SUMMARY: Cringeworthy, or embarrassing, events can replay in our mind in what may feel like a never-ending cycle. We need to work through these thoughts to build confidence, remove doubt and have a safe space to work on our self development.
We call them cringeworthy because they make us cringe – we feel embarrassed or awkward. Sometimes a cringe worthy experience is something we just cannot seem to forget or get out of our minds. We may recall these experiences months and even years after they occur. They can have a lot of negative effect on our lives and our decision making process.
Note: Due to different perspectives, people define what constitutes a cringe worthy experience differently. However, everyone has had an awkward or cringeworthy event in their life that they would like to forget. Look at this post of people sharing their cringeworthy events here.
For illustrative purposes only (but I am sure something like this has happened at one point to someone in the world).
- Franklin trusted a fart that he shouldn’t have. An already very unfortunate event made worse by the fact he was on a first date.
- The hot sandwich guy said, “enjoy your meal.” Without thinking Kate responded, “love you too.”
- Mary was presenting in front of the entire company. She flops and forgets her speech – mumbling instead of sounding confident like she practiced.
- Eric has been crushing on Mark for years. He decides to work up the courage and ask Mark out. Mark says he thinks Eric is a “nice guy,” but he does not want to date him – ouch.
- Amber drank one too many last night. She woke up with a faint recollection of what happened but she feels embarrassed by what she does remember.
Note: Depending on the person, only 1 or even none of these may be defined as cringeworthy.
Cringeworthy events can pop in our heads and go on a repeating loop with seemingly no cause at all. Our brain could be bored, we could be triggered by something in our environment, feelings around the event can be unresolved, etc. Whatever the cause, The reason it reoccurs is because it is unfinished or because our anxiety is manifesting in the event. We can try to push the event out of our minds or practice unhealthy escapism (drinking, sex, drugs, eating, video games, etc.) but the event will keep coming back until we resolve it.
Cringeworthy events can have negative effects on us long after they are over. We need to work through the event so it will stop reoccurring in our mind. When we face it head on we relive anxiety, free up mind space and allow ourselves to move forward in a positive direction.
- They can hold us back. If we have a cringe worth experience that makes us feel embarrassed or like we are “less than” we can form an inaccurate self-image that can result in low self esteem and lead to us holding ourselves back or feeling like we are not deserving.
- They take up mental mind space. All of the time we are spending going over these experiences is not productive and takes our mind from things we can focus on that are productive and can actually keep us from having cringeworthy evens in the future.
- They can be a dream killer. Back to that lowered self-image. If a cringe worthy experience involves our career (like our friend Mary in the example above) we may focus on that one bad experience keeping us from practicing and getting back out there.
- They take our attention away. The time we take to mull over the cringeworthy experience is taking away time from other valuable endeavors. Even if it is getting some sleep or relaxing and watching TV.
- They are manifested anxiety. And anxiety likes to feed and feed. If we succumb here, anxiety will have a pathway into other areas.
- They can keep us awake at night or interrupt or sleep. In order to work on self development we need to get some much needed R&R. How many times do you lay awake at night and have a cringe worthy event pop up? It is time to get them gone.
OK, how do I get rid of them?
The answer here is going to be different for everyone. Try a few of the items below and see what works. Remember: you can do this! YOU are not the cringeworthy experience. It does not define you or who you are as a person.
1. Play out how it would have ideally happened.
Listing my favorite one first. When we think of the event we most likely go over the bad parts and we stop there. We then try to push it away because we feel embarrassed or get overcome with emotions. Instead, we should think about what would have ideally happened. For example, ideally, Franklin would not have sh*t himself on his date and maybe he would have gotten laid.
This is not to have you feeling badly about what happened. This to to have you work through it so you do not just stop and the cringeworthy part and allow a continual cycle of it replaying in your brain. This way, if, in the future you are in a similar situation you are prepared to have it end with a better result. Maybe Kate will focus on her responses to hot sandwich guys so she doesn’t blurt out things she doesn’t mean – or maybe Franklin won’t have Taco Bell before a date.
In this case, Mary, can focus on how her speech would have ideally been presented. Instead of wasting time rehashing the event, she can channel that energy and use it towards practicing for her next presentation. You got this Mary!
