Hypothetical: My friends, family, and village are relatively poor. I own a large modern house on the water with new cars. I don't care about showing off and buy these things simply because they are functional or pleasing to me in some way.

When my friends or family visit they are impressed by my house and are in love with it. They are not overtly envious or angry with me or anything like that and simply are impressed by what I have because they have not seen these sorts of things before.

I feel negative emotions relating to the perspective of others and the social circumstances. I don't think "guilt" is the right word. The closest word I can think of is "embarrassment", but I'm not sure it fits. I don't mind being the center of attention, I don't feel violated, I don't think I've failed or am being criticized, I don't think this is especially awkward in any way, and I don't think I'm necessarily being perceived in a negative way.

What expression can be used to describe this "embarrassment" of having things that others do not?

EDIT: I suppose this feeling would describe any sort of embarrassment due to positive evaluation and not simply due to belongings.

  • I believe you might be thinking of unaffected If you describe someone as unaffected, you mean that they are natural and genuine in their behaviour, and do not act as though they are more important than other people. or unpretentious not making claim to distinction or importance undeservedly
    – bookmanu
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 16:16
  • Modest would probably also apply having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one's merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions. Modest implies a becoming shyness, sobriety, and proper behavior: a modest, self-respecting person.
    – bookmanu
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 16:22
  • 1
    Embarrassment is indeed a good word. Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 17:00
  • I think that there is such a thing as "praise shyness," but we don't have a good word to describe it in English. People sometimes use the phrase "X doesn't know how to take a compliment"—but that is a very negative (and not very accurate) way to describe the actual feelings of someone who feels the awkwardness of being praised or admired for certain achievements by people with whom he or she would rather interact on a basis of complete human equality.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 18:31
  • Funny you should bring this up. Some psychology research is exploring the fear of positive evaluation within the realm of social anxiety, but I think this is different. I am happy to take a compliment and to be evaluated positively. But if you call me handsome and you're ugly (or say I have a beautiful house and you are homeless), then I feel.... embarrassed? guilty? Thus the question.
    – Behacad
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 21:45

5 Answers 5


I cannot think of a word or idiom for your situation but this may help.

This is part of a saying about a gentleman but it would apply to a polite, civilized individual such as yourself.

A gentleman does not make the rich man conscious of his wealth nor the poor man conscious of his poverty.

You are being correct to act with modesty, not making a show of all you have. Their reaction to your good circumstances is not within your control.


Embarrassment is, in fact, a good word that fits here perfectly.

Another one would be


  1. a feeling of uneasiness or anxiety of the conscience caused by regret for doing wrong or causing pain; contrition; remorse.

  2. any uneasiness or hesitation about the rightness of an action.


You felt humility:


the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.

  • Hmmm... this is pretty good, but since it is not an emotion it does not fit particularly well or describe the state.
    – Behacad
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 0:07

an embarrassment of riches TFD idiom

Too much or more than enough of a desired or needed thing.

As in:

There are so many stellar applicants for the job that we can't choose between them—it's truly an embarrassment of riches.


If I were you, I would use: 1. "My moral sense" or even "my sense of right and wrong" began to bother me. 2. I couldn't "in all conscience" show off my lifestyle to them. 3. I felt so bad as a "still small inner voice" told me that they would feel upset.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.