Even though most of us make it our business to never be publicly mortified, let’s face it, embarrassing moments and life are a package deal. I first discovered this harsh truth during a ballet recital when I was 5 years old. As I stood beneath the spotlight and assumed first position, the back of my pink tutu ripped to reveal my Curious George underwear to my adoring fans (thanks, mom and dad).
The incident prompted me to retire my plié. But I’ve wondered since if there are graceful ways to recover from life’s most blush-worthy accidents than, say, bursting into tears and running off the stage. As with many of life’s hard to swallow realities, step one is realizing you’re so not alone, says Chicago-based clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD.
“Most of all, as embarrassing as it is, everyone there has had some kind of embarrassing experience,” she tells me. “It’s really easy to feel like the biggest fool in the room, but it was probably just your turn that day.” Public humiliation is a right of passage (¯_(ツ)_/¯). If you realize you’ve been rocking red panties (or, ahem, Curious George undies) under a see-through pair of white skinny jeans all day at work, take solace in the fact that your colleagues know that particular wardrobe snafu all too well.
“It’s really easy to feel like the biggest fool in the room, but it was probably just your turn that day.” — Aimee Daramus, PsyD
Once you’ve recovered your dignity, Dr. Daramus says to play it cool. Don’t make a spectacle of yourself, and the world won’t make a spectacle of you. “If you’re at work or with strangers, don’t assume anyone noticed. If you pass wind in public, maybe apologize briefly and try to let it go. Even if you can feel yourself blushing, carry on,” she advises. Best case scenario, of course, is that your best friends are present to laugh the situation off with you. If not though, you’ll just have to be your own main squeeze and have an inner-LOL.
In general, embarrassing moments fall under the “no harm, no foul” category, says Dr. Daramus. However, if an accident leads to breaking something (or someone), making it right should be your first order of business. (Farts are and always will be universally funny, but the same can’t be said of other people’s broken possessions.)
Next time the universe spins the wheel of fortune and sends you a hickey on your neck, a face plant in front of your new boo, or pit stains that turn your white shirt yellow, just remember that everyone is secretly thinking: “It me.”