No matter how wildly different we might seem, there’s one thing for sure that unites us, a fundamental truth, the bedrock of reality—our abyss-deep levels of embarrassment when we remember our teenage years!
It’s the cringy situations, awkward encounters, and embarrassment phases from our youth that have the bad habit of keeping us awake at 3 a.m., making us cringe in the shower, and forcing us to facepalm during our Zoom meetings. There’s no running away from these memories, however, the internet’s the perfect outlet to siphon off at least a bit of that shame. Remember that time you acted like a total dork in front of your crush while searching for your identity, who you really were? Yeah, that’s likely gonna stick with you for decades (though how you feel about it can change).
That’s exactly what these redditors did after being prompted to share the embarrassing phases they went through as a teenager. Odds are, you might relate to at least a few of these, Pandas. Though, fair warning, you might end up blushing and hiding your face because some of the stories hit a tad too close to home for comfort.
Onward into the land of memories and teenage embarrassment! We’d love to hear about your own awkward phases from your youth, so share your memories in the comments. Just remember, some ‘phases’ last forever: I’m still the same literature and pen-and-paper nerd I was years and years ago.
Bored Panda reached out to environmental psychologist and well-being consultant Lee Chambers to get his take on embarrassment, what are some (un)healthy responses to it, and how we can calm down during moments of very intense embarrassment. “While embarrassment can be a challenging feeling that is fleeting or overwhelming, being able to find a response that assists rather than a reaction that is unhealthy is a skill to build,” Lee said that responding to embarrassment in the right way is a skill we can all learn. Scroll down for the psychologist’s full insights.
I started a rap crew based on Winnie the Pooh. I was Pooh Daddy, my friend was the Notorious T.I.G. and another friend was Big O. We were writing a song called ‘Honey Rhymes with Money’
The name of this group? Pooh Tang Clan.
Having a good sense of humor and being able to laugh during difficult moments are powerful tools in your arsenal. “If it’s something that isn’t particularly serious, laughter can be a great response that instantly makes you feel better,” psychologist Lee told Bored Panda. However, if you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed with embarrassment, a chuckle or two might not be enough.
“If the feelings are intense, try taking a few slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, calming your nervous system and physiological response. In a similar way to laughter, smiling can be effective in shifting your state to the positive. There are times when playing down or even ignoring the feelings can be helpful in the moment, taking the edge off, but it is important that you accept them and express them if it’s something significant,” Lee suggested that we try to embrace and live with our feelings instead of running away or hiding from them.
Our memories tie us to our pasts, so being mindful of the present can help move us out of a mindset that’s centered around embarrassing scenes from our teenage years. “Because the feelings of embarrassment are generated from a past event, anything that brings you into the present moment can bring relief. Try to avoid saying sorry, as it will keep taking you back to the moment. You can even keep your biggest embarrassing moments top of mind, having reflected and realized that in hindsight, they weren’t as big an issue as you felt at the time,” psychologist Lee shared with Bored Panda.
From 1st grade until my freshmen year I wore a hot dog shirt every day to school. I still have around 30-40 hot dog shirts I don’t wear anymore, still don’t know why I did.
I decided it was a fantastic idea to shave my eyebrows a finger-width thick in 7th grade.
My parents only recently told me they called them “Hitler brows” behind my back.
Here’s a picture for proof/explanation. God help me.
If we come to terms with some of our past mistakes, we can then even turn them into lessons that might help us in the future. What’s more, by conquering (i.e. accepting) even a single embarrassing moment from our pasts, we can then become more resilient in tackling future embarrassment. All that stands in our way are our feelings that pop up when we think about particularly awkward moments from our youth.
“We can even reflect back on our blunders from the past, and with the emotion dampened, take some of the lessons and observations forward for next time we feel like we’ve messed up. By doing this, you will feel more courage even when the fear of embarrassment strikes, and sharing these stories will elicit others to share, quickly realizing we are not alone, and that nobody is perfect,” Lee said.
I thought I was a werewolf in 9th grade, recruited dozens of students into a ‘pack’ and even managed to rope a counselor into it which wound up with her getting fired for hosting ‘magick rituals’ with us instead of counseling us
I can’t live it down to this day
when I was a teenager i was huge WWF fan and there was this wrestler named Edge, who would perch in high places inside the arena and just watch the matches for months before he made his actual debut. Because of this, I use to do the same thing because I thought it was bad ass. I use to find high places and just perch there like a gargoyle for hours. ( In trees, on roofs of peoples houses, on ledges, anywhere that i could climb ) and I would just sit there , crouched motionless and watch peoples reactions when they would see me.
