Cringe-Attacking Myself to Death (This Needs to Stop)

I’ve been thinking a lot about cringe-attacks. Or, more specifically, I’ve been having a lot of cringe-attacks. Do you have any clue as to what it is I am talking about? If not, allow me to explain. You know when you do or say something that makes you feel so embarrassed that you have a hard time thinking about it once it’s done because going through it once felt horrible enough and now you have it in your head for the joyous pleasure of reliving that oh, so terrible moment at any moment of the rest of your life? Yeah, well, sometimes, while reliving those moments, you end up doing something like smacking your own head, or pulling some kind of face. Personally, I either end up humming or singing random tunes ridiculously just to distract myself from what’s going on inside my head and, if I’m in bed, I pull the covers over myself and push myself down my bed while humming or singing. (Nights spent with me can be odd.) That, my dear reader, is a cringe-attack.

Simply put: A Cringe-attack is: N. A somewhat dramatic external reaction to an internal conflict of emotions that is usually started by remembering something embarrassing.

Before writing this post, I decided I was going to write a post about one of my embarrassing moments. I find that writing things down and opening up about them helps with letting them go, and if that didn’t work, at least something funny would come out of it. And I am so sick and tired of getting cringe-attacks over something that happened in the 7th grade. I was 13 years old back then. I’m now 20. It’s been 7 years for crying out loud!

So what happened was that I started to write down a memory that was supposedly “extremely” embarrassing, and while writing it I realized that it… wasn’t a big deal. Or it wasn’t as big as I felt it was. Do you know what I mean? It’s like inside me it felt so big in the small space of my body, but once I put it out in the world, it just felt so irrelevant and small. It wasn’t even a funny story. It was just a memory. A stupid memory that made me feel like I was stupid and inferior. Something that has stayed with me for 7 years of my life. And all I had to do was stop avoiding it to realize how silly it was. How it didn’t deserve such extreme embarrassment. It’s okay to get embarrassed, I know that. It’s just that I’m starting to not let the embarrassment take over. I messed up, whatever. Even if people laugh at me, who cares! I realize that it’s easier said than done. Way, way easier. But I think a lot about this: If I were a heroine in a book I was reading or a movie I was watching, how would I want her to react to the situation I’m in? Would I want her to care what some immature child said to her? Hell no! Would I want her to let people make her feel inferior? Definitely not. And I’m finding that it helps to think that way. At least for me it does. It helps me take a step back and really look at the situation from a third person point of view. And it’s good to do that. It’s good to take a step back from yourself and just look at what’s going on. Just look at the whole picture. And I mean that in any situation, not just while getting cringe-attacks. Writing things down is my way of stepping back. I write what’s going on and imagine myself as an author who’s writing about her characters, and that helps me with trying to look at the whole picture.

So what I’m saying is, if you suffer from cringe-attacks, or if you’re just bothered by something, write it down, or share it with someone, or say it out loud to yourself. Just don’t avoid it and keep it locked inside you, it just grows bigger and bigger then. Even if it is as bad as it seems to be on the inside. At least voicing it, or writing it down gives you a chance to really hear or look at it when it’s not inside you, to really analyze it and see what you should do about it. It’s good to remind yourself that you are in control of your brain. Sure, it does a lot of things without consulting you, but when it comes to things like this, you, my friend, are in charge.


20 thoughts on “Cringe-Attacking Myself to Death (This Needs to Stop)

  1. this is exactly what I am going through, I have suffered from anxiety since an early age. In my early teens I wouldn’t be able to go into a clothing store because I was dreading being asked if I wanted help with anything, it sounds so stupid typing it now but it something I overcame with age. I’m 21 now and I have been going through “cringe-attacks” for about 5 years it mostly stems from embarrassing moments or Faux pas I have made in the past. Like you I also cast my mind back to moments in the past an recoil in terror over something so small and insignificant, Usually in the form of a sudden high pitched whistle or a wince like I’m in some form of pain! However unlike you I haven’t found a way of dealing with it, I just try not to think about it and not let it get to you too much although I’m glad that I’m not the only one burying their head in shame into a pillow at night!

