So once, I was going on a trip with a group of friends. We were loading onto the conveyance, finding our assigned seats. One couple was somehow separated into different seats, and not together. One of the couple was quite annoyed, and voiced it….within earshot of other travelers on the same conveyance. And I thought ‘really?! Does everyone need to hear that? If nothing else, aren’t you bothering and intruding on the experience of total strangers around us?’….and the like. And I felt somewhat embarrassed….and annoyed with that person. At another time, people I was with, seated in differing areas of the vehicle, decided to momentarily call comments to each other in loud voices. Again, I started to feel embarrassed….like I didn’t want other people to think that I knew them, or was a part of them.
Now…right there. How much negativity can you note here in these situations? If you are noting them, are you noting them from the same people I was? Or are you noting them as coming out of me?
It is very possible that both may be true. But what hit me the strongest, right there in that last moment, was “Why?”. Why do I feel a sense of embarrassment? After all, I didn’t to anything to be ashamed of! I was just sitting there, minding my own business. I have nothing to do with this, and I will not hang my head and feel ashamed for myself, or anyone else. I have no reason. They are the ones doing it……and then I started to think further. Why does anyone need to feel any sense of embarrassment? What IS embarrassment? Why is embarrassment? Where does it come from? What purpose does it serve? Is it healthful?
Here’s another example…very interesting to me and possibly to colleagues. I am a sign language interpreter. I have worked with and been involved with many deaf people over most of my life. Many deaf people who are ‘totally deaf’…with no sense of sound as ‘we’ know it….tend to vocalize. Some make sounds that can be recognized to hearing folks as an English word. Some sounds are a partial expression of the full intent of what is being ‘said’. It’s just part of deaf culture…or more accurately, a part of the hearing experience of deaf culture. Many times, even recently, I have been at work and a client has made a typically ‘deaf’ vocalization…and I have felt that inward wince. Why?!
So…..anyone feel uncomfortable reading any of the above? I sure did in writing it. And so….here is my question. Who decided what is embarrassing? Who decided what is considered wrong? And in whose culture did this start?
I will share my feelings on this here, and I would love to see other perspectives shared here. Now….what is embarrassment? For me, it is a feeling of shame, of feeling less important or worthy or as special as those around me. It is a reason to hang my head, hoping people won’t see my face and know me. It is a feeling of wanting to control that around me that is causing me to feel less than. It is shock. It is feeling startled. To some, it is horrifying and lasting for a long time…even life-changing. But…..who decided that things should be embarrassing? Who decided that this is bad, or that is unacceptable, or that is just wrong? We see that so often in our culture, in fashion often. “Oh, that is just SO wrong!” Really? Wrong according to who? THAT is the question that always…always….pops up in my head. WHO decided that this is not good? If some older person shows up on the bus with wildly pony-tailed hair and obvious make-up. If someone shows up in our public space with a reality that causes them to share a lot of direct information or questions. If someone slips climbing the stairs to accept a cherished award. If someone doesn’t speak your language and there is a communication gap? If your best friend is drunk in public and with you?
Who decided these things were terrible? Who decided that they are worth feeling less than? Who decided that they should cause us to feel less than our full worth and value and a human and a living entity? I feel that this would take us into a very interesting and long trail into history and societies. Yet, it is still an interesting question for our now. Why should I feel embarrassed by the fellow traveler who voiced his displeasure audibly? Why should I feel shame with those who shared with each other across space without holding a full conversation at everyone’s expense? Why should I feel like hanging my head when my client makes a totally normal and appropriate ‘deaf’ vocalization? Who decided?
Who decided that certain words are horrible? Like the word ‘fuck’…..why is that bad? We know as a culture that it is…but why? Apparently, ‘ass’, ‘bitch’, ‘shit’, ‘damn’, ‘hell’ have passed the test, because they are heard all the time on network TV after 7pm. But why is ‘fuck’ a bad word? Why is any word a bad one? Words express our thoughts, feelings etc. They express. I find myself all the time in public criticizing/categorizing people based in the language that I am forced to hear frequently on public transit. But really….what made these words so bad? I know I react to them….but I really don’t know why.
And so….why is there a need to feel embarrassed? I don’t believe in it any more….I think it is over-rated. Embarrassment puts us in a ‘less than’ state of mind, and not a positive ‘I CAN’ one. I think embarrassment has helped to shape what are considered to be proper manners and morals…but again, I ask the question ‘why?’. I think it bears a lot of consideration.
And so….my feeling is to buck the trend, and feel good about yourself!! State your reality, and claim it and be proud of it! No matter what. 🙂
Love and Light!