I once dated a guy who, in my opinion, was overly concerned with how other people perceived him. This concern wasn't limited to people in a position to offer him a job or people he may have had a crush on at some point. In fact, it didn't seem limited at all.
This was hard for me to relate to. Not that I don't ever care what people think of me. It's just that more often than not I don't think to think about it.
When it comes to complete strangers, the kind who will likely never ever see me again, I am typically fine looking the anonymous fool -- especially in those cases where being seen in an unflattering way has little or nothing to do with my actual character.
Don't get me wrong -- I do feel embarrassment. But I also realize I am not the center of the universe. Most folks who are around when I'm making a mistake in public won't even see me! Think about it -- how many people do you pass by every day? How many do you notice? And of those that you do notice, how many are you critically judging? (Now that I think of it, the ex was very critical of even strangers. Perhaps it makes sense that he assumed the whole world was judging him just as harshly?)
OK. Sometimes we flub up BIG TIME. And sometimes people can't help but laugh or think we're total idiots. But, in my opinion, they're not responding to me as a person; they are responding to my role as some extra in the background of their personal movie. I'm just the comedic relief whose name (if they bothered to scroll the credits) they would never manage to match up to the dunce I am playing.
What's wrong with being the entertainment in those cases? What's wrong with providing the stranger that happened to witness your belly flop, or skirt flipping up, or spinach sticking in your teeth, or toilet paper trailing down your pant leg a great punch line to use at dinner some evening?
I've been in these situations. Sometimes, in the middle of it all, I begin to imagine the story that someone might end up telling as a result of my misstep. Often the story tickles me so much that I begin to laugh. Then, I imagine that story ".... and then, get this, she just starts laughing..." which makes me laugh more "... like she's nuts or something..." and more "... and then tears are streaming down her face..." until all I am is a gift of laughter ready to be unwrapped.