    Best of luck, Adam

    • I still find it hard to deal with these cringe-attacks, because as much as I’d like to be the kind of person who is capable of taking the highroad and thinking that I am above such things, it doesn’t always help, because, at the end, I’m not dealing with storybook characters, I’m dealing with everyday people. And it’s way worse when those people are ones I’ve known for quite sometime, because… I don’t know, perhaps it takes away from what I’ve tried so hard to be perceived as…? Because, I do try to be tough and smart and likeable and brave and caring and yada, yada, yada. But then I do something that sort of shows the opposite, or I /feel/ something that makes me think that I’m not what I try so hard to be, like nervous about making a call, or asking a simple question in class (I haven’t asked a single question in any of my classes this semester (except one)). And when I mess up, when I start getting hot and start to sweat a bit, well, it’s quite hard to think that you’re anything but yourself at a moment like that. And at that moment, you are very much an insecure, nervous, and vulnerable person. Exposed. You’ve been stripped, in front of a number of people no less. And, for some reason, it’s always the worst when it’s in front of people you know. Friends, or family members, even though it should be that we feel safer with them. I don’t really know why that is. Maybe I don’t like pity? Maybe I like the fact that I can take the time to pull myself together and get over it before speaking of it to anyone (if I do). Get comfortable with myself. Like: “This is me. Yup.” You know, just (try and) be cool about it. Or maybe it’s that I’m afraid people will see me for what I “really” am? Someone who avoids being the one that has to make the call when ordering out, or gets nervous about calling to make appointments at the dentist.
      It’s probably both. Just depends on me, how I’m feeling that day.
      At any case, I am trying to teach myself not to take myself so seriously. I’m trying the whole “So WHAT if I am?” approach. It does help. So does the whole thinking outside myself, the whole I-am-no-longer-the-heroine-of-this-story-but-instead-the-author. It kind of makes me feel in control of the situation. Like, yeah, I got dis.
      And I’m starting to see that I do. I do got dis, not completely, but I’m getting there.
      One step at a time and all that.

  2. I have cringe attacks so so frequently, several times a day in fact, and it’s so annoying because when I do I either groan really loudly or I tell myself to die. Sorry that sounds so morbid and depressing, but that’s what happens! It’s been happening for years now; I thought it would go away as I grew older which it didn’t, unfortunately. But your post honestly made me feel better than any other article of self-help guide ever did. Not only did it show me that I’m not alone, but it also made me face my little cringe attacks. I thought about embarrassing things I’d done and, just like you, they turned out to be not as bad as I once thought they were. So I’m sorry to make this long comment all about me (a little selfish, I know!) but I just want to thank you because you’ve made me feel so much better, and I feel like I might be a step closer to learning to love myself. Thank you.

    • Please don’t ever apologize for contributing your thoughts to something I’ve written! You telling me about your experience is anything but selfish, because you honestly don’t know how happy and touched I feel to know that someone out there has responded to me. Because I posted this without really expecting anyone to respond at all. I mean, I know that there are people out there, and around me really, who go through the same things I do, but to have someone come forward and share with me what they can about this shared experience is, well, it’s relieving! And it makes me feel, not only less alone, but also, more solidified. Like I have an army around me. My people. I feel more sure of the ground I’m on. It makes hope and the will to carry on feel more tangible. So thank you for taking the time to let me know all that you did. It means a lot. Thank you.

      I hope you find the journey to be satisfying. I hope we both do.

  3. This resonated with me deeply. I have a huge problem with this. I have these cringe-attacks *constantly*, at everything I do and at everything I say, at everything I write, no matter how silly. And I instantly regret it. When I’m lying down and a random thought creeps on me, I jump out of bed instinctively, without even noticing. It’s like a mini panic attack. Then I lay down again. And I do make a lot of faces, too.

    It’s just SO painful, my gosh! It’s draining. I’ve turned to alcohol at a young age, and, at 29, I’m already feeling my body failing me. All I want, really, is to just shut myself in my bedroom and never go out again, never talk with somebody again. I do know that’s not the way, though.

    Every help I can get with this is greatly appreciated beyond words. And your post did that. It did help. I know things will get better. I’ll just have to hold on a little more. It might just save my life.

    Thank you, and good luck.

