“But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there’s not much else that can really get to ya.” –Christian Bale
I’ve never really done well with embarrassment. And it’s not because I so rarely get myself in embarrassing situations; I’m pretty much adept at that. I’m just one of those people that’s too silly and honest to hold too much of myself back. And quite honestly, that’s something that I like about myself, but it’s also the source of many mortifying situations for me that I often take a long time to get over.
Take last night for example. One of my close friends convinced me to pledge a new business fraternity that’s looking for its first pledge class. I figured this would be a great opportunity for me to meet a lot of wonderful people and learn all the ins and outs of business since I know almost nothing about it. I wouldn’t classify myself as your typical aspiring business bigwig (I’d like to keep my hair the way it is; I can’t see myself being able to pull of the “judge from the olden days” look) And I’m not interested in becoming the CEO of a big old company unless CEO stands for Cupcake Eating Officer. I’m really interested in business because I want to do something that will make a difference in the world and to the people living in it.
So when I showed up to the Resume Blitz and Informal Interview night in a pink cotton dress and a jean jacket thinking that I had pulled off “business casual” I was absolutely mortified to notice that everyone else was in black suits and fancy dark dresses looking like they were part of BPA (no, not Bisphenol A, though I’m sure several people have tried that outfit for the “Anything But Clothes” night at the lodges. It stands for Business Professionals of America, which is a generic term that I just made up but which Google has verified to be a real organization). Things only sunk in further once my friend confirmed what I had already gathered: I was woefully underdressed.
Trying to invoke an inner mental calm, I headed into the interview room where groups of three were being interviewed by two brothers. I was just hoping to make it out of the room unscathed when one of my interviewers asked “What can you offer our fraternity?” I was always the first person to answer each question because I was on the left, and I felt the full meaning of being caught off guard as my skin burned from embarrassment under my unprofessional jean jacket. What did I have to offer? I know you’re supposed to have those business-y answers planned out and ready to go, but the truth was, I didn’t have a whole lot to give them but myself. I don’t have any personal connections to Bill Gates (but one of my friends did meet Randy Jackson once…) and I’m fairly certain my cupcake eating skills were not going to improve their fraternity. So, in my frozen, slightly unprofessional state of “scared shitless,” I picked the least business-y answer out of my arsenal. I told them that I was a very enthusiastic and caring person. I told them they should let me into their business fraternity because I was nice.
I made it about three feet out of the door of the Business School before my embarrassment completely got the better of me. Who says that? Who comes dressed in what turned out to be summer casual and asks to be let into a fraternity because they’re nice while the kid next to her is promising undying commitment to their organization? (He had wonderful answers; I must say I was very impressed with him). I was completely, utterly mortified. But while I was walking around our school’s lake, beating myself up and thinking how there is nothing more I’d like to do but fade into oblivion and quit pledging right on the spot, I came to a hard realization.
There are going to be a lot of times in my life when I embarrass myself simply because I go out on a limb. And sure, it sucks to try something new and fall on your face. But the very nature of embarrassment is that it doesn’t come from what other people think of you, it comes from what you think of yourself. And the truth is, people are going to think a lot of things about you. But it really doesn’t matter. I may not be able to tell them that I’m the perfect prodigy for the corporate business world, or that I’m the greatest thing since sliced-bread. I’m not ever going to be a hard core business person that wears suits and knows exactly what to do.
And sure, I can offer them my commitment, my love of learning, my cupcake eating skills. But really what they’re getting is a somewhat dorky, completely out of her element girl who wants to learn the tricks of the trade because she wants to use them to make a difference. And at the end of the day, I can’t control whether or not they think I’m what they’re looking for. I can only control whether or not I’m what I’m looking for. Dorky? Far too casual? Nice? Yeah. I guess I’m okay with that.