My Personal Fear of Humiliation

fear fear of failure humiliation Oct 11, 2022


How old are you in 1st grade?

I think we're about six or seven. At such a young age, I was already ashamed of who I was, scared of just about everything and everyone and in my mind, knew that everyone was judging me.

I began looking at the clock about 15 minutes before the bell rang for lunch at 11:45 am. I was in Miss Logus’ 1st-grade class, sitting in the second row from the door, 4th seat in the row. When you have a last name that begins with the letter “S”, you get used to that seat placement since we always sat or lined up in alphabetical order. 

I started to feel like I really needed to pee and was wondering if I could make it another 15 minutes. My eyes were transfixed on the big black hand on the clock hung right above the door. The door where I needed to make my exit, run down the hall to the left into one of the three stalls in the girl’s bathroom at Plaza Elementary School in Baldwin, NY (on Long Island). It seemed like the clock was broken or out of batteries because nothing seemed to be happening as I stared at the hands, willing them to tick faster.

At 11:37 am, I realized I wasn’t going to make it so I raised my hand to ask if I could go to the bathroom, but Miss Logus wasn’t looking in my direction. She seemed to be glancing everywhere except at the back corner of the room, where I sat bouncing my legs and could feel the panic begin to rise up through my body. With my hand still meekly raised, I considered my options.

Option # 1: I could call out while she was talking and say, “Excuse me, Miss Logus, may I go to the girl’s room?” The problem is that everyone would turn around and stare at me. In other words, I’d rather shrivel up and die right in this seat. If I didn’t shrivel, I might get in trouble for calling out during class. Forget that option.

Option # 2: I could just get up and start walking to the door, and when the teacher sees me, I can explain that it’s an emergency. Strike 2... not a chance because then all 28 pairs of eyes would be focused on me and every move I made. This is even worse than Option #1.

Option #3: I could concentrate on something else besides this increasing urge to pee and hold it until the bell rings, at which point I can dash out the door, weaving in and out of the swarm of hungry grade schoolers rushing to the cafeteria. This seemed like the only viable option.

I did not choose wisely.

Turns out, my six-year-old brain was not developed enough to concentrate on something else and prolong the inevitable. You guessed it! I peed right there in my seat just a minute or two before the bell rang. Just in time for those around me to see the puddle that was under my desk and chair, as well as the fresh pond that was forming on top of my desk as the tears flowed down my face.

I wanted the ground to open and swallow me up so I wouldn’t have to deal with the shame and embarrassment of the situation.

As the other kids filed out of the room, Miss Logus took my hand, gave me a tissue and led me out of the classroom and down the hall to the nurse's office, where they happened to keep a stash of clean underwear, which I squeezed into, since most girls my age wore a smaller size. The nurse called my mom and asked her to come to pick me up because I was distraught and unable to finish out the day.

Seeing my mother walk through the door of the nurse’s office caused a new flow of tears to arise. I ran to my mother, my safety net, and squeezed her as tightly as I could, thinking that I wanted to just stay with her so I would be safe. Protected from the terror of humiliation.

Now that I'm looking back, the question becomes, “why didn’t I choose option 1 or 2?”

Well, if you were a scared, insecure, ashamed child like me, that question becomes rhetorical. If not, the answer is that I was scared, insecure and ashamed (excuse the sarcasm). The ironic thing is that I didn’t raise my hand or stand up because I was avoiding having all eyes on me.

In the end, what I was desperately trying to avoid became exactly what I got, but worse, they were also all laughing at me.

Never putting myself on display for all the world to see became my standard. I missed out on opportunities in school, my career and developing confidence due to the fear of being publicly humiliated. I lived my life trying to “fly under the radar” until recently.

I've learned that trying to hide out of fear doesn't protect me like I thought it would 

Everything you desire is on the other side of fear. 

If I had just spoken up and asked to go to the bathroom, it would have been another regular day.

Instead of being humiliated, I would have learned a bit about confidence and never feared asking for what I needed again.

The moral of the story is, where are you holding yourself back out of fear of what others will think? 

Until next time,

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