I believe in public humiliation. Many people are terrified of public speaking, and assumedly those people truly fear the grand social judgment. I say, however, “Bring it on.” I have been publicly humiliated on a few occasions and while each instance has taught different lessons, none have led to lasting pain or detriment of any sort. Just the opposite.
My most pivotal incident of public judgment came my senior year of high school. What fine timing. I enjoyed high school, and by senior year felt very confident in my little niche. I had great friends, activities galore, and a sense of ownership over the mountain of public schooling I had recently summited. Though that all meant nothing during the battle of the bands.
I have little musical talent, and was not competing on that night. Instead, I was on stage as part of ‘That One Group,’ 10 students making attempts at improv comedy. Sadly, the idea of filling the empty time between bands had not been discussed with the students who came for the explicit purpose of watching their bands rock the suburban auditorium. They were not pleased.
Heckling began during the first sketch. The pennies were hurled by the third. Thankfully, tomatoes were not being sold at the concession stand. Regardless, the treatment stung me to the core. Every remark yelped onto the stage made my head spin trying to match a face with the insult. I wanted to scream. I wanted to step offstage into the crowd and start swinging wildly. These were my peers, my friends, my world, and they were tearing at my flesh.
The night eventually ended. Friends tried to reassure me, but I knew exactly how bad it had been. Then my anger faded and the night dissipated into the weekend and I had my realization: I was okay. I was okay. I had been publicly humiliated, and I was just fine.
This began a giant emotional upswing that peaked Monday morning, as I walked the halls between classes. I felt socially invincible that day. I had been through the worst my fellow students had to offer. I knew who my friends were, I knew who didn’t like me, and I knew that at the end of the day none of it seemed too important.
The social fear I had felt was an empty threat. It loomed with a frightening presence and caused unpleasantness for a moment, but that was all. Moments pass, and once I saw that I could survive the storm; the clouds didn’t scare me any more.
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