I used to want to sound like a cool, edgy, emo writer or something… so I would narrate things that were happening around me, out loud. I remember at a family event we were roasting s’mores and I was just like “Fire, slowly burning, destroying and turning everything black…” I can’t remember any more because I’m cringing too hard.
Redditor Tenamonth’s thread over on r/AskReddit got nearly 18k upvotes. The beauty of the question they asked is that it has a timeless feel to it: it’s likely to be as relevant in a few years as it is now. After all, our capacity to feel embarrassed about our actions won’t be going away any time soon—it’s what makes us human.
And, despite how weird it makes us feel, embarrassment has some great advantages in our social lives. So long as we don’t let it turn to shame. In short, embarrassment, as long as we’re honest about it, is perfectly positive and even healthy. Shame, on the other hand, is what we want to avoid.
Age 12-13, HEAVILY into Conan the Barbarian. To the point of answering questions with “aye” and “nay”. This came to an end when my mom heard me refer to a woman at church as a “wench.”
I did the whole dye my hair black, black finger nail polish, black smudgy eye liner (I was a emo dude)
But I also loved gangster rap, so I work big chains with batman symbols on them.
It was a mess
Vanessa Bohns from Cornell University explained to me during an earlier interview that being embarrassed and not hiding this fact helps us connect with other people much better.
“Displaying signs of mild embarrassment can actually be socially constructive and make people feel more sympathetic towards you in the face of your faux pas,” Vanessa told Bored Panda how us feeling embarrassed can have the potential to forge stronger relationships.
“I don’t necessarily think you need to take pains to hide it,” Vanessa said that we shouldn’t run or hide from our embarrassment. In fact, it’s avoiding our genuine feelings or pretending that we’re not embarrassed when we are that can make our reputations crash in the eyes of others.
Imagining myself as a marvel superhero and having fantasies about my secret identity being revealed during a fight in front of the whole school, so everyone would be shocked and amazed at how wrong they were about me
Referred to myself in the third person and a childish voice for like 3 months straight. Didn’t realize how annoying it was because my 2 best friends did it too! I guess we thought it made us look cute, like boys should take care of us and date us? It was all “heyykrispyy is sleepy”, “heyykrispyy loves dinosaurs RAWR XD”, “heyykrispyy doesn’t think she can drive on the freeway, too scary”
…eventually my dad grounded me longer and longer each time I referred to myself in the third person. God bless him.
“What you want to be careful not to do is to let embarrassment morph into the more destructive self-conscious emotion of shame, where you feel so badly about a minor mistake that you start to think there is something wrong with you and feel the need to completely disappear and hide away yourself,” the expert told Bored Panda that we have to do what we can to avoid deep-seated shame that is destructive.
This is opposed to embarrassment which has more constructive potential. In short, it’s perfectly fine to feel embarrassed about something that you did when you were a teenager. We were all searching for our identities and it’s only natural to make a few awkward blunders that we’d never repeat.
However, we really ought to reexamine how we feel about our pasts if we’re constantly ashamed of our past actions. It can’t be healthy to blame ourselves for our teenage years over and over and over again. It’s time to let go… or at least have a good laugh about it.
Cheesy, overwrought love letters to girls I dated for a month or two. “Sometimes I just want to hold you until you f**king crumble.”
In middle school I went through a phase of slicking my long hair back into a tight bun at the nape of my neck. I used a ton of gel to make sure my hair didn’t move. I also only plucked one eyebrow and made it super arched.
I was super jealous of all the girls who were thin and girly. I look back on my middle school years and cringe. Blessed be puberty.
I had business cards made (waaay before vistaprint) that had my name, number and title of Knight in Shining Armor. I would hand these out, with a smile, to any person that I found attractive, in or out of school.
I thought I was really suave but it is only embarrassing now as a groupd of newer friends and I were discussing this and them pretty much laughing at me for doing this.
The “misunderstood writer” phase. I wrote daily blogs on Myspace that were basically just cryptic, stream-of-conscious drivel. My friends ate that s**t up, and I was so, so, so full of myself.
