In the last few days, I keep having the feeling that I should share my thoughts on embarrassment. Thank God, today I can finally sit down and write about it.
I experienced my first big embarrassment test when I was seventeen and half years old. It was the summer of 1991. I attended China’s National University Entrance Exams in the early July and received the results a few weeks later.
Shortly after the exams but before the results were published, we were given the correct answers for the exams, and were required to estimate our results, then complete and submit an application form indicating which universities we would like to apply for.
Since my estimates were far below the requirements of top universities, which I wanted to go to, I even did not bothered to complete the form. I went straight to the cram school which was run by the high school I graduated from and secured a place in its best class, which was very easy because my results were actually good enough for me to get a place in a ‘second class’ university, which made me the best student in that cram school.
After I’d done that I suddenly realized the embarrassment and even shame I had to face, because I failed to get into a university at my first attempt and had to go to a cram school.
Although most high school graduates in my hometown had to go to a cram school, cram schools and their students were looked down. In those days, my skin was extremely thin and my self-confidence was almost zero.
Therefore, I started worrying about the embarrassment and shame I had to face the moment I received my results. And those worries had accompanied me for the whole year, until I achieved a huge success at my second attempt.
My worries were successfully realized. I experienced lots of embarrassing moments, such as encountering an ex-classmate who successfully enrolled into a university in street, and they called my name before I had time to turn away; being asked by one of my parents’ colleagues / friends about my exam results in street, etc.
Every time I was so embarrassed that my face turned bright red and I couldn’t look at the person in the eye. Sometimes I even wished I was dead. Speaking of that, quite a few ‘losers’ killed themselves because they couldn’t face the life afterwards.
The thing which kept me going was the belief that there’s a better life waiting for me far far away. I was right. I managed to get a place in the most desirable university, Tsinghua University, next year.
However, I did not life happily after. I did experience lot of happiness only for a little while. In that university I experienced even more and greater embarrassments.
In that university, I encountered the most fierce competition I have ever experienced. Having been selected amongst top students in different provinces throughout China, these students were both smart and extremely hard-working. I actually formed my work attitude there, which is 7 days a weeks, 10-12 hours a day. No weekend. No holidays.
This work work attitude has helped me to become excellent in several different areas. But in that university, it didn’t give me any advantages. I did my best. But I was always at the bottom of the class.
The pressure was so huge that I collapsed at the second year. I was seriously ill and had to stay in the university hospital for quite a few weeks. When I was well enough to go home, I was offered an opportunity to have a voluntary suspension of one year. I took it and went home to rest.
Although the few months of relaxation at home gave my body a chance to recover, it did create a new problem for me. Now I had to study with students who were previously one year below me, which was quite embarrassing, and I had to live with that embarrassment for the next 4 years.
Those 4 years were not easy. Lots of pressure. Loads of embarrassments. But I survived again. Because I believed that things will get better after graduation.
I was right. I became financially independent in my middle 20s and became a desirable worker in my late 20s, which helped me to gain a lot of self-confidence. I even managed to become slim in my late 20s, early 30s, and have stayed slim ever since.
However, embarrassment has never completely left my life. In fact, I embarrassed myself a lot of times in the last few times, including my first and only experience of obtaining food assistance from a local food bank a while ago.
Embarrassment has been my companion for many years. Sometimes it’s right in my face. Other times it’s out of my sight, hidden somewhere. But it’s always there.
In the past it bothered me a lot. It made me worry, sweat, feel small, even have nightmares. As a result, I was deeply afraid of it.
I am not afraid of it anymore. Why? Because I have discovered that it’s just a feeling and I am always bigger and stronger than it. This has greatly improved the quality of my life. I worry less, sleep better and laugh a lot more often.
Embarrassment is nothing but a passing emotion. You are an eternal divine being. Once you see the basic facts, you’ll know how to deal with it.