplugged the computer, curled up in a ball in the closet, and wailed like a child (which I was). I have amazing coping mechanisms.
I changed my AIM name, my e-mail address, and to this day I hesitate to reconnect with any of the people I went to school with there. All because at 14 I told a lie to try and fit in.
I might actually die writing this, my blood pressure is at like a bajillion.
SO. Why am I writing this?
A. To be cathartic. This is a terrible story. Yes, it started with a lie. But what that teacher did is appalling. If I ever meet her again I will have some serious questions on her teaching methods. Putting it on the internets for all to see, while probably boring for you is a big relief for me.
B. I realized that I am so embarrassed by this story because I was shamed by someone else. Facing our failures is hard enough when it is not pointed out to us. I have no idea why that teacher wanted to shame me. I have no idea why we shame others at all. But we do. All the time. We do it to loved ones, strangers, co-works, famous people, neighbors, and ourselves. We've all acted like Mean Girls and have mental burn books. And on Wednesdays we wear pink.
C. My problem is not embarrassment. I can set off alarms at the crown jewels or vomit on airplanes and laugh about it. It's when I think I'm being judged or belittled that it haunts me, when I think I am less than.
D. We did it to Jesus. He was shamed on the cross. It's bad enough that we physically destroyed him, but we completely dehumanized him. That's what shame does. It makes you feel less than human, less worthy of love and security. It robs something fundamental to our make up. It makes you feel alone and little. Judging someone is so much more powerful then we typically believe.
E. We all deserve space and grace. From ourselves, and others. We all make mistakes, some justified, some not. What would this world be like if our love was truly unconditional for ourselves and fellow man? If confidence was allowed to grow naturally and based on our inherent worth that we have from being made in the image of God?
So my challenge to us is this: be affirming to yourself and to others. Stop the shame cycle. Stop giving Satan an easy entry in to our brains.
And if your a teacher, don't instant message with your students. It's weird.
And if you are going to call me Tapioca Brain, don't abbreviate it to TB because then I sound diseased.