Dealing with Embarrassment

How do I deal with embarrassment?

This month’s Ask a DEI Professional question is about embarrassment. Our person writes:

How do I work with feeling deeply embarrassed, as in feeling ashamed and concerned that others might judge me?

It’s clearly in the fear family, right? But what is embarrassment trying to tell me?

A lot of it is for sure:
To set my boundaries, to check if I’m grounded. And on the other hand checking in, to see if I am doing something wrong?

How do I find self confidence in that maybe I’m just different and learn to be fine the way I am or with the way I do things? Or do I need to adjust something so I fit in and maybe don’t hurt someone’s feelings?

Thanks for your question! Here’s a reply from one of our DEI Professionals, Sherry Olander:


Embarrassment is a word usually used to describe some intensity of shame. Shame is in the Anger Family because it has to do with boundaries, rules, behavior, and sense of self. But certainly fear might be present for you in these moments also!

You’re off to a great start with setting boundaries and grounding yourself. These two skills are great go-tos and can be supportive in working with almost all the emotions.

And you’re also on the right track with your next question. If shame is present, it’s important to figure out what message it has for us. Two questions you can ask to help explore this and engage with your shame are:

Whose ethics and values have been disrespected?

What must be made right?

If your shame is arising because you’ve crossed someone else’s boundaries, these questions can be helpful to figure that out and decide what to do about it.

Why do we feel shame?

It’s also important to remember that our shame always works in alignment with the agreements we’ve made with ourselves, which we call contracts. And we need to make sure our contracts are authentic, current, and realistic.

For example, a contract that says “it’s important to treat people kindly” might be worth keeping, but a different contract that says “you need to be like everyone else to fit it or to have value” might no longer be a good agreement to keep.

Each person gets to decide for themselves which contracts are right for them. When shame arises it’s often a good idea to check in with your contracts to see if they still work for you. If you realize that they aren’t working for you, practices like burning contracts or renegotiating contracts might be helpful.

Karla describes the burning contracts practice in this video:

How do I build self-confidence?

Finally, when talking about self-confidence I always think it’s important to look at the relationship to anger. Anger and shame ideally work together in our psyche to reach a balance where we are confident to be ourselves, yet still respect others’ boundaries. If we don’t have enough connection to our anger, then shame might feel like it’s overtaking us and become too intense.

Again it’s helpful to look at contracts here because if we don’t have access to our anger it’s often because some old contract is still at work, when it’s time for it to be burned or updated!

Remember to be gentle with yourself as you explore these emotions. I hope this is helpful. Thanks so much for listening to the wisdom of your emotions!

~Sherry Olander

Have you ever felt a similar struggle to what our person asked about above? How did you deal with it? Share your thoughts and comments with us below!

Each month, we’ll choose a question or two for our licensed Dynamic Emotional Integration® professionals to answer right here on our Empathy Academy blog. Do you have a question about empathy or emotions? If so, click the link below to send us your question.

So, what’s your question?

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