Having a red stain on your jeans might feel to you, reading this, like the very definition of embarrassment. But you know what? That’s all it is. And I’d like to convince you that your reaction to such a moment can turn even – gasp! – a period-leak into something positive, something that makes you an embraced member of the flawed community of animals we call human beings.
I study emotions and embarrassment is a really interesting one. We all think of embarrassment as a really negative emotion, right? We dread it! When we’re embarrassed, we feel as though all eyes are on us. We’ve blown it, and we just wish we could either turn back time or somehow disappear from the scene. But it turns out embarrassment isn’t an entirely negative thing; there are a lot of positive elements to this uniquely human emotion.
Think about the face of embarrassment. It’s kind of cute, right? A person smiles and looks down and then looks back up. Some people blush when they’re embarrassed. All of these things that happen on our faces when we’re embarrassed are things that draw other people toward us. Have you ever seen a little kid do that face? It makes you smile even more to the kid, to try to win them over, say if you’re babysitting. Or let’s say a boy you like looks right at you in class. What face are you probably going to show? The same embarrassed face! It has a kind of “flirty” quality to it, when you really think about it.
As it turns out, research studies show that when something embarrassing happens to someone and they react with an embarrassed face, observers like them more than if they show no reaction at all, or if they get angry or aggressive. It’s people who don’t show embarrassment who are rejected socially! When we show our embarrassment with a shrug and a smile, others reach out to us because they see that we’re human, just like they are.
Now, embarrassment has an evil cousin: shame. Shame feels truly awful and when we are ashamed we do not tend to make the sort of actions (smiling or even laughing) that enable others to reach toward us and embrace our human “error.” Don’t let the negative cultural messages around periods convince you that there is anything shameful about your body, even if it leaks.
So go ahead: be embarrassed if you leak in public. And go right on ahead and show it with a shrug, a blush and a smile. You’ll be amazed at how everyone else will smile too. Someone will step toward you and say, “It’s okay.” Someone else will say, “Here’s a tampon. Take my sweater.” See? There’s no shame in embarrassment.
be cruel and see the vulnerability and laugh and make fun of the girl, especially if you're young, which I assume a lot of girls on this site are. If you act unabashed then there's no point in laughing or making fun of you for it - you won't care." - Jenna
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