    • It means a lot to me that you took the time to share this with me, and I am honoured to have been of some help to you. Truly.
      Don’t forget that there’s a certain kind of strength those who dare to face themselves possess. You are brave, and it may not feel like bravery right now, but it is. You’re valiant.
      And I feel like I can say this because you have not given up. That’s very important. It means that there’s hope and determination in you.
      So you’re doing wonderfully.
      Please don’t forget that in your voyage to a better self.
      I wish you all the best.

  4. Thank you so much for this! I’ll try to retell my cringe-y moment here, I hope it helps me. You really don’t have to read it. So I had a final dance lesson and we were supposed to show others one of the dances we learned. My partner and I chose quickstep because we were good at it. Well and we totally messed up. It was horrible and we were the only pair that screwed up. It was so embarrassing. I just wanted to run away.
    (Sorry for my bad english, I ain’t a native speaker)

    • You’re English is just fine! Don’t worry about it.
      No matter how embarrassing it was, it seems to me like you’re coping with it well. And I say this because you’re talking about it, and that isn’t the easiest thing to do
      sometimes. So that’s a very good thing!

      I hope you’re at a point where you can laugh about it without dwelling on the embarrassment of it all! And that it turns into one of those go-to stories you tell whenever you’re trying to make someone laugh. Or that it becomes a source of amusement instead of shame.

      Thank you for sharing!

  5. Oh my god, I can relate to you endlessly! It feels so great to realise that someone else is struggling with the same problem! This post has made me realise that it’s okay to relive these horrific (or what we make originally think) moments as a way of coping with the past and looking to the future. Thank you! X

  6. Just now I wanted to read an email i sent to someone ages ago and i knew that it was very indepth, personal problems and I wanted to know what I wrote. Because I let myself go when I wrote it and then blocked it out of my mind. I was cringing and cringing afterwards and now “OMGGGGG what did you write??”. Well I read it, and guess what, I was relieved. Because it wasn’t that bad. And the lesson I take from it, and the lesson I teach you guys, whatever you are cringing about, it probably isn’t that bad. We’re all humans and we go through the same thing.

  7. As a person who is having cringe attacks every day I can say that your advice is very much helpful. However the problem is voicing it out. Y’see I’ve been having these cringe attacks since 3-4 months and I’ve always had a problem with prolonging it. Like I can tell my friends that I said this joke to one of my friends then he/she started crying, but then I start prolonging it by saying something like “Like to this day, I still didn’t call them after I made that joke.” Which usually ends up in it being another memory that I’ll look back to and cringe from embarrassment.

    • CelesB, it sounds to me like you are forgetting one very fundamental part in this situation, and it is that you are as human as anyone else, and that everyone else is as human as you.
      It may take time for you to feel less embarrassed about whatever it is that is occupying your mind, but you will get there. You just have to work on it. Tackle whatever it is that is making you feel the way that you’re feeling. And while you do, you must also make it a point to be as gentle with yourself as you can, and fair. I know how difficult that can be, especially when dealing with emotions such as embarrassment, or shame. But it’s important. Because, as mentioned above, you’re as human as anyone else. And it would be unfair to expect instant self-acceptance from yourself, when self-acceptance is something that definitely requires a lot of time, and effort. (If self-acceptance is at all something you are struggling with.)
      And even if “voicing it out” has not changed your feelings towards this situation, I can tell you that by facing them head-on you are definitely on the way to doing so. Be patient, progress is ever so gradual, but you will get there.
      I wish you all the best, CelesB. And I hope you find something in this response that is helpful to you. Good luck with everything.

  8. I have been cringing for the past three days about something I said three days ago, so I googled the feeling and this came up. I laughed at how similar your experience has been to mine, and it made me feel a lot better. I do envy that your embarrassing moment occurred when you were only in Grade 7 and mine happened just days ago at age 24, but I guess I am OK with it. Thank you.

    • You have no idea how happy it makes me that my post made you laugh! Thank you so much for sharing that.
      Also, please, I experience embarrassing moments a lot more than you give me credit for. I experienced something quite embarrassing recently, and at university no less. And am probably bound to experience some more embarrassing moments sometime in the future (possibly near, with my experience). The point is, my friend, not to allow these moments to belittle, or haunt us. To let them go as soon as we can by acknowledging that it was what it was, and it happened. And that we’ll be ok, regardless.
      I hope you’re doing well, and thank you for your comment!

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