In my early 20’s, when I started dating a girl that didn’t know me from those years, I went and deleted all the posts because I knew she’d eventually find my Myspace page. Part of me wanted to preserve it to look back at, but I was afraid that she “wouldn’t get it.” Nuked it all. THANK GOD I DID. I’m glad I scrubbed that s**t when I did. Nowadays I bet it’d be way more difficult to truly delete it all.
At the time I considered my writing to be “avant garde,” but now in my 30’s I’ve realized that artists often label things as “avant garde,” when they really mean to say “it’s bad.”
I (believed I) was a rastafari.
Context; scandinavian, white, skinny kid. Had Dreads, talked alot about how cool weed was, listened only to bob marley and smoked earl grey out of bongs made from plastic bottles.
In junior high, my best friend at the time and I wore basketball shorts over jeans. It lasted maybe two weeks. Still cringe when I think of it.
Thinking that my angst would be seen by potential mates as “mysterious and cool,” when in reality I was just “insufferable” and “self-absorbed.”
There was that time frame where quiet little me wanted to stand out. I wore different types of Osiris shoes, one a navy blue and the other white and red. Wore jeans with gaping holes in them, some I had to wear shorts underneath to cover certain areas. Used to do the weirdest stuff to my hair. I must have looked homeless walking around school.
Manic Pixie Delusional Idiot.
I thought by trying to turn myself into the opposite of every female stereotype – super into sex, not into commitment, loves sports and booze, not into “emotional BS,” not into make-up or standard fashion, not into gifts, said PMS was a load of crap, etc. – guys would be dying to be with me. They would gush to all their friends about how I was SO COOL and NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS.
Turns out that being a big fake isn’t that attractive at all.
When I was a very young teen I was into a science-fiction series where the characters would gain energy from sleeping on the ground from the earth mother or something. So, I proceeded to sleep on the floor of my bedroom for the next few months. The floor of my second story bedroom.
I had hair over one eye because i thought i looked like Jessica Rabbit.
Spoiler: i definitely did NOT look like Jessica Rabbit.
After that, i shaved the underside of my hair a la the little girl on The Crow.
– I hated my naturally curly hair and straightened my hair out (badly) every day…all my pictures look f**king ridiculous…like a blow dried Guido from the 80s
– I spent a few months in the 9th grade dressing up in a matching tracksuit because I thought it was so f**king cool. I looked like a Russian teenager drug dealer
– I was a hardcore communist for like…3 years in college. Like…I seriously believed Stalin didn’t kill anyone and it was a massive capitalist propaganda effort to make it seem like he was a murderous dictator. I’m really glad this phase was almost completely digital and it mainly took the format of long involved debates about communism in now defunct message boards
Sunglasses ALL the time indoors and out. There’s some cringy pics of me around the house for a birthday party, Thanksgiving dinner, etc, with dark sunglasses on for no apparent reason
I spent 2 weeks in “THE BOX” phase.
Backstory: I was a firm believer in “Be a kid while you can” and “Make school memorable”. Also I was just overall bad at reading situations for most of my years growing up. One day proms coming up and some guy hides in a giant cardboard box to surprise his girlfriend. I later found this box in the middle of the hallway and had one of my stupidest ideas ever.
I took this box back to class and began repairing it. Not just before and after but during class. Honestly I think the only reason I got away with it is because it was religion class and the teacher probably though I was “challenged”. I cut a hole in the front of the box for my eyes and wrote “turtles are nice” on it. For 2 whole week I would walk from class to class with that box thinking I was solid f**king snake. At one point I brought the box home for the weekend. On the way my friends came and tried to take the box and I actually chased after them (should have just let them have it). After 2 weeks of my friends telling me to get rid of it I finally jumped on the box and crushed it.
Worst part was this was in grade 11.
I guarantee that the whole school thought I had some form of mental disability and I really don’t blame them. I still lie awake at night just coming to terms with the fact that everyone from my high school remembers it.
Moral of the story: “DON’T. JUST DON’T.”
HUGE Spice Girls fan. When I say huge I mean re-watching the same VHS tape of some Concert they did in the mid-east daily for a year. Dressed up in a suit to see Baby Spice at MuchMusic (Toronto) and gave her flowers – Blew up a pic of me handing them to her and put it on my wall. Complete obsession. This was ages 16-19 and I’m a dude.
