I was recently on a trip and learned (or rather, re-learned) something interesting about embarrassment. My normal way to keep up with daily exercise is to work out in the morning before breakfast. Because I’m more of an early bird than anyone else in my family, this system works really well: Nobody is awake early enough to ask me to do anything or interrupt my precious exercise routine! When I go away, I try to keep up the same routine, but I often end up in hotels where the room is too small to move around much, or where it would be too cruel for me to jump up and down on the heads of people below me at 5:30am. So, I often go to the fitness room in the hotel. My favourite workout routine is either a specific workout that I get from an app or a combination of that and martial arts practice, weights, and so forth. For a long time, I avoided doing my regular routine in the fitness room, because I was afraid some of my exercises would be embarrassing. All of the other folks in those rooms seem to mainly use the treadmills or stationary bikes. Once or twice, I’ve seen someone doing yoga, but that’s about it. So, I’d just do the treadmill and some weights. The treadmill can be good exercise but is excruciatingly boring. I mean, you’re not going anywhere. It’s like being a hamster in one of those wheel contraptions. And, the TV doesn’t make it any better, because it’s nearly impossible to hear the TV over the sound of the treadmill. Bouncing up and down and trying to read the script on CNN is no fun either. Well, in the past year or so, I decided to just go back to my normal routine (without the yelling or kicking), even in front of others in those small fitness rooms. At first, I felt anxious and a little embarrassed, but I found it helpful to just focus one-mindfully (as we say in DBT) on my exercises and really throw myself into them. My embarrassment went down a bit, or at least I wasn’t as aware of it, until I finished my exercises and wondered whether others thought I was weird. To really conquer the embarrassment, I realized I had to look around and become aware of those around me, rather than intently ignoring everyone. I noticed nobody was giving me strange looks, avoiding me, leaving the room, or calling security. In fact, on a recent trip, an older gentleman came up to me and said, “That’s an interesting exercise routine. Where did you get it from?” I told him about the app I use and the other stuff I do, and went back to it with renewed vigour. The next morning, I saw same fellow again, and he told me he bought the app and is going to give it a try soon. This kind of thing has happened a couple of times now. As a result, I’ve begun to realize that my embarrassment wasn’t really “justified” (another DBT term) at all. On the contrary, I’d become some kind of fitness mentor for those poor souls who would otherwise be chained to the treadmill, sweating it out while trying to make sense of the recent news stories about President Trump. Ok, so this might seem to be a simple life lesson, one that you’d think a psychologist would have learned many years ago, but sometimes, the simplest life lessons are the ones we have to keep learning over and over again. And, there’s nothing simple about embarrassment, shame, and other such emotions. I’ll come back to this soon in another blog. ~ Alexander L. Chapman, Ph.D., R.Psych.