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5 Ways to Overcome Embarrassment

Excessive grooming and time spent in front of the mirror examining perceived flaws are symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder.
Excessive grooming and time spent in front of the mirror examining perceived flaws are symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder.
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Nobody's perfect. Nearly everyone looks in the mirror and wishes something were just a bit different -- a smaller waist, more slender ankles, fuller hair. But for some people, this self consciousness causes extreme insecurity. A state of constant embarrassment and fear of others' judgment about perceived physical flaws can prevent a person from having normal, spontaneous conversations. She might withdraw from social situations and avoid intimacy. She avoids eye contact, slouches and looks at the floor rather than meeting people's eyes and standing tall. Embarrassment cancels out confidence, and this can negatively impact a career and stunt relationships. How can this embarrassment be overcome?

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When you learn to curb negative thoughts and replace them with positive thinking, you gain more than just a moment's relief from your embarrassment. There's an actual physical change in the body.

"When you repeatedly focus on your trauma, your middle brain responds, which releases cortisol (the stress hormone) into the body, causing a physical stress reaction," Duane T. Bowers, LPC, CCHt, a Washington, D.C.-based therapist told Discovery Fit & Health. On the other hand, if you think about something relaxing, like a great massage you once received, the frontal lobes of your brain will activate and release "feel good" hormones, which cause your body to relax.

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Therefore, Bowers recommends this: "Keep a list of positive memories in your pocket. Surround yourself with pictures of wonderful experiences. Play uplifting, positively powerful music to help to you manage where you keep your attention."

Keeping your embarrassed feelings to yourself is never good. Talk to a friend.
Keeping your embarrassed feelings to yourself is never good. Talk to a friend.
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Keeping your embarrassment to yourself can actually increase your insecurity. In fact, remaining tight-lipped may lead to feelings of shame that there's something seriously flawed about you as a person. Sharing your embarrassment with someone else may help you to shake its grip.

A trusted friend is a great place to start. Ask for her advice about something (people love being asked for advice!). When the two of you talk, explain that you're having trouble with an embarrassing situation; tell her what that situation is and how it adversely affects your life. Ask if the friend has any advice about what steps she might take to ease the embarrassment. Sometimes your pals have unique perspectives. A good friend can validate your feelings and at the same time help you gain perspective on whatever flaw is causing you embarrassment. Most likely it's not noticeable as you think.

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Severe embarrassment can make us insecure around others, avoid intimate relationships and can even compel us to withdraw from society. When the embarrassment negatively affects your quality of life, it might be time to see a professional.

A professional therapist can determine if you have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which the Mayo Clinic defines like this: "A type of chronic mental illness in which you can't stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance -- a flaw that is either minor or imagined. But to you, your appearance seems so shameful that you don't want to be seen by anyone" [source: Mayo Clinic].

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One treatment for BDD is exposure exercises; for example, the therapist may have you stand under a fluorescent light where you feel your flaws are exposed. The exercises are intended to bring up negative feelings and then allow you to learn how to cope with those feelings and gain confidence. Exposure exercises are only performed after the patient has developed some insight about his or her feelings of shame and embarrassment [source: The Journal of Family Practice].

Therapy for BDD is intended to reduce reassurance-seeking behavior, avoidance of social situations, time spent in front of the mirror and on the Internet seeking cosmetic solutions, as well as the habit of scanning other people's physical features [source: The Journal of Family Practice].

In some cases, an embarrassing physical condition can be corrected. So talk with your doctor.
In some cases, an embarrassing physical condition can be corrected. So talk with your doctor.
Alistair Berg/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Because advancements have been made in treatments to correct embarrassing physical conditions in recent decades, the truth is that in some cases, you simply no longer have to live with certain conditions. If something is causing you so much embarrassment that it's disrupting your life, it might be worth it to do some research to see if there's a simple correction for your problem.

For example, if you've stopped wearing shorts because of unsightly varicose veins, discuss sclerotherapy with your doctor. Sclerotherapy is performed by shooting a saline solution into the vein, which irritates the blood vessel's lining so much that it turns into scar tissue and eventually fades away [source: WebMD]. If you have an overactive bladder, home remedies like Kegel exercises and bladder training can help. Chronic dandruff, which is sometimes caused by yeast, can be treated with special shampoos; ask your hair stylist or dermatologist for recommendations. Warts can be treated at home with salicylic acid, which can be purchased over the counter, or can be treated by a dermatologist using one of a number of methods, including cryotherapy (freezing the wart), electrotherapy (burning the wart) or immunotherapy (applying a chemical to create a mild allergic reaction that causes the wart to disappear) [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Hirsutism, or excess hair growth in women, can be treated with electrolysis or laser therapy. Just be sure to see a doctor about hirsutism, since this condition may indicate an underlying medical problem.

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It's understandable that many people want to hide their embarrassing physical flaws. But often it helps put things in perspective when you see how others have risen above extreme physical impairments.

For example, take Ward Foley, who was born with Arthrogryposis, a rare condition that resulted in disfigurement and scars. Rather than to isolate himself, Foley, who calls himself "Scarman," travels the United States speaking to children and adults struggling with illnesses, disabilities and other life challenges. His talks leave audiences laughing and crying -- laughing with his humor and crying from his touching, inspirational stories. He says every one of his scars made him the man he is today, and he even penned a book called "Thank My Lucky Scars" [source: KSN News].

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Or, perhaps you could gain inspiration from one of these two victims: As a teenager, Jeff Fabry lost his right arm above the elbow and his right leg above the knee in a motorcycle accident. But now he's a three-time Paralympics archery medalist who uses his teeth to pull and shoot arrows [source: Nelson]. And you've probably heard of J.R. Martinez, the soldier who, while serving in Iraq, was a victim of a land mine that burned more than 40 percent of his body. While in recovery, Martinez began talking to those suffering from the emotional agony of war's physical damage and discovered the positive impact he could have on others. He became a motivational speaker, and his participation on the reality TV show "Dancing With the Stars" showed he has no shame about his appearance.

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Sources

  • ABC. "Dancing With the Stars: J.R. Martinez's Second Dance!" (Feb. 3, 2012) http://abc.go.com/shows/dancing-with-the-stars/video-detail/performances/jr-martinezs-second-dance/pl_PL5520946/vd_VD55144984
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Warts: Diagnosis, Treatment and Outcome." (Feb. 7, 2012) http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/warts/diagnosis-treatment/warts-diagnosis-treatment-and-outcome
  • Bowers, Duane T., LPC, CCHt. Interview. Feb. 5, 2012. http://www.duanetbowers.com
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  • Hunter, Melissa H., M.D. and Carek, Peter J., M.D. "Evaluation and Treatment of Women with Hirsutism." American Family Physician. June 2003. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0615/p2565.html
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