Caught with Your Pants down? 7 Ways to Regain Your Dignity

iStock_000000727134XSmall.jpg Have you ever been sitting on the toilet in a public bathroom, when a stranger suddenly comes bursting through the door? You stare at each other for a moment. It dawns on you that you forgot to lock the door. It dawns on them that they forgot to check. Then they back out of the stall, stuttering their apologies, while you desperately try to pretend that you weren’t caught with your pants around your ankles. It’s mortifying, but it happens all the time, in all sorts of ways, especially in business. Maybe you’re in the boardroom, pitching a room full of executives on a new strategy that will save the company, and your three-year-old wanders through the door, saying she has to “Tee-tee.” Or maybe a zit pops on your forehead in the middle of a sales call. Or maybe you get drunk at the company’s Christmas party and start singing, “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” at the top of your lungs. All are honest, 100% genuine mistakes, and there’s nothing wrong with them. But they’re still embarrassing as hell. You feel like you’ve lost a little clout, and everything you do around the “witnesses” is suddenly very awkward. Somehow, you have to regain your composure, or you can end up doing something that really is damaging. Well, just for you, here are 7 tips for regaining your dignity.

1. Stop Trying to Pretend That You’re Perfect In business, we try to make everyone believe that we’re shining examples of the perfect manager/salesperson/worker/entrepreneur. Sometimes, you’re successful for a while, but it never lasts forever. Your three-year-old wanders in, the zit pops, you get drunk, or reality otherwise takes a sledgehammer to the illusion you’ve meticulously crafted to fool everyone. The solution isn’t to rebuild the illusion but to accept reality. Realize you’re not perfect, and that you’ll inevitably do something that will make you look foolish. You’re human. If you can come to terms with that and start loving yourself anyway, you won’t mind as much when someone sees “the real you.”

2. Make a Joke Out Of It If there’s anything funny about what happened, make fun of it. Instead of shooing your three-year-old out of the boardroom, ask if anyone else would like to take a “tee-tee break.” They’ll laugh, and it will immediately defuse the situation. Just make sure it’s actually funny. If it’s not, you’ll only make it worse.

3. Address the Problem The worst thing you can do is ignore what just happened. If a zit pops on your forehead in the middle of a sales call, don’t just sit there, trying to pretend puss isn’t trickling down your face. You’re much better off covering it with your hand, excusing yourself, and going to the bathroom to clean yourself up.

4. Put It in Perspective Okay, so everyone at the Christmas party got to laugh at you while you were drunk. Is it really such a big deal? Chances are, you’re attaching a hundred times more significance to it than everyone else. They might look at you and chuckle for the next few days, but does it really mean the end of your career? Probably not.

5. Remember Walking in on Someone Else Sure, you’re mortified about someone catching you with your pants down, but have you ever been that other person, catching someone else in the same situation? How did you feel? Did you dwell on it, or did you try to forget as quickly as possible? The fact is, most people are empathetic. We see someone going through an embarrassing situation, and we genuinely feel for them. We’ve been there, and we know what it feels like. So we do our best forget and help them forget. It’s the only humane thing to do.

6. Realize That Success Isn’t a Popularity Contest For most of us, the fear of being caught with their pants down stems from the high school days of everyone making fun of us whenever we looked uncool. Sometimes, it’s remarkably cruel, like all the girls throwing tampons at Carrie when she had her period in the public showers, and we’re scarred for life (or just kill everybody). But most people change. The older you get, the more comfortable you start to become with the natural imperfections inherent in being human, and you realize that success is anything but a popularity contest. The people that most often do great things are the ones that walk around with their pants perpetually around their ankles, unafraid of looking stupid if it means they occasionally accomplish something big.

7. Develop a Different Source of Dignity Believe me, it’s much better to be blissfully unashamed than to walk through life fearful of other people noting your imperfections. I’m not saying you should intentionally leave the door unlocked in the bathroom, hoping someone will see you exposed, but don’t lock and unlock the door a dozen times, just to make sure that the thing is working, either. You’re better off developing a sense of dignity that’s independent of other people. Take pride in who you are, just for the simple fact that you like who you are, imperfections and all. If someone else happens to discover those imperfections, then they’re just finding out something that you already knew. Even if they never appreciate your flaws, they can appreciate the grace with which you handle them. So sit on that toilet with pride, my friend. And give them a great big grin. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to On Moneymaking.