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This guide is for you if you tend to blush in any of the following social situations:
- Making a social mistake
- Becoming embarrassed
- Speaking with someone you’re attracted to
- Interacting with new people
- Becoming angry or feeling provoked
- Holding a presentation
- Public speaking
1. Take ownership of your blushing and accept it fully
Rather than trying to hide your blushing, what if you were to accept that the world knew about it? When you’re openly accepting that you’re a blusher, it no longer has the same control over you.
This is sometimes called taking ownership. It’s the act of deciding to accept ourselves including our flaws.
When you’re no longer ashamed of it, you may even blush less, as it becomes less stigmatized for you.
2. Focus on the situation instead of your blushing
Normally when we blush, we might start to focus on how embarrassing the blushing is and that we want it to go away. This leads to a negative spiral:
You blush -> You feel anxious about the blushing -> You likely blush even more.
But when you instead focus on what you are doing at that moment, you break this spiral:
You blush -> You focus on the situation -> Your blushing likely subsides.
3. Use a breathing exercise to relax and reduce blushing
Here’s a simple exercise you can do in most situations:
- Breathe in deeply through your nose.
- Feel your belly fill up with air.
- Breathe out through your mouth. Purse your lips slightly when the air blows out.
- Repeat 3 times.
We tend to blush when we activate our flight or fight system (Also called the sympathetic nervous system). Deep breathing activates our rest and digest system (Also called the parasympathetic system.) and the blushing subsides. Breathing exercises can also help you stop focusing on your blushing. And when you’re not focused on your blushing, it will naturally go away.
You can learn more about breathing exercises here: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/uz2255
4. Seek out situations where you blush to stop caring about it
To stop caring about blushing, you need to “teach” your brain that it’s not a big deal. This is called habituation and it’s a well-researched method of removing fears, including blushing.
You can do this where you can find a safe place where you know you will blush, but where it’s not too big of a deal if you do it.
Maybe introducing yourself at a networking mingle or some other type of social event where you meet new people you don’t care too much about. That way you can practice exposing yourself to blushing.
5. Say to yourself what you would say to a friend who blushes
What would you tell a good friend who told you that they easily blush?
Maybe something along the lines of this:
“I’m sorry you suffer so much from your blushing. But blushing is a human and normal reaction and I think it makes you more likable. I don’t think you need to hide your blushing because it’s a part of what makes you you. I don’t think anyone notices as much as you do. ”
Speaking this way to yourself is part of what’s called self-compassion. It helps against blushing because it lessens self-critical thoughts, and self-critical thoughts often cause blushing because they make us hyper-aware of our social mistakes.
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6. Know that blushing is not as noticeable as you think
I’ve had clients excuse themselves because of their blushing when I’ve never even seen them blush. Blushing feels more noticeable than it is.
7. Medications can help get rid of chronic blushing and social anxiety
If nothing else helps, consult with a doctor about appropriate medications. There are some medications and other medical interventions that are effective against blushing:
8. Consume less coffee and alcohol
9. Know that blushing can help you make friends faster
Blushing can help you make friends faster because it makes you seem genuine and kind. It makes people forgive your mistakes and mess-ups easier when they see that you’re regretful thanks to your blushing.[13, 6, 5]
Blushing gives you many social advantages compared to not blushing.
10. Be aware of bad advice that can make your blushing worse
The following advice may sound good but can worsen your blushing
- Use makeup to hide your blushing
- Step out of the room/avoid the situation
- Distract people to look at something else
- Close your eyes for a minute
The reason tips 1-3 are so bad is that they are what’s called avoidant behaviors. Avoidant behaviors actually reinforce our fears because each time we avoid something we maintain or increase our fear of it.[3, 7]
Tips number 4 is bad because it’s hard to apply in a social setting. You probably won’t be able to close your eyes and forget about your red cheeks in the middle of an embarrassing situation.
11. Deal with underlying reasons for why you may blush
Sometimes blushing is a symptom of social anxiety. If so, you might want to address your social anxiety first. Here are our book recommendations on social anxiety and shyness.
12. Speak to a therapist
A therapist can help you decrease your blushing and find underlying reasons for why you may blush. It may be covered by your healthcare insurance.
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- Dijk, C., & de Jong, P. J. (2012, February). Blushing-fearful individuals overestimate the costs and probability of their blushing [Abstract]. Behaviour research and therapy, 50(2), 158–162. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796711002646
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- Drummond, P. D. (1999). Facial flushing during provocation in women. Psychophysiology, 36(3), 325-332.
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- Wilkin, J. K. (1981). Oral thermal-induced flushing in erythematotelangiectatic rosacea. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 76(1), 15-18.
- Suwaki, H., & Ohara, H. (1985). Alcohol-induced facial flushing and drinking behavior in Japanese men. Journal of studies on alcohol, 46(3), 196-198.
- Dijk, C., De Jong, P. J., & Peters, M. L. (2009). The remedial value of blushing in the context of transgressions and mishaps. Emotion, 9(2), 287.