Dilbert - embarrassment


The embrace of darkness in full public view is a magic power that even Harry Potter might envy.

Scott Adams’ dubs such shame resilience more than a useful coping tool, but rather one of the ‘Ordinary Superpowers’…

  • “I define an ordinary super power as any useful ability that very few humans possess. For example, having a spectacular voice that commands attention is like a super power. So is being ridiculously attractive, insanely smart, highly energetic, artistic, and so on.., and yes, I have one. I would nominate for my preferred ordinary super power the ability to not feel embarrassment…The good news is that one can learn to control embarrassment. You simply need to experience it so many times that you get used to it. In my case, my natural personality is shy, and as a kid I embarrassed easily. But I’ve learned through practice to power through most of my embarrassments. And that’s a good thing because embarrassment is a routine part of my job. Take this blog. What I enjoy most about it is that there is no editor between you and me. The downside is that you see my spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and dumbass ideas in their raw form. I barely go a day without embarrassing myself in public. But at this point in my life, blog-related embarrassments don’t feel any more psychologically painful than looking in the mirror and seeing that I need a haircut. It’s just stuff. I’m not totally immune to embarrassment, but I’m working toward it. Of all the ordinary super powers, enduring embarrassment is the one that an ordinary person can most easily develop. I will never have a radio-quality voice, or suddenly become tall and attractive. But I can learn to endure embarrassment, and that has a tremendous economic value. Imagine being able to talk to anyone, and ask for any favor or resource, without fear of rejection or embarrassment. 99% of people you talk to could give you the stink-eye and you’d still become a billionaire because of the few that cooperated.”

I guess it’s a bit obvious that I would guess my ‘ordinary superpower’ to be ‘embracing failure’. Not merely the courage to do so, but also the adeptness to do it well. Sort of like risk taking. It’s not just about the bravery to take risks, but also about the savvy to take intelligent risks (‘risk taking’ is just a variant of ‘embracing failure’ since a ‘risk’ is just a ‘failure probability’). It’s not quite the same as ‘enduring embarrassment’. I still can get embarrassed and simply consider it part of the downside to a failure. But the two are close.