How blushing increases feelings of vulnerability

The vulnerability in blushing

I’ve always been someone who blushes. I would go bright red in the face and come up in a blotchy red rash on my chest in any situation where I would be noticed and even where I thought about being in uncomfortable situations – not just during presentations! It could be any situation that would trigger my blushing. Like waiting to answer my name in class; speaking up in a meeting; being asked a question in a group; talking to a stranger; talking to a guy. It would happen A LOT. And then people think it’s ok to comment on your blushing. As if you don’t know that your face is on fire!

The difficult thing for me was that although I could try to remain calm on the outside and appear like I was fine and not draw attention to myself, the blushing would give it away whenever I felt a little uncomfortable and people would notice this about me. This left me feeling even more vulnerable. I felt like I was an open book.

People would read into what the blushing could mean and come up with their own conclusions and sometimes this was so far from the truth. If I happened to be talking to a guy, people would tend to assume I was blushing because I fancied him and some would tease me about it, and I would feel worse. Once I had to do a presentation at secondary school in my science class. I felt my cheeks burning before I had even walked to the front of the room. Other kids loudly commented on my red face and laughed at me; they couldn’t understand why I was blushing and they probably had no idea of the impact of their teasing. The worst thing is when you become so focused on your blushing cheeks, it makes them go even more red and burning and you start to feel like you might actually be on fire.

What’s strange is that I’ve realised I can’t really tell if I’m blushing or not. A few years back, I did a presentation to 400 people when I was working with a large charity and I spoke about how important the cause was to me, and said “that’s why I’m stood here in front of you, red in the face”. Afterwards, I was asked why I said that because I wasn’t blushing. Even though I felt like I was. That experience has helped me because I don’t always know whether my fiery cheeks are noticeable to others so I’m not so focused on it anymore. Although, it does still happen. When I applied for my place on the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme with the School for Social Entrepreneurs last year, I had to pitch my business idea to a panel dragons-den style. The mentor I ended up with was on that panel and the thing he remembered most about me was that I was red in the face during my presentation!

Two ways I managed blushing:

  1. Growing my hair long, wearing it down all the time and using it to hide my face – I know this is quite common amongst people who feel socially anxious. The idea was that no one could see my red cheeks, but of course they still could; I wasn’t walking around like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family! Still, I think this strategy may have actually drawn more attention to me.
  2. Avoiding every situation in which I might blush –  so that was basically every situation in life I could choose to avoid. I used so many creative excuses to keep out of these situations, turn down invitations and stay hidden. I sabotaged good opportunities and when excuses and sabotage failed, I just hid in the toilet.

As I’ve got older, I’ve become more comfortable with who I am. While I still blush, I feel like that’s ok now. I discovered some research about how people who blush are perceived as more trustworthy and they are likeable. It got me wondering about the way I used to think about blushing and all the things I imagined people might think about me because of it. Maybe all those things I used to believe about blushing aren’t true at all. Maybe blushing is actually ok.


  • Hayley Stanton

    Hi, I’m Hayley - the original quieteer. I, too, identify as a quiet person. I’m naturally a highly sensitive introvert and I love and appreciate my quiet strengths now, but I spent much of my life not feeling good enough and experiencing social anxiety. I missed so many opportunities because I was afraid of being judged harshly, criticised and rejected – and because I doubted that I had the ‘right’ personality to succeed. Quiet Connections exists in part because I had a fantastic coach who helped me to work through old patterns of keeping myself small and hidden so that I could show up and be seen to play my part in creating the more connected, curious and compassionate world that I dream of. Now, I’m passionate about helping quiet people discover their unique qualities, gifts, passions and experiences and explore how best to use these to express themselves more authentically and contribute to the world in a way that works with their quieter or more sensitive nature. Get to know me here.

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  1. Hi, I’m in middle school and Blush like every day and I have a presentation coming up in a few days and I haven’t done one in a long time. I just don’t know what to do to prevent me from blushing. If you know some tips, I would like to to know.

    1. Hi Ali, the best thing I have found is to accept that blushing is a natural response while remembering to slow down and breathe. You’ll find the less you focus on and try to resist blushing, the less it actually happens.

      Remember that we tend to feel that we’re blushing far more than we actually are: the first presentation that I did outside of school was for a charity I was working for. Bearing in mind I had avoided all presentations I possibly could until then and I always felt that blushing was a major issue for me, I started my presentation by explaining how important the charity’s work is to me ‘and that’s the reason I’m standing in front of you today, even though I’m feeling uncomfortable and red in the face’… afterwards, someone told me they didn’t notice that I was blushing at all and I needn’t have mentioned it.

      Check out my blog on breathing as this is the most important thing you can do to help yourself (you always see good public speakers take a breath before they start and pause to take a breath whenever they need to during their talk and this explains why)

      Best of luck with your presentation, Ali. Each time you present it gets a little easier. Remember you only have to get it done; you’re not aiming for perfection.