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Let them Laugh: Getting Over Your Fear of Embarrassment

A new study has found that sensitivity to being ‘laughed at’ can impede a person’s success in their romantic life. Researchers found that people who have a high sensitivity to being teased or people have an excessive fear of being laughed at are more likely to struggle to find love. 

The researchers behind the study (which was published in the Journal of Social and Relationships) say that people with a fear of being laughed at may misinterpret social cues like a potential partner smiling or laughing on a first date, and wrongly believe they are being ridiculed or rejected, causing them to shut down and not pursue the connection. 

While some people suffer from gelotophobia (a form of social phobia in which a person has an overwhelming fear of being laughed at), we can all relate to the fear of social ridicule. Something as simple as tripping on the sidewalk or getting spinach on your teeth during a date can feel hugely embarrassing, even if we try to remind ourselves it’s no big deal. 

No wonder dating can feel so challenging. It’s hard to put yourself out there when you have an inner voice in your head that’s saying “They’re all gonna laugh at you!” like Carrie’s mom in the infamous scene from the 1976 Sissy Spacek movie. 

So what’s the solution? 

One thing that I find really helps is to reach out to that inner persona who’s shrieking “They’re all gonna laugh at you!”

What part of you is crying out with that fear? Can you give it a name, a face, or some other visual description? Maybe the voice isn’t an adult. Maybe it’s your teenage self. Maybe it’s a child. Maybe it’s a green goblin with red eyes. Try giving it a name and maybe even let that fear speak out loud. What would that voice say if it could talk? “I hate being laughed at!” or “It’s not safe to be seen” or “I’m not good enough!” 

Try to sit in silence and be with that part of yourself, allowing your mind to welcome it and be curious about what that fear looks like and where it comes from. The more you let that hidden fearful part of yourself come to light, the more you will discover its true origin story. Perhaps it’s rooted in childhood, from a parent who told you to ‘stop crying and be a man’ or a parent who would tease you if you ever made a mistake or showed vulnerability. Maybe it’s rooted in childhood bullying or a culture of mockery and sarcasm in your family that never felt very funny to you.

Be open and curious about what comes to light for you. Honor the fact that there is a part of you that really needs comfort and connection, a part of you that you have been ignoring because you haven’t wanted to face some of these tough memories and feelings. 

Then start looking for little ways you can step out of your comfort zone and make yourself vulnerable. It doesn’t have to be a massive step at first. Maybe you will take a new exercise class that you have always been interested in but didn’t feel confident enough to try. Maybe it’s a new style of clothing or a daring new haircut. Play with these low-risk ways of putting yourself out there so that you can get comfortable with the feeling of being scared. So that you can get comfortable being uncomfortable. 

You don’t have to deny or run from the fear. You can acknowledge it exists and do so with love and compassion, such as, “Oh, I see my fearful persona is really loud right now. It’s wanting me to run away and hide. But I’m going to stick with this uncomfortable feeling and keep taking the risk, because I know that’s the choice that will really honor my desire for wholehearted living.”

The best part about taking risks and embracing things that scare us is that we are going to attract meaningful experiences and worthy potential partners into our world. By emanating vibes of self-compassion and vulnerability, you’re going to powerfully attract like-minded people into your environment, people who are also looking to prioritize love over fear, connection over self-protection. 

It’s not going to be easy or without pain. And truly there may come a time when you are rejected or someone DOES laugh at you. That will be hard. It may make you cry or get angry or filled with self-loathing. But you’re strong enough to handle those emotions and to let those feelings move through you and then be released. Remember, as painful as those feelings of rejection or embarrassment may be, there is nothing as painful as a life that is half-lived, a life that is controlled and limited by fear. 

As Anais Nin writes, “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

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