Is fear of exposure holding you back?

Having the odd type of job I have, offering privacy and nonjudgement behind closed doors, I’ve learned a lot about embarrassment and its protective function in life. I try to nudge it out of the way quickly, so I can help people get to their deeper emotional truths, but in general, it’s a big, enveloping feeling that often prevents you from making needed life improvements.

Threats to Existence

It’s no mystery why my math skills are horrible.  Middle school math classes weren’t the most enlightened environments when I was young. My remedial class was typically taught by the newest coach who had been hired and full of older players who’d been held back. My lack of confidence exponentially increased in these environments of female objectification, male bonding and performing equations at the board.

Evolutionary psychology would likely say my embarrassment–the pounding heart, hands dripping with sweat– my overall feeling of mortification standing in front of the class, is an adaptive trait, a series of signals warning my nervous system of a threat. Revealing weakness in front of a potentially hostile group is a recipe for death, way, way down in our ancestral DNA. I didn’t feel I was going to get killed trying to solve a quadratic equation, but the embarrassment I felt, the way my body was responding, wasn’t so sure.

Embarrassment and Ambition

As an adult, you can’t have goals without some level of embarrassment, or anxiety about it showing up. Reaching beyond your comfort zone triggers your nervous system to be in a state of hypervigilance to potential attack. Like standing in front of the classroom at the board, you are setting yourself up for evaluation.

The opportunity to be judged, creates adrenaline and cortisol, and recalls those deep DNA fears. On an even more tangible level, your nervous system relies on your subconscious file folder of earlier experiences in which you took risks.

Did your family reward you standing out? Did you feel talented in those early situations? Praised or shamed? Your muscle memory stores all this information and recalls it in moments of impending exposure, the embarrassment is trying to “help” you react to potential threats to your existence.

Embarrassment and Resiliency

The courage to reach for your goal in spite of potential embarrassment is amazing proof of ambition and resiliency, the innate will to overcome. Just as you are wired to protect yourself, you are also wired to face your fears. Overcoming a situation that feels daunting, facing your embarrassment, shame and fear of failure or success, is instrumental in building confidence. You are built for this, but facing embarrassment requires energy and perseverance, so trustworthy, competent support is very helpful.

Embarrassment Reveals Core Beliefs

  • You can learn a lot about yourself by exploring more deeply what embarrasses you.
  • Do you feel embarrassed after a public success?
  • Do you feel embarrassed because someone compliments you?
  • Are you embarrassed when you are the center of attention?
  • Are you embarrassed to admit that you want something?
  • Do you feel embarrassed when someone is trying to demean, humiliate or manipulate you?

Uncovering what interpretations you make about these situations, what core beliefs you are holding about yourself, can be very revealing. As children, we form all sorts of conclusions about ourselves, based on circumstantial, “kid” evidence and arbitrary family folklore. Beliefs such as, “I’m not supposed to shine too bright,” “I’m not good at public speaking,” “I prove my worth through my performance,” “I’m so lame, they don’t like me,” Or, “Why am I so selfish to want attention” are types of childhood beliefs, formed due to your specific family’s idiosyncrasies. They often don’t hold up in reality as an adult, but you can get stuck believing in them as fundamental truths.

Embarrassment on Pathway to Pride

Soul train was my favorite. I practiced every Saturday in front of the tv and in my room constantly, dreaming of becoming a dancer. When the time came to try out a professional class, at 16, I totally choked, mortified with embarrassment. Unfortunately, both my mother and I read this reaction wrong. While my body was scared to death, it wasn’t because I hated it, it was actually because it meant so much to me. It was my mountain I wanted to climb, but I went home instead.

Think about what embarrasses you. A new relationship? Telling someone your deeper feelings? Going for something ambitious at work? This “embarrassment” can be a sign of desire, it’s an opportunity to go for something that can make you proud–the antidote to embarrassment.

Being shy or nervous while you are doing it is totally fine, inevitable, particularly for sensitive people. You are just wired that way and that’s beside the point. And, even if you don’t succeed ultimately, the ambitious attempt, the facing and overcoming fear is how you grow.

My desire to put myself in uncomfortable new spaces, led me to building Love Sex Trust Productions. The products are designed to support you while you face your old fears and inoculate yourself to feelings of embarrassment as you go for what you really want.

It’s fascinating how sometimes we can be so unfamiliar with these fundamental areas of our own selves simply because we never thought to look deeper.

What’s Next for Me?

Your own self knowledge is your most powerful asset in life. Stimulate the conversation with yourself and your loved ones.

Begin by asking yourself:

  • How important are my feelings on this subject to me?
  • Am I being mean to myself?
  • Do I need support?

Read our E-book Love Sex Trust: An Overview


Let it all simmer, until you’re ready for more.


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