Embarrass Yourself... Once a Month

Something about messing up has us tiptoeing around mistakes, but embarrassment can help us get ahead by making risk-taking seem a little less risky

Showing embarrassment can make you seem more trustworthy and aware. (Geoff Stearns/Flickr)
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A little secret about your comfort zone: It isn’t a bad place to be. You’re less stressed, less anxious, happier, and perform at a steady level when you’re feeling secure, according to landmark research published more than 100 years ago. But your comfort zone isn’t without its risks. You’re likely less creative and adaptable than when you’re pushing outside your boundaries.

This paradox can be frustrating, but there is a best-of-both-worlds solution: Get outside your comfort zone often enough to make progress, but retreat regularly enough to consolidate your gains, an argument that’s been articulately argued on Lifehacker. Even when your offensives fail, you’ll be making progress. People who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to remember the positives than they are to dwell on the negatives. And making mistakes says something powerful about your character.

Being embarrassed shows that you’re aware of the possible consequences of your behavior. This makes you an attractive employee, spouse, friend, or teammate, says Robb Willer, associate professor of sociology at Stanford University.

Still not convinced you should take some potentially face-reddening chances once a month? Consider this: Being too cautious could shorten your life. One study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that neophobes—people who are afraid of new things—are more likely to die at an earlier age than their nonfearful, adventurous friends. The stress of being worried all the time can weaken your immune system and prematurely age you, the researchers say.

Give it a shot. Speak up at that meeting with the intimidating execs. Join your friends on that night ski. Let your buddies teach you how to bunnyhop on your road bike. In the end, everyone might like you more for the rosy cheeks those chances induce.

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