One of my good friends Dan Greco reached out to me last week asking if he could write a post for Rhythm. Of course, I was elated to post (and read) what he had to share, and when I received it to proofread, I was taken by its awesomeness. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
As Americans, we live in a society driven by appearance. All the ads, fashion, jobs, products, cars, TV personas and social media branding we observe have the same mission: for us to perceive them as “cool”. But “cool” is purely an individual perception. With their strategies, we see a million examples of “cool” daily, that they strive to define it for us, and continually in more powerful ways. With this, it’s natural to feel the need to conform, to buy the things society accepts, to exhibit behaviors to fit in with what we surround ourselves with so we achieve a status of “cool”. I’m here to tell you to ignore it. Why? It’s a domino effect. If you learn to ignore influences of society and peers, to create your own definition of “cool”, you can more confidently be yourself and alleviate the pressure to conform. Recognizing this is the first step, and the second step is, like everything else, practice.
Embarrassment is the opposite of “cool”, so in those moments you feel embarrassed it’s because you’re scared that society and peers will reject you. But you’re not the only one in the history of the world to fart in the classroom, trip walking up the stairs, or be the victim of a crazy/weird/bizarre circumstance, so trust this – no one [that matters] cares. The right people will not reject you because they understand that you are a human, who has their moments of failure. It’s tough to stand up in a crowded room and admit to embarrassment or defeat but it shouldn’t be. In fact, my employer Mirum, a digital marketing agency in San Diego, requires all new hires to tell an embarrassing story in front of the entire company. I LOVE this policy because when you admit embarrassment, you’ll see your coworkers laugh with you, not at you. They’ll see you around the office later and proactively tell you their embarrassing story to share more laughs. The pressure to conform is alleviated, and you’re instantly accepted for who you are: a unique human being.
I’ll share something embarrassing about myself – My junior year of college my girlfriend broke up with me because she woke up in the middle of the night to find me urinating on my computer. She said I drank too much, and I agreed. Embarrassing when I had to tell my friends why I was now single and had to borrow one of their laptops to do homework. But to this day, I spin it around positively. College only happens once and I wanted to party and be my weird and absurd self and if she couldn’t accept that about me, not my fault. It’s important to be positive about your embarrassments and failures.
If you’re feeling bold and want to learn to accept embarrassment, reduce your fear of being judged or failure, then try these three exercises.
Beginner: Have the courage to go to your local Goodwill or thrift store and buy a silly hat, just make sure it’s not offensive. Next time you go grocery shopping wear the hat. At first you’ll see people look at you, curious, because it caught their eye, but then you’ll see that no more than 10 seconds later, they couldn’t care less, because they have a life to attend to. If anything, maybe they are grateful for some diversity to their weekly routine. After getting into the store, try to forget about your hat and focus on getting the items on your list and get out of the store, just like any other day.
Intermediate: The next time you find yourself in a good mood, go for a walk down the street, preferably with some people walking on it. Start to dance and walk (and sing if you’re feeling bold) at the same time. Picture the Happy music video by Pharrell. You’ll feel uncomfortable with people around, and a little weird because no one else has probably walked down that street displaying their mood in such a manner. You might think your observers will look at you with disgust, think you’re crazy and weird…it’s possible, but as long as you aren’t being offensive, they wont care and you’ll be forgotten after a few seconds. But what if your mood rubs off on them? What if it makes them smile or laugh? What if they start dancing or your happy tune gets stuck in their head? The point here is, oftentimes having the courage to stand out, be quirky, different, and a little weird has more upside than downside, as influence for yourself and others.
Advanced: This one I leave up to you. Get creative, be random, and most importantly, test yourself. Always test yourself. Create a routine, come up with something new each week.
Life is full of embarrassing moments. As they happen, tell yourself not to care. Remind yourself that there are always more embarrassing things that have happened to other people. Remind yourself you are a human who makes mistakes. Spin them around positively and learn from them. Soon you’ll find yourself feeling proud and confident in the moments where you used to feel weird or rejected. Remember that this process is like any physical workout, the more you do it, the better you feel and the stronger you’ll be.
Dan Greco is a digital marketer @Mirum_US and co-founder at entobento.com, a dog treat startup using sustainable insect protein. He has a knack for Startup Weekend business plan competitions, card throwing, sandwich making and validating business ideas. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.