Dear Annie: I am a 25-year-old woman with an embarrassing problem: I blush easily — like, really easily. In fact, my cheeks are getting hot as I write this letter, just from thinking about blushing. I’ve had this problem since I was a kid. I’m light-skinned with reddish hair, so I’m more prone to face redness and it’s more noticeable because my face suddenly matches my hair.
My blushing used to be the worst around cute guys. Now I’m older and a bit more confident around men, so it’s not so much of an issue. The biggest problem is at work. I’m pretty shy, so speaking up makes me nervous.
I try to set those feelings aside and make small talk with co-workers, and I try to keep my nerves in check at meetings. But when I’m about to speak at a meeting, my heart begins to race and my face goes red. The worst part is that knowing I’m visibly red makes me even more embarrassed, and I blush even more. It’s a vicious circle.
I’ve tried some redness-reducing creams, but they don’t seem to work when I turn into tomato. Help!
Dear Bashful: This is less about physiology than psychology. Sure, there are things you can try to address the physical aspect of the problem. Hot beverages and caffeine can cause flare-ups for people prone to redness, as can spicy foods, so you might want to avoid those things. And drink plenty of cold water throughout the day.
But these solutions are only skin-deep. Really addressing this problem means dealing with your anxiety. You no longer blush around men because of your confidence. You need to find confidence in the workplace.
Try positive self-talk — reminding yourself that you are a valuable part of the team, that no one (aside from you) will remember if you stumble over your words at a meeting. But as this vicious circle has been whirling for quite a while, it may take a professional to wind it down. Cognitive behavioral therapy is good for interrupting unhelpful thinking patterns.
Dispensing with these anxieties will help you to stop blushing, but more important, it will help you to start living your life as the confident person you were meant to be.
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