Embarassment

Today, I wrote a post on another blog about some of my comedy experiences, and, because I mention people by name, I sent an email to those people to clear it with them.

Later that evening, when I thought of the possibility of them reading it, I became acutely embarrassed.

It’s a feeling I’ve gotten pretty often when I’ve written things, before I know how those things have been perceived. I’ve gotten it with things I’ve done in writing classes, nonfiction writing, things I’ve posted on blogs, and personal emails I’ve sent. It’s also a feeling I’ve gotten when I ask women out, which I usually do in writing, since I do a lot of online dating, and also because I still get shy about that stuff.

***
Part of the feeling is the mix of self-exposure with uncertainty. I have no idea how I’m being perceived, and I have no way of telling before somebody responds. Things that have ended well have felt just like things that have ended awfully before I’ve found out which way they’ve gone.

Because I care about the result, I construct extreme scenarios about how people are thinking of me: the worst case scenarios are horrible, and I try to avoid dwelling in the best case scenarios, because I’m sure to be disappointed with any realistic resolution.

These things are weighted, because I am sure to take the result personally; it only occurs when I feel that I am exposed enough to do so.
***
One of my deepest fears is to be disregarded as a person, to be considered so laughable or beneath respect that people stop treating me as they would a whole person they could empathize with. I’m still not sure what embarrassment is exactly, but this seems to me to be at the root of it.
***
People understand a lot of reasons embarrassment hurts. You can lose “face,” you can lose the ability to relate to people as you thought you could. The more a certain relation matters, the more the potential for painful embarrassment. The more an embarrassment clashes with your image in a certain role, the more damaging it can be.
***
Deeper than that, though, is the collapse of self-image. Part of how you see yourself includes how people see you, and that part of it is destroyed. But worse, people know you’re destroyed; they see in your exposure your own self image, and they know that their revelation to you that they see your self differently will destroy this image, and they can watch this very internal thing happening and know your pain as it happens.

At the worst, who you “are” – your subjective experience – is up for trial — although this, of course, is up to the flawed judgment of a human who inevitably has their own embarrassing mismatches, it feels at some cases like it has legitimacy.
***
But there’s something in particular that’s a fear with “earnest” work: that earnestness is bullshit, that it is shot through with urges to shape your image and not to transmit it, that despite what felt like an attempt to express yourself, you were expressing a wish, or, worse, transmitting a deception. And of course, because you must make decisions about your self-image, and you do bend toward what you want, it’s impossible to really be honest, that this shell image will be seen just as a bunch of desire and delusion.

But somewhere in all this there is a self, a self that you try to capture, and really expose, and on some level that’s all you want, is for what you feel are to be seen, and the fear is that nobody cares, or nobody sees it, they just see the noise, or that if they see it they’ll be horrified, or that if they see it they’ll shrink from empathize and pretend you’re the only human there, and they’ll laugh at humans as weak because of course we are.
***
And there’s a fear that all that, that thinking anything is bigger than you are, is just laughable, it’s an attempt to distance everything from the very simple embarrassment, it’s a lack of humility about your smallness.
***
The fear, I think, is that nobody cares about a self, and everyone knows it, and those fools who try to get their self seen don’t even know what a fucking hassle it is, what a joke, and everyone else knows enough to shut the fuck up.
***
The fear, maybe, is wanting to shut the fuck up before someone points that out to you.

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