You Should Be Embarrassed

I recently read something that I wrote a few years ago. It was dreadful. 

The writing was vague, bloated, constipated. How could I have thought—and I did, at the time of writing it—that it was good?

I was embarrassed. 

But I’m perfectly fine with that. In fact, I’m happy about it. 

That’s because if you’re not periodically at least a little bit embarrassed about something you produced or did a year or two ago, then you have a big problem. It’s a red flag signaling the possibility that you haven’t learned, you haven’t grown or you haven’t honed your skills.

Although they’re relatively arbitrary in and of themselves, various dates on the calendar sometimes prompt me to reflect—my birthday and the winter holidays come to mind. I think that’s fairly common among most of us. And that periodic time for reflection is an opportunity not just to think about what’s next, but also to think about where you’ve been and how you’ve developed. 

If that reflection causes you to wince a bit, great. That simply means that you’ve moved to a higher playing field, one in which you have a new perspective allowing you to notice the difference between what you once thought was your “best” and that of which you are now capable. 

A little bit of embarrassment about your prior levels of performance also opens the door for you to appreciate how far you’ve come, what you’ve done and what you’ve learned. 

So I invite you to reflect. Think about where you were last year at this time and what you were doing. Take a look at some of the work you produced. Some of it may surprise you for its quality, but there’s a chance that some if it may surprise you for its mediocrity. 

And I invite you face the mediocrity of your past and to be a little embarrassed. Embrace the realization that we’re all works in progress—and that embarrassment about the past might mean that you’re moving in the right direction.  

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About Ben Baran
Ben Baran, Ph.D., is probably one of the few people in the world who is equally comfortable in a university classroom, a corporate boardroom and in full body armor carrying a U.S. government-issued M4 assault rifle. Visit: