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Cringeworthy clangers, and coping with them

An Cailín Rua

An Cailín Rua
Anne-Marie Flynn

Recently someone I follow on Instagram posted a story asking people to share their worst ‘cringe’ moments. You know, those times when you send a less-than-complimentary text about someone TO that someone; when you think someone is going in for a hug and they’re not (ugh); when you trip on the step on the way to do a reading in the church; or when you spend an evening calling someone by the wrong name and only realise two days later.
These examples are fairly tame (and yes, I’ve done them all, some more than once), but some of the Instagram-story replies involved all sorts of cringe-worthy and inappropriate scenarios – some with nudity – the type that are hilarious to read, but horrifying to experience.
Is there anything worse than the feeling when you realise, in a heart-stopping, stomach dropping moment that you’ve made a complete howler? When your blood runs cold but your face starts burning, and the sweat starts pouring as you realise that you will never, ever be able to leave your house again?
This feeling is made even worse if your realisation is being witnessed by someone else – and infinitely worse again if you haven’t even realised it yourself, but have had to be quietly informed of it by someone else.
You’ve probably guessed by now that I recently made a clanger.
And yes, I had to be told.
A week on, I’m breaking out in a rash at the thought of it. To save my own blushes and those of the injured party, I won’t disclose details, but suffice to say I shared something with someone that absolutely should not have seen it, and I still want to crawl into a bunker and stay there for a year.
To be fair, everyone else has probably forgotten about it by now. (Who I am kidding? No one ever forgets. Aargh.) But as hilarious as some of these cringe-inducing tales can be, really, no-one likes making mistakes. It’s an awful feeling. But it’s how you handle it that counts.
Like a child who’s been naughty, my first instinct is to hide. If no one else knows, keep it that way! Denial is the future. Less simple to do when your mistake is a public one and there’s nowhere to hide your mess. So in that case, you can either crumple and admit your mistake, or just brazen it out. The former is undignified; the latter just really cements the mortification.
Long-term though, the key is really not to allow your mistake, whatever the nature of it, become a personal setback.
Anyone who knows me will know that I tend to beat myself up unrelentingly when I make a mistake. I can allow the error to overshadow all else, and in the past, I’ve internalised it, categorising myself as ‘useless’, ‘incapable’ or ‘careless’.
Rather than keeping it in perspective, my mistake has coloured my own perception of myself. I have then become obsessive in the aftermath in trying to ensure I don’t make other mistakes. And I am aware that this is ridiculous behaviour.
My advice when you make a silly mistake? Don’t do this. It is not helpful, it is not productive, and sadly, it does not make the cringe disappear. I should know.
My advice when you forget to press record on the tape, when you call your partner the wrong name or when you fall flat on your face in front of a crowd? Ask yourself, has anyone died (apart from you, of embarrassment) as a result? If they did, then I really am sorry. If they didn’t, then you need to marinate in mortification for a while, but then draw a line.
Stop punishing yourself, chalk it down, accept that you are only human and don’t let your mistake cripple you. If you can keep it under wraps, I strongly recommend it. If you can’t, then admit it, apologise, suck it up and shake it off. You’re only human. Alternatively, just leave the country.
Mistakes are essential. The making of us, in fact. Sure how else would we learn? And if there are two things we could do with more of, they are kindness and forgiveness, even for ourselves.
Now… Howaya Maura. About that text you got last week….

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