Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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I read this tweet from @GaryGulman, a standup comic who gives out tips for comedy writers:

Today, put together a list of the most embarrassing moments in your life. Take one or two and write them out in detail. Next time youโ€™re in front of a warm crowd, work on telling the story.

The idea being of course, that such an exercise trains you to be more vulnerable in front on an audience. I thought about this advice for a bit and found it difficult to remember any particular moments in my life that I feel particularly embarassed or ashamed about. All people have such moments of course, so there are two possibilities: (a) my embarassing moments are so terrible brain has blocked out such memories for my own sanity; or (b) I don’t remember them because I don’t care too much and I move on quickly from them.

I do remember being an insecure and self-conscious teenager growing up, so maybe I should have more embarassing memories from that era? But looking back now on any moments back then that I might have considered embarassing, they don’t seem so bad, at least not compared to other people’s embarassing stories. For all such moments that I can recall, I generally don’t feel a tinge of regret - I think they were things that contributed to my growth as a person and that I should have done anyway.

As an example, the first possibly “embarassing” moment I could think was the first office Christmas party I went to as a working person. Now, if you’re from the Philippines, you know they have this thing where they expect new hires to give a “performance” during the office Christmas party, as portrayed in this comic:

Image credit: Opismeyts

Now back then I was fresh out of college and not a very social animal. And they wanted us to do this ridiculous looking dance that was popularized by local noontime shows of the era. Performing in public was not something I wanted to do, and I had a lot of anxiety leading up to it, as I recall I even considered skipping the event completely. But of course I went through it anyway, and though I cringed at myself the whole time, I think I did learn to laugh at myself a little bit. I credit this event for helping me “lighten up” as it were, be more willing to plow straight through my anxieties, and be more open to doing ridiculous things in public. (I would still be averse to say, volunteering for such a thing, but there should now be a decent possibility of convincing me…)

These days, it’s rare that I feel embarassed about anything. Sometimes there’ll be awkwardness somewhere when I don’t know what to do, but I think that wit can push me through it. I also used to be pretty self-conscious about something like singing in public, like at a videoke session or whatever. This might be understandable given that I’m just terrible at singing - the odds that I can carry a given tune are a bit low. I used to always refuse when offered the videoke mic. But these days I’m more willing - there was a realization at some point that if I sang in public, I wasn’t the one to suffer, it would be the people listening LOL.

There is popular advice that goes “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, and in the grand scheme of things those small embarassing moments you have are pretty much always small stuff, even though in the moment they may feel like almost everything is falling apart. Be willing to laugh at your own embarassments, and move on. Life is too short to be embarassed.

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roytang.net is a personal site, an E/N site, and kind of a commonplace book; I post about a random assortment of topics that interest me including software development, Magic the Gathering, pop culture, gaming, and tech life. This site is perpetually under renovation.