I used to carry 4 rolls of duck tape (all different colors) and would make a rose every day to give to a girl I liked… Never asked her out or anything, just the daily rose in math class.
I’m kinda late to the party but the boy band fan phase. One Direction was super popular at the time and I was obsessed. I had every product imaginable including shirts from the kids section of Walmart and hot topic. I would post pictures and posts about them every single day and defend them if anyone talked badly about them. I was 16! I still cringe when I see my old posts in memories on Facebook
I went through a pretty long ‘notlikeothergirls’ phase combined with an ‘iamverysmart’ and edgelord atheist phase. It wasn’t pretty.
i too was a scene kid. MCR, PaTD, Linkin Park. I wore obscene graphic tees, GIR hoodies, those animal hats with the long flaps on the sides that functioned as gloves/paws. had an eyebrow piercing, wore feathers in my hair. fingerless gloves. fishnet. those thick rubber bracelets with band names and other phrases like “OMG” and “WTF” on them. scene bangs. smoked cigs and put them out on myself “just so i could feel something”. RAWR xD.
i was also a brony
tried to convince people that i had a twin. even had “her” come to school one day.
I was a “stoner/skater” that:
-Didn’t smoke pot
I did however wear really baggy JNCO’s and not wash my hair very often.
Rebelled against teen pop by getting heavily into classical music and opera. To be fair, it was the late 80s/early 90s so there was some terrible pop music around, but in retrospect I should just have pulled the stick out of my arse and enjoyed the good stuff.
And I can’t actually play an instrument, so I didn’t even get to enjoy the social side of being in the school orchestra or whatever.
I thought that buck teeth were cool as hell, so I would hold my mouth in a way that made me look like I had them. I looked like an idiot.
I bought Happy Bunny merch from Hot Topic unironically. Along with those TRIPP raver pants with the chains and Manic Panic AMPLIFIED hair dye in blue. I owned band tees without ever listening to the bands because they looked xXxhardcorexXx. I wrote angsty DBZ and Trigun yaoi fanfiction. Multiple. That were over 100k words.
My friends and I all had livejournals and we would regularly passive aggressively communicate with each other through them.
UGH. I can’t believe how crazy Sam has been lately. I know her boyfriend broke up with her, but that was MONTHS AGO. She’s no fun to hang around anymore.
Sam’s Livejournal Entry, the following day
I AM SICK. AND TIRED. OF PEOPLE WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT’S LIKE TO HAVE A BROKEN HEART.
I played Dungeons and Dragons and had a mullet. The girls were queuing up, mate.
I put big a** padlocks on the back of my boots and I thought it was so cool cause it kinda sounded like spurs when I walked…then everyone started to call me lock boots so I ended that
I was one of those qUiRkY, one of the boys, i hate pink kinda girls.
I even had a catchphrase. It hurts me to type it out, but it was “wAzZUp, FoOL?”
Excuse me while i die in shame.
I wore a cat collar to school. With a bell on it….because I thought it was cool.
6 metals chains around my neck and brightly colored Hawaiian shirts. What the every living f**k was I thinking?
Being into rave culture. I had a tongue piercing and wore hilariously huge UFO pants with tassles on them. sigh
I had older cousins that I looked up to, they were into ICP so they dressed like juggalos without the face paint. I didn’t know what ICP was, I just knew I wanted to be like my cousins. So from like 13 to 15 I accidently dressed like a juggalo. Lots of bad pictures from those days.
Fake barb wire sticker tattoo phase, trying to be rock goth….all evidence of that phase is burned.
Stalinism. I am serious. Even got a teacher yelling at me once!
However, my excuse is it’s because I’m Russian (though I live in a EU country) and it’s very typical for people to believe that “Stalin did nothing wrong” and the only reason why Westerners are criticizing him and “making up atrocities” (which are not made up, of course) is because Stalin industrialised Russia and established a public education system, while Westerners would love to see Russians “uneducated, illiterate peasants and without any industry”.
My views were so anti-historical and anti-reality in retrospect.
I shaved off my eyebrows during my second year of high school
Didn’t even draw them again
Just full on Manson
I used to think it was super cool and sexy to have my thong straps come right up over my hips.
Must have looked like such a little tramp
When I was 15, well before Avril Lavigne happened, skater boys were the most attractive guys in my social environment. My friend, my sister and I would spend evenings hanging around the skate park, checking out the guys and fighting over which one of us would get to date the cutest guy. After about a month of this we conceded that the answer was “none of us.”
