Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Embrace the Embarrassing

No matter how great our aspirations, no matter how successful we may become in life, we all come from humble beginnings.  We may wish to forget those days, but our past is a part of who we are today.  And if we try to hide it, sooner or later it will come out.  And when it does, people will laugh.  Now, laughter is a good thing, but only we can determine whether they will be laughing at us or laughing with us.

Maybe those embarrassing moments came from the awful hairstyles and clothes we wore 10 or 20 years ago.  Thanks to facebook, we just know those pictures will be coming out soon (we've probably posted some of those pics ourselves, after reconnecting with old friends).  Perhaps it's the stories about our childhood crushes and the silly things we did to win their hearts.  It could be that clumsy moment when we tripped in front of the whole class, or messed up our lines in the school play.  For me, it was a job I had when I was in high school.

My first few jobs (after babysitting) were all through the fast food circuit.  Roy Rogers ... McDonald's ... Wendy's (is it any wonder I've had issues with food?).  I worked the registers, made the fries, cleaned the tables, and did prep work in the back.  That's not the embarrassing part - there's nothing wrong with hard work.  But I had a "special" job on the weekends.  I remember begging my friends not to come there to eat those days, as I didn't want anyone I knew to see me that way.

Of course, they not only came for lunch, but they brought even more friends ... and teased me about it to no end.  At the time, I was mortified.  Looking back, I can understand why they had to see it for themselves ... and capture that moment on film.

About 15 years later, a coworker wrote a bizarre story incorporating cartoon characters, cereal mascots, and fast food frontmen (and women).  I couldn't help laughing, and when he asked why I found that especially funny, I let it slip.  Another coworker overheard, and they both laughed.  Others asked what was so funny, and the story spread.  By the end of the day, people had forgotten my name, and were calling me Wendy around the office.  Days went by, and it continued.  Weeks.  The more embarrassed I got, the more they teased.  It was "all in good fun" ... except that it wasn't fun for me.

I realized that the only way they would ever let it go was if it didn't bother me anymore.  I tried saying that it didn't matter, but they could see right through me.  I couldn't change them, and I couldn't change the past.  The only thing I could do was change the way I perceived it.  I had to take control.  I had to embrace it.  So I went through boxes and boxes of old photos, and dug this one out.  I scanned it, printed out 8x10 copies for each of them, and signed them "Love always, Wendy".  I went to work early the next morning, and left them on my friends' desks.

It worked perfectly.  They loved the photo, and the "autograph."  Upon seeing the picture, they said it really fit my personality - but it seemed to be a compliment (Wendy was cute and friendly), rather than another jab.  As they talked about how great it was, I could literally feel my embarrassment fading away.  It was cute ... it was funny ... it was silly ... it was ... me!  Years later, a few of them still had my picture hanging on their cubicle walls.  I have since embraced not only the silliness of it all, but the response that I now get when talking about it.  

When we were younger, all we wanted to do was grow up.  Now, we're often so weighed down with adult responsibilities that we don't get a chance to let our inner child come out and play.  It's that light-hearted silliness that can keep us young, that can relieve the stress of the day-to-day.  But it is only by changing the way we perceive the situation that we can turn it from embarrassment to empowerment.  No matter how big or small the situation was, the fact remains: we got through it!  Some good came out of it somehow, and if we find that, focus on the positive, we can enjoy each moment that much more - both now and in years to come.

So ... what were you embarrassed about?

**If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!