On Mental Health

Getting Rid Of The Shame Anvil

I’m mentioned before that one of the most powerful tools I’ve started using to combat social anxieties is to use people’s names. Something about being able to say, “Hey Caroline!” immediately makes me feel more at ease in a situation. Even if I can’t think of anything else to say to the person, using their name somehow gives me points, starting the conversation off on the right foot and it has become VERY instrumental in helping me with my social anxieties. This requires forcing myself to really try to remember names using various techniques, and I’m pretty good at it…MOST of the time. If I just met the person I try to use their names often in conversation, “Caroline…have you ever eaten here before?” because that boost of, “Look! I know her name!” gives me energy to keep up the interaction.

However, I do a lot of volunteering for our local running and tri clubs and that puts me in a situation where a lot of people I know are in one place, or being listed in one place, and that’s usually too much for my feeble mind to handle. I get names wrong in those situations ALL THE TIME. And while the overall balance is still on the side of “BENEFICIAL” – those moments haunt me for months afterwards.

I got one friend’s name wrong at a packet pickup in May and she was with her husband and I just…BAM! Called her the wrong name to her face and every time I think of her I get that embarrassment shiver. I keep hoping I’ll run into her again so I can use her CORRECT name and try to redeem herself, but so far – no luck.

And then…last weekend…I met someone new (and she was new’ish to the community) working a shift for a race. We got to talking and a certain elite racer’s name came up and because she’s new I was trying to tell her awesome stories I know about local racers and so I told some awesome stories about this one guy about how awesome he was and then…the next morning when that guy’s name was referenced I realized, “WAIT. I got him mixed up with another guy. I TOLD SOME OTHER GUY’S STORIES.”

Well, that’s embarrassing. Let’s hope she doesn’t know either of the guys, right?

Turns out she was best friends with one of them. Or something. So I’m all, “SHIT. I told stories she knew didn’t fit and she was probably sitting there thinking I was insane or something.”

Here we have two very similar situations that haunt me constantly. I get these, “OH MY GOD…” moments where that feeling hits me and I’m embarrassed all over again. Sometimes it manifests in a physical reaction like a shiver…other times I say out loud, “Oh jeeezz…” just to stop the embarrassment from flooding my body. It’s annoying and I hate it.

So I put a stop to it.

I Facebook messaged the girl from May and explained why I used the wrong name and apologized profusely and I messaged the girl I just met and explained how it hit me I got those two elites mixed up and joked that it was because I was slow and all of the fast people look the same.

Both women responded kindly and happily and you know what?

Retroactive embarrassment GONE. I can think about both moments and just laugh and feel okay about them. I don’t dread seeing either person again.

I know not every embarrassing moment can be extinguished like that, but HOLY CRAP, why haven’t I done that a million times before? Why haven’t I just Facebook messaged the person and said, “Sorry I was an ass.” Because holy crap…it’s like this huge shame anvil was lifted off my shoulders…out of my arms…gone from over my head. I’ve been carrying that shame for awhile and BAM! Just like that. It’s gone. With two easy self-deprecating messages.

I highly recommend addressing any past shame issue head-on if you can because it stops those involuntary shivers of embarrassment that come unexpectedly months later. I have no idea why it took me 40 years to realize that some past shame trauma can be extinguished with a simple apology. Here’s to a much better 40 years to follow. I won’t quit making an ass out of myself in social situations, but I can apologize for it later if I need.

4 thoughts on “Getting Rid Of The Shame Anvil”

  1. I have shouted the wrong elite athletes name as the runner was coming to the line. In our defense, their are 2 that look similar from a distance, with similar running styles

  2. I have the hardest time with names. I try so hard to remember people’s names and often forget until I’ve talked to them quite a few times. For work, I always offer my business card hoping they will give me theirs–then I can write myself a note on it.
    There is a lady in my little village that I’ve know forever but can’t ever remember her name. When I see her at the grocery store she always uses my name and I can NEVER remember hers. I finally googled their family business and figured out her name and then kept picturing her face and her name over and over. The last time I saw her, I was able to remember her name and use it!! I was way too excited in my car doing a happy dance 😛

  3. Random comment to assure you that people read. I have to remember a LOT of names. I say their names a lot, in conversation, to remember. After I have been introduced, and they leave, I write their names down in my journal with a note on how I know them. I review the journal every day. So you could put a part in your bullet journal of names. (I don’t do the bullet thing but it’s fundamentally the same thing.)

  4. I need to send you a picture of my Dad’s journal from the day I got married. he didn’t use his journals for personal stuff too much, but he did exactly what you did and his notes say, “Betsy – Anastasia’s Mom. Black Dress. Stacey – Lauren and Leahs Mom. Blue dress.”

    (He tended to get my friends Betsy/Stacey mixed up because they also had daughter’s the same age.)

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