2. Consider that it may have not been as bad as we think.
We tend to be our own worse critic. When we think of the cringeworthy event we most likely recall it as being worse than it was. And we most likely stop at the point where we feel we failed. What we tend to do is not realize how it could have actually played out. Maybe Mary’s speech wasn’t so bad. Maybe Mark thought Eric was cute but Mark isn’t gay… I’m all about being positive but sh*tting yourself on a first date is pretty bad so I got nothing for Franklin here 🤣.
Whatever the case remind yourself that it may not be as bad as you thought and if it was bad it is over and you can do better next time – you can!
3. Think of someone else’s cringeworthy event.
While we should only focus inward it is sometimes tough to not worry abut what others are thinking – I get it. Gain a little perspective here and realize it may not be as bad as you think. Maybe a friend called you embarrassed because they did something or someone did something embarrassing in front of you. Notice how you forget about it? Other people are forgetting about yours too. While it matters what we think and not what others think it may help ease our mind when we realizes others probably don’t remember.
There will be those people who seem not to forget (or like to bring up) certain cringeworthy events of others. Just know that this is a direct reflection of that person. They are most likely goin over every cringeworthy events they did in their own mind while they bring up yours or they are so boring they don’t have any cringe worth events of their own – a sad life to lead.
4. Make an accountability circle
We can be really tough on ourselves sometimes and we may tend to think all the accountability is on us. How accountable were we for this experience? Sometimes these events happened when we did not know any better. This is not to make any excuses. It is to help us understand what we did and how much we contributed to this cringe worthiness. If we should have known better than we can acknowledge that and resort to doing better moving forward. When we face the situation head on, figure out who is accountable and resolve it will action items going forward we work though the situation and stop the loop and reoccurring playback.
I’m feeling great. Feeling better?
5. Consult the trichotomy of control
The trichotomy of control focuses on helping us realize the things we can, cannot, and can somewhat control. What Eric did took courage and he should be commending not condemning himself. Eric cannot control that Mark said no. Eric can control how open he is to others in the future. He should not be seeing this as a cringeworthy event but rather as a time saver. He can now stop focusing on Mark and on something more productive.
6. Engage self-compassion
What would you say to a friend who did what you did? Are you saying that to yourself? Forgive yourself and allow yourself to make mistakes. If it is a one off type thing like Amber getting blacked out by just having a good time and having one too many then we should have some compassion for ourselves. If it is reoccurring, we should still have compassion but we also need to work on the underlying issue and realize it may be caused by a bigger problem – maybe Amber needs to lay off the partying and face her issues head on instead of drowning them in a bottle of Jamo.
7. Change perspective
These type of events can help us too. Eric cannot control that Mark said no. What Eric did took courage and he should be commended not condemning himself. If we look at cringeworthy events as life lesson and as teaching moments we move them from negative to positive. Rejection is tough but Eric faced it head on and now he is more equipped to ask for what he wants in the future without fear. With all the practice, Mary is going to be a rock star at presentations.
We can also try to think of it as comically bad. I mean, Franklin, what are the chances? Remember, thinking of it negatively is only hurting yourself. Try to utilize it and make the event work for you.
8. Write it out
Last, but certainly not least, sometimes writing things out helps us to work through them. I have a journal next t my bed and sometimes when I feel my brain is working too much I will write some things out so I can sleep. Writing things out can help us gain clarity and find peace. While we may not be able to resolve it fully, writing it out a cringeworthy experience will help us to work through it better than replaying it in our minds.
I totally understand how it can be nerve-wracking to think of someone reading your thoughts. If you do not keep a journal because of this consider writing it out and then throwing it out. Or you could do a Nancy Drew type thing and come up with your own secret code.
If we are going to do this self development thing I need you to have a clear mind space. Replaying cringeworthy events is counterproductive and will hold you back. It’s like carrying a 70lb weight on your back as you try to sprint up a hill and das not good. You’re guaranteed to lose the race every time.
Continue to work through any cringeworthy events as they pop up. It may be uncomfortable at first but the more you do it the easier it becomes. All of this is really tough. I know. It is worth it though, I promise you. I’m proud of you.
Would love some comments. If you want to share a cringeworthy event below please do so, if not here with someone you are close to or in a journal.
More exercises here:
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- 8 Ways to Work Through and Resolve Cringeworthy Events
- 3 Reasons Why I Have Pictures of Puppies (And Not People) on My Website Dedicated to Self-Development
- Quick Thought: Apr 16, 2020
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