On the last day of school, Sundance Elementary had a celebration. I was one the volunteers at the face-painting station. When asked by two little girls if I would like my face painted, I said, ‘Sure! You girls can do whatever you like to my face.’ They squealed in excitement and the giggling began.
It started out little. At first, I looked like Jem – truly truly truly outrageous – but unsatisfied with typical glamour, the girls asked if they could give me a moustache, a beard and draw some trees on my face. I said, ‘Go for it.’
When they were done, we ran to the girl’s bathroom, and I gasped when I saw myself. It looked like a tropical garden had exploded all over my face. We laughed until our sides hurt.
As a joke, I sent the picture to my editor to use as a thumbnail for my last piece, “Embarrassment as Motivation”. Even though the piece was in favour of keeping quiet about personal inspirations and goals, I realized that embarrassing oneself can be a good thing. It’s in fact been a way of life for me.
The type of embarrassment I defy as ‘good’ are those kinds which seek to broadcast inadequacies, or disseminate ideas before they reach potential. The kind I would define as ‘good’ are those which break the monotonous pattern of everyday life, penetrate the veil of socially acceptable patterns, and engage a different type of sensitivity and creativity in the mind of those confident enough to embrace it. Even if it is not immediately understood, embarrassment can lead to laughter which then breaks down insecurities about ‘looking ridiculous’, which in turn earthquakes the idea that ‘being laughed at’ or judged as ‘odd’ is the worst thing in the world.
There are so many things to worry about these days, and unfortunately, the more awake and educated one is, the more apparent the problems. And there’s nothing funny about the way things are going, but allowing oneself to feel victimized by it, to obey out of fear of social pariah-ism, or to ‘be oneself’, but only within socially accepted parameters is not living, it’s greyscale existing.
Independent thought and ‘breaking out of old moulds’ – if done within the confines of social acceptability, or in other words, in a contrived, controlled or insincere manner – places parameters on the experience itself. This might be the goal of those who seek to maintain the status quo, but people aren’t quos.
So I think that embarrassment can incite motivation, but it a non-traditional sense. It can change habituating patterns that whisper ‘sit down and shut up.’ It can turn externally imposed fear into self appointed laughter, and there is nothing more amazing than the joy that comes from laughing at something because YOU think it’s funny.
So don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself for the sake of making others laugh. Laughing is one of the few pure forms of human expression – one of the only things in life – that wants and needs nothing from us.
All photos by Mary Rose
Hiking Finlayson, Discovering a Hidden Daffodil Grove
My son, Luke, laughing while ‘judging’ at Maritime Musuem
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