What to do after you embarrass yourself in public as a professional

By Brittany Taylor

I made an ass out of myself on Instagram.

I did, folks. You can’t tell me I didn’t. I will not listen. I refuse! I was a total ass and I’m still embarrassed about it.

How I embarrassed myself in public

I was scrolling through Instagram, psyched about how great my boss friends were doing on this particular Friday. Then, I came across one fellow writer that I really want to be online buddies with. She’d just surpassed her 300-follower goal and has posted a screenshot to celebrate the accomplishment.

Like any good wannabe-friend, I congratulated her. And then I called her by the wrong name.

What I did next

The shade of red I turned when she pointed it out was less of a blush and more of a brick. It was the closest I’ve come to a literal /headdesk moment. I wanted to crawl under my quilt and never emerge, delete my Instagram account and pretend I’d never wanted all the things in the first place.

But I didn’t do that. After screaming into a pillow, I left another comment. This one was along the lines of: “OMG, I am so terribly sorry! I feel like an idiot! I don’t know what I thought your name was this instead of that! I’m going to go die now.”

Then, I spent the rest of the day moaning about what an idiot I was.

And then, I continued on, commenting like a wannabe-friend on her Instagram posts and other Instagram posts...and so far, nothing bad has happened to me yet. It’s all OK. I know. I’m just as surprised as you are, fellow paranoid, anxious, awkward person.

In hindsight, my immediate reaction was less graceful than what I wish I would have done. So, here’s my action plan for next time (because surely this won’t be the only time I embarrass myself publically).

action plan

what to do after you embarrass yourself in public

Whether you have a humiliating situation on your fix-it list or see one looming in the near future, consider this guide your all-in-one embarrassment extraction team.

Read on for exactly how I plan on handling embarrassing situations from now on.

Must-do #1: Take it in stride

Some situations do require barrels of exclamation points and apologies. Most don’t. If your embarrassing situations are anything like the one I got myself into, take a deep breath and fake a calm, professional demeanor, even if that’s not how you’re feeling internally.

A brief, “Oh, I’m sorry! What a silly mistake,” is fine. Seriously. Apologize once—without freaking out—and carry on.

Must-do #2: Move on mentally

Repeat after me: “Embarrassing shit happens all the time.” Also: “Nobody cares about this as much as I care about this,” and, “If I’m going to worry about something, I should worry about something that will make a difference.”

Remember, once you’ve done your damage control, the embarrassing situation is out of your hands. Try not to let it ruin your day, crack your confidence, or kill your productivity. You still got this, boss. A flub doesn’t change that.

Must-do #3: Tweak your system so you don’t become a repeat offender

From this moment on, I will never forget this fellow boss’ name. I will also never not double-check a friend’s name when I go to leave a comment on a social media account.

Your tweak can probably be similarly small. Slipped in a coffee shop right in front of a client? Stick strips of duct tape to the bottom of your soles. Didn’t change the dates on a promo email you copied in ConvertKit? Add a date-specific proofreading step to your newsletter workflow.

Most of the embarrassing situations we find ourselves in can be avoided. For those that can’t, know that they are not even close to being the huge deal you think they are. Seriously. Nobody cares. It’s just you freaking out in anxiety-land.

Well, you and me both. We’re in this together.

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- Brittany Taylor