Being a “Brony”, in middle School I was sucked into it from my friends, and after humility and life lessons I dropped that s**t and never looked back.
I talked and acted like I was from the 18th century, and even adapted my handwriting to include those old-style ligatures (between S and T, for example). I bought a frilly shirt second hand and wore it with a waistcoat and a vaguely old-fashioned military jacket. This peaked when I was 14 or so and no, it didn’t make me the popular girl. Luckily I wore a school uniform (UK) so people only witnessed these terrible outfits on our rare non-uniform days.
If you were a teenager in the mid-to-late 90s like me, you’ll know exactly what I’m about to reference.
I grew up in a small town. In New York. Graduating class of 100. I was always a bit of a “redneck” but my senior year of high school, I kicked it into overdrive. Blue jeans, sleeveless tee shirt, work boots, cowboy hat every day. Also got a barbed wire tattoo. Tried chew, couldn’t stand it. Couldn’t grow a bear or mustache, but I know I would have, had I been able to. Luckily, I haven’t found any photographic evidence of this phase.
I believed I could see like.. peoples familiars.
When i was a freshman in high school. I was so wildly in my own imagination that I had an entire group of friends converted to this. there was a giant enemy animal thing that was always trying to kill us. I remember texting my friends and saying that the evil one is watching me in the classroom.
The iconoclastic non-conformist that wanted nothing more than to be liked and accepted by my iconoclastic non-conformist friends who were all being iconoclastic non-conformists in the same way.
Barking like a dog- for no good reason. I remember we were shopping at Walmart one time and I started barking. Of course I made sure the aisle was empty so no one could witness I was the barker. From an aisle over I can hear a little boy start to bark. It’s like he’s following in my footsteps.
Was far too good at Dance Dance Revolution, and would go places just to play it. I also wore those giant pants with too many straps so I jingled like a change purse.
I used to walk around school throwing a bouncy ball against the walls everywhere I went.
Edit: no this isn’t really “cringey” but more so something that would look strange for someone not in high school to do everywhere he went.
That edgy Hot Topic phase. It’s literally the most low-risk form of teenage rebellion, but as a black kid, that s**t can really f**k with your parents, and just fuels that teenage-self-righteous “This is who I AM, MOM” feeling.
While I’m nearly 30 and have obviously moved past the teenage s**t, the hot topic phase definitely influenced much of my current aesthetic choices. So I guess it never quite left.
As a result of my depression I was very much like one of those iamverysmart people, even bordering niceguys level as well. Thankfully I got my s**t together
Oh lordy, the whole “F**k the government” phase. With such memorable quotes such as “I don’t need to pay attention to politics because no matter who wins, an a**shole is going to be running the country” and “I read online that vaccines can you to lose IQ”. Even had a collection of pins I wore on my beanie that said stuff like “Democracy: We Deliver” while showing a plane dropping bombs. To this day my friends still bring it up once in a blue moon because they know how much it makes me cringe.
A bit of a nice guy phase. Thought I could get girls out of my league by being nice and basically an accommodating door mat. My dad actually set me straight. Told me basically lots of people are nice with lots of other good qualities and worked to take care of themselves physically, which of course helps. That I should work on being a better version of myself and the rest sorta works itself out. He was right
Massive weeblord. Now I’m a clandestine weeblord.
There were only like three kids in the whole school who were into martial arts, and I took it too far into the whole mystical Asia thing. I wasn’t a weeaboo or anything (or a Koreaboo, it was taekwondo), I just dreamed of learning the mysteries of chi so I could do crazy kung fu s**t.
My only defense is that this was well before the internet and lots of people smarter than me believed in that stuff too.
I feel like this applies more to millennials than anyone else, but I went through that edgelord phase. You know, where you’d have Evanescence on blast and hate everything?
Insane teenwolf style sideburns
Obsessed with anime before it was popular or even socially acceptable at all. Was always drawing in public and my art and stories were awful.
Crippling depression/self-harm, I needed help but did not seek it for years.
Turned out ok, married, have kid, corporate job, sideburns of a dignified respectable length, drawing got better, realized that my “smarts” were just s**tloads of useless trivia, realized my “smart” opinions were naive, still love my 90s anime.