Second-Hand Embarrassment

Passiveobservher
3 min readMay 10, 2024

And how to stop it.

You know those random moments where you’re casually enjoying living your life, when suddenly, your brain reminds you of something cringy you did a long time ago and then you get so embarrassed.

It’s like second-hand embarrassment but of your younger self. Sometimes you could get goosebumps while remembering, Like, I can’t believe I did that (Slaps forehead in shame😭).

Or when, speaking with a group of friends you notice that someone has been trying to speak but has been getting ignored. Now, because you get embarrassed on the person’s behalf, you’re torn between deciding either to listen to the person and make them feel acknowledged or plain up ignoring them too.

Second-hand or vicarious embarrassment is when you personally experience embarrassment, discomfort, shame, or guilt whenever you witness someone else have an experience that’s particularly embarrassing or causes them to be viewed negatively.

But why do we get embarrassed on behalf of someone else?

“Our brains are wired to be able to simulate the emotional experiences of other people and feel what another person is feeling.”

If you’re empathetic or have a high level of self-consciousness, you often get second-hand embarrassment because you sometimes have feelings of anxiety in social settings and a fear of negative social evaluation.

So how can you stop this feeling?

Recognize that we are all humans and basic things that make us humans shouldn’t be embarrassing at all. I used to have second-hand embarrassment, for example, for people who get shut down when they were trying to speak up. I didn’t realize that I was getting embarrassed because I had anxiety about speaking in public, and I stopped getting embarrassed when I learned more social skills.

Sometimes, what you often get embarrassed about might be a pointer to low confidence in that area of your life, like being socially acceptable.

Think empathy always. Whenever you feel embarrassed on behalf of someone, instead of turning away and pretending you didn’t notice (which everyone knows you did) or laughing it off, try walking up to that person and offer a heartfelt apology or help, or encourage them by lending your voice.

People may forget what you said or what you did but they would never forget how you made them feel, especially when they needed it the most.

It’s okay to get embarrassed, I mean, we’re humans after all but what you do with that feeling is what matters the most.

I still get second-hand embarrassment for some K-drama characters. I literally pause the movie or turn it off and go ahead to mourn the cringyness of that character, and sometimes I too get so cringy I skip that entire scene.

Like, girl, what were you thinking!!!! Lol.

I hope I keep any second-hand embarrassment strictly to my K-drama actors and provide empathy to people in real life.

Till next time,

Love and Light.

I’m starting a book club where you get to meet people, enjoy access to multiple books, accountability, and once in a while, hang out. If you’re interested, email me at passiveobserve.her@gmail.com with just one word: Interested.

#

Don’t forget to Like this post and leave a comment if you enjoyed reading this.

Stay tuned to every word by following:

And if you want to, you can support me by buying me a coffee.

Buy me a coffee

--

--

Passiveobservher

Welcome to my medium page, I'm genuinely glad to have you here. I just began writing recently with hopes of sharing knowledge with you.