The Emotional Intelligence of Feeling Embarrassed

ByCindy M. Nelson, M.B.A., C.S.L.C.

The Emotional Intelligence of Feeling Embarrassed

emotional intelligence of feeling embarrassed leadership character trait humility

What good could possibly come from feeling embarrassed?  All feelings have intelligence and serve as guideposts to tell you something about yourself.  When you feel embarrassed, it helps you develop humility which is a sought-after leadership character trait.  I read recently that humility is knowing that you are nothing more and nothing less than the other people around you.  (Just think of the vibe you would send out if you possessed this character trait and the positive results you would see in return.)  I’m going to give an example of an embarrassing situation from my adolescent years.  I’m using this example because I’ll never forget it… It was that embarrassing!

At age 16, I got a job as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) at a local health care facility in my hometown.  This particular facility specialized in providing care for the developmentally disabled.  It was divided into four distinct units/floors.  The units were divided up based on the level of care the residents needed on a daily basis.  The floor I worked on was for residents who needed care with daily living activities.  They were not quite to a self-care level that they could live on their own.  Part of my job was to provide some of these daily living activities like transferring the individual into their wheelchair from their bed or putting away their laundry into dresser drawers.  Each individual had their own unique abilities and disabilities, and each individual had their own story as to how they came to live there.

One day, I was in one of the resident’s rooms.  I had just finished putting his clean laundry away.  He was lying in his bed, and we were having a conversation.  He was probably in his early 30’s.  He was a youthful, smart individual with extensive physical disabilities.  His wheelchair was next to his bed.  I decided to sit in his wheelchair while talking to him. (Remember, I was 16 years old.)  While we were conversing, I was maneuvering around in his wheelchair and ended up messing something up on it.  I think the foot pedal fell off.  The resident saw what I did and right away asked, “Why did you do that?”.  My response (which to this day I still remember like it happened yesterday) was, “Because I am retarded”.  It was the 80’s, and this was a term that we would throw around regularly in conversation with our peers.  But, once those words came out of my mouth, I was completely mortified and wished that I was dead, right there on the spot.  The milli-seconds after, once I realized what I had said, was a blur.  There was no way that I was going to be able to fix this.  I remember quickly trying to minimize/rationalize by thinking, “Maybe he didn’t hear me” or “I hope he knows that I didn’t mean it that way”.  But, the truth of the matter was no amount of rationalizing or minimizing would take away what I did and my complete embarrassment.  I ended up apologizing to him, saying that I didn’t know why I said that.  I owned it which was probably the best thing to do in the situation.  But, it was one of the most humiliating moments in my life.

If we don’t feel and own our feelings of embarrassment, we’ll feel like we always need to be perfect which is an unachievable objective.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  Owning them is what gives us the character virtue of humility.  Humility and self-acceptance are the benefits of the feeling of embarrassment.

Another feeling I felt that day was Shame.  Next week, we’ll look at the feeling of Shame and what intelligence it has to offer us.

This blog post was provided by Cindy M. Nelson, M.B.A., C.S.L.C. from Anakh Leadership Coaching LLC. We specialize in developing business leaders and professionals by increasing their self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and overall effectiveness thereby increasing professional success and personal satisfaction in their lives. For more information, please go to

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About the author

Cindy M. Nelson, M.B.A., C.S.L.C. administrator

As a Certified Spiritual Life Coach, I specialize in emotional and social intelligence coaching for business leaders and key managers to increase effectiveness and overall satisfaction in both business and personal arenas. I provide one-on-one coaching in person or over the phone.