Drinking Cheese: Letting Go of Embarrassment and Laughing at Yourself

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I’m classy

That’s a picture of me drinking nacho cheese at a Demi Lovato concert in Omaha, Nebraska—on my first trip out-of-state at 25 years old.

That was last week.

Dear god, man. Why are you putting this on the internet?

One of my favorite bloggers, authors, entrepreneurs, overall awesome people is Ramit Sethi. This guy changed my life and continues to.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

Instead I want to talk about Ramit falling on his ass and posting it for his entire readership—and why it made me post about drinking cheese at a concert comprised of 95% 12-year-old girls on a public blog.

A few minutes ago, I checked my email and found this:

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It linked to Ramit’s blog post, How to overcome your fear of starting an online business (hint: these three fears apply to starting anything new, not just an online business, so check it out—it’s good stuff).

The blog shows a video of him bowling and falling in the alley.

He also talks about stopping at a store with his female friend…

I walked in with her and wandered over to look at some clothes.  As I held up a jacket, she called out across the store, “HEY RAMIT. NICE WOMEN’S JACKET!!”

My ears were burning.  I was literally so embarrassed,  I’ve never walked back into that store 10 years later.  How was I supposed to know it was a women’s jacket??

Now he can laugh at that, but at the time, it was genuinely embarrassing and humiliating.

This is awesome, because so many of us walk through the world like this: scared and quick to embarrass.

I’m going to confess something…I wasn’t actually drinking nacho cheese in that picture.

Actually, I had drank nacho cheese about five minutes earlier, while my friend and I were standing near the food line, waiting for a sandwich.

In a moment of flawless logic, I decided since my cheese cup was too full and I knew I would spill it on myself when we walked, I’d drink just enough to not do that.

I turned to my friend and warned with a straight face (still believing this was perfectly rational problem-solving)…

…”I’m going to do something really disgusting.”

And instead of dipping my pretzel in it and eating some, like any of the intelligent 12-year-old girls surrounding us would have done, the dude in his mid-twenties drank liquid cheese with an audience.

Both my friend and the cashier nearby started cracking up.

A few years ago, I might have been embarrassed.

Seriously, what idiot solves that problem by drinking the cheese? I hadn’t even had alcohol yet!

(I rarely drink, but come on—thousands of screaming 12-year-old girls wailing in my ears? I drank more at the Demi Lovato concert, than in the last 6+ months combined.)

But rather than being embarrassed, I told the cashier I could cross it off my bucket list, all three of us had a good laugh, and I brightened the cashier’s mind-numbing day.

Then my friend and I sat down at a table and took that picture, so we wouldn’t forget what a ridiculous cheese-drinker I am.

And, of course, I posted it on the internet.

So…what changed?

Laughing at Yourself Changes Everything

Life is short.

I say that a lot, because it reminds me not to sweat the small stuff, because one, five, ten, twenty years from now it won’t matter—and most of life is made up of small stuff.

Heck, an hour from now, it probably won’t matter.

But if you’re shy, insecure, or have low self-esteem (like I used to be and still am sometimes), it’s easy to walk through the world dreading your mistakes and what others might think of you.

…What if I trip over my feet and fall in front of everyone?

…What if I don’t know what something means, and everyone thinks I’m stupid?

…What if they all laugh at me?

…What if I say something stupid or I stutter? What if I don’t know what to say?

Or…

…What if you drink a cup of cheese

…Or go see a Demi Lovato concert as a 25-year-old man?

(That concert was the day after her two-year sobriety celebration. She made me cry three times during that concert when talking about mental health—and it wasn’t the alcohol. Yes, I cried at Demi Lovato surrounded by thousands of 12-year-old girls and my masculinity is not threatened.)

Who cares?

Is any of that going to matter in an hour? A week? A month? Twenty years?

NO!

It’s terrifying now, embarrassing now, but does it mean anything about you as a human being? Does it say anything about your worth or your potential?

NO!

So learn to laugh at when you screw up. Learn to smile when people criticize you. When you start doing this, you stop taking yourself so seriously.

And when you do that—you actually start to look and act more confident and easy-going.

When you feel at home in your skin, because falling and drinking cheese are great excuses to make other people laugh and see you as more human, which is a good thing, people pick up on that too.

When it’s a fun story, not a humiliating moment, it changes things.

The irony of self-consciousness is that it shows in your body language. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you feel awkward (which we ALL do, by the way), people pick up on that and see you as awkward. Then when do something weird, it’s awkward instead of funny.

(Okay, so maybe I’m still weird, even when I’m confident.)

I used to be really shy and awkward. I’ve actually had people call me a “social butterfly” now, which I don’t agree with, but I can see why I look that way at times.

The thing that really changed was my internal sense of worth, which allows me to put myself out there more.

However…

It Is NOT Your Obligation to Be Perfect—You Owe That to NO ONE

I don’t think anyone ever completely eliminates insecurity and awkwardness.

I do a lot of public speaking. I get a rush out of it—I love it.

But sometimes when I’m not feeling on top of my game, I stumble over my words, I ramble, I explain things poorly, and I watch people’s eyes glazing over.

Is it embarrassing?

Sure it is.

But again—who cares?

After my presentation is over, I go home and the students go back to worrying about their homework, their tests, their cat…not about how I rambled.

And when I hit the mark? The students thank me profusely, tell me I changed their lives, and share their vulnerability with me.

So what does it matter if I don’t do it perfectly all the time?

No matter what school or our parents taught us, it is no one’s obligation to be perfect—you don’t owe that to anyone else, or to yourself.

In fact, perfectionism is an enemy. There are very few instances where perfectionism gives us disproportionate results. Usually 80% is enough. Even 20% is more than 0%.

In fact, just showing up is more than most people are going to do.

So being able to laugh at 80% of your mistakes, especially the ones like rambling in front of a college class, drinking a cup of cheese like a genius, or admiring a girl’s jacket when you’re clearly a man’s man, puts you worlds ahead of all the people that are crippled with anxiety in those situations—which is where many of us start out.

The moral?

Drink the cheese. Seriously.

The gift of laughter is worth all sorts idiotic endeavors.

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