I think “what’s your most embarrassing moment?” might be one of those questions that is actually quite hard to answer. It’s like asking someone what their favourite movie is – there’re just so many amazing movies, how can you honestly expect me to choose just one?! But the embarrassing moment question for me has always been an incredibly easy one to answer – as there’s one day that stands out compared to all the others; one day that, although I can laugh about it now, still makes me cringe just a bit sometimes when I think about it. But embarrassing moments, as bad as they can seem at the time, are actually some of the biggest character-building moments we have. And here’s why…
Sometime into my pre-teens, my school started dragging me and a few others out to athletics competitions; if you were chosen to go, you had to go, it wasn’t a choice. The one time I decided to bail on an athletics competition because I wanted to audition for my school’s dance production instead, I got absolutely ripped by my P.E. teacher who shouted at me and called me arrogant (and the worst thing is… I didn’t even get a role in the dance production. So I took two successive Ls). I’d say I represented my school in athletics competitions for maybe up to three years, and typically I’d just compete in sprints – anywhere between 400 – 100m (including the first leg in all our female relay races). So by the time I got to the third year, my P.E. teacher was very aware of what I was and wasn’t good at. Things I was good at: sprints. Things I was bad at: every other type of sport in the world.
In the first athletics competition I went to, without even talking to me about it, my P.E. teacher put me down for long jump, the 1.5k metre run, and also had me down to run the first leg in the girl’s relay race. Of course, as I know myself, I knew I could possibly do a decent job in the long jump, I could definitely do well in a 100m leg for the relay race, but this 1.5k run? That got a resounding hell to the no from me. The unfortunate thing about being young and in secondary school is that you get virtually no respect from anyone who is senior – they see you as a clueless child and that is how they treat you. So, when I tried to explain to my P.E. teacher that the 1.5k wasn’t going to end well – she basically told me to take a seat.
Turns out I was right.
When the race first started – I was way in front, I remember passing the crowd during the first quarter of a lap and the whole of my school that was in attendance cheering me on. But the victory didn’t last very long – sometime into the first lap I ran out and steam, and before you knew it, I was walking. Let me tell you – that race represents one of the hardest 15-20 minutes of my life. I spent the majority of the race trying to jog, getting too tired and walking out the pain before trying to jog again, it pretty much went in a cycle. My school looked on with eyes that can only be described as sympathetic… and also cofused. To make things worse, I was lapped… more than once. I didn’t just come last – I came dead last. I came so last that I caused delays for the competition… it was that deep.
After the embarrassing incident, I ran into the changing rooms and basically spent the rest of the event crying. The young me had dreams of being an actress – and I remember thinking “they won’t be laughing when I’m a famous actress!” (As you can see, that route of my life didn’t quite go to plan – and that’s a story for another day). On the plus side, I was able to redeem myself a few hours later in the day when I ran in the relay race. I can happily say that I came first in my leg (which was a good feeling given all the people that were looking at me with “lol, you again?” eyes) – and in addition, my P.E. teacher never got me to run any more than 400m after that. A lot of people in school found out what had happened who weren’t in the competition, and we were all able to laugh about it once I had recovered from the embarrassment. In the years after that, when I was still going to athletics competitions, I’d often find similar things happening to other people running that 1.5k race, and it always brought me back to old times.
Of course – I love telling stories but never without a few lessons learned! Embarrassing moments, as cringey as they can be, are actually great moments when it comes down to character building. For a few reasons…
1. They get you to ease up and not take yourself too seriously
After the situation had happened, I definitely took my time to go and hide my face and ball out for the rest of the competition. I was just so embarrassed that so many people had seen me struggle through the race, and get lapped multiple times, and that I’d have to face these people throughout my school life. But the next day when – of course – people were talking about it, I was able to laugh along with them, and not take myself too seriously. More importantly, I was able to ease up. Sure it was embarrassing but it was also funny, and I could recognise that instead of taking myself way too seriously.
2. They build character
Most of the time in life we all put way too much pressure on ourselves to not do anything embarrassing. There are things we stop ourselves from saying and opportunities we don’t take up just for the fear of what others would think. I know this is a situation I’ve been in many times before and I know I’ve stopped myself multiple times from saying what was on my mind for fear of being judged. But what you learn from embarrassing situations is that things really aren’t a big deal. Sure, I came dead last, sure – it was funny – but overall – who cares? It doesn’t affect anyone’s life, not even my own. And I think that something we all need to remind ourselves in the grand scheme of things when we find ourselves overthinking that most of the time nobody cares.
3. You learn for the future
Myself, and my P.E. teacher, learned that day that you should never have me running anything more than 400m. I am a sprinter, sprinting is what I do, this jogging shiz? That was (and still is) simply not up my lane. Even these days when I go jogging I feel like I’m dying (but of course, it has to be done sometimes). This can apply to so many situations, for example – have you had too much to drink before and ended up confessing things to someone you probably shouldn’t have? Maybe that taught you to drink less or to be a bit more conscious about the choices you make when you do drink. Have you been picked on in a class to answer a question and realised you had absolutely no idea what was going on and what you were talking about? Well, maybe that’s taught you to actually pay attention to what you’re learning. There are always so many opportunities in life to learn a multitude of things and embarrassing moments provide some of the best chances to learn.