You smile. You laugh. You talk. Then, you go to the washroom and you are no longer smiling, much less laughing! You want to find the emergency exit now, please!
Yup, we've all been there. You have discovered that you have spinach in your teeth!
How am I going to tie this in with stress, you wonder? To quote one of our more illustrious Prime Ministers, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, "Just watch me!"
After the initial wave of embarrassment has passed, you question why someone wouldn't tell you? Here are three possible reasons:
- There's a perverse (or is it reverse?) kind of thinking that happens when we tell someone that they are doing something that could embarrass them. They feel self-conscious because they may have caused you to feel abashed.
- Being in a socially awkward situation can cause our body to respond with a range of physical and chemical changes that may include blushing, increased heart rate and a change in blood pressure.
- We learn at a young age that certain societal mistakes are unacceptable and cause for embarrassment. In the future, when we find ourselves in a similar situation, the amygdala remembers and broadcasts a stress alert. Preparing for flight, fight or freeze, our body goes through the same physiological and chemical changes as was experienced during the initial event.
The person who chose not to tell you about the spinach may be reliving their own embarrassing situation and reacting to that, as opposed to acting in a more reasonable and considerate manner:
- They just didn't notice. Mismanaged emotions can paralyze us and stress can cause us to view life as if we were looking through the broad end of a funnel. We simply don't see because of cortical inhibition. In other words, the signals that are sent from the heart to the brain become disordered, leading to less-than-optimal functioning. It's the difference between running your Porsche on low-grade vs. high-grade fuel. Or, coffee from the cafeteria vs. your local Starbucks!
- They just don't care. When we're stressed, we lose the genuine capacity to care, whether it be for ourselves, our family or those around us. We have nothing left to give, as we have been depleted by the relentless adaptations we've made to stress.
Yes, I agree, I did take liberties in the hopes that you'll remember that stress does have tentacles that squeeze into your everyday lives.
Finally, a suggestion for you, my spinach-loving friends. In the words of a principal who once kindly told me that I had apple on my nose, "Hey, better me telling you than those grade 7 students out there!"
When you look at it from a different perspective, it is easy to turn your embarrassment into gratitude. Ahhhh, that's better. Now you can enjoy your day with a smile on your face and laughter in your heart.
Care to share?