I’m quite certain that there are a lot of awkward moments in my near future.
This may seem like a strange thing to say, but I’m calling it because I’m embarking on a new adventure and with the new comes the awkward. It just does. I might as well decide how I’m going to handle it. Yup, I actually need to master it. I have a lot to learn. Mistakes to make. People to meet. Criticism to get used to. Plenty of first times. Awkward. Awkward. Awkward.
The only way I’m going to get through all of this is to build up a tolerance to being uncomfortable. No fight or flight. Just me, my weirdness and my determination to grow.
I’ve always been a self-conscious person. My plan for turning this supposed liability into an asset is to exploit it. Take its power away. I’m not going to dive into my new creative life pretending to have it all figured out and denying that there will be bumps in the road. I’m anticipating that I’ll be uncomfortable often and with practice I’ll learn how to exist in those moments and tolerate them graciously.
I don’t know why people get embarrassed so easily. I’m sure it started when we were children and we got laughed at and teased. But as adults, it’s imperative to get over that fear in order to expand your life. There’s absolutely no way around it. Some of us are more sensitive to criticism than others. Some of us create our own self-criticism and become painfully anxious based on what we think others are thinking about us. The key to overcoming this is to start thinking of your individuality as an advantage and not a liability.
As I approach this new and incredibly vulenerable phase of my life, I’m still acutely self-conscious. But instead of bemoaning it, I’m going to make it work for me. You can too, you know. If you consider yourself to be a bit socially awkward or a bit anxious — consider the following concepts that can help with not only big life changes but also everyday challenges.
Change how you think about your eccentricities. Key words: Change. How. You. Think. I used to always feel like a sore thumb when I’d go out dancing with a bunch of short friends. I’m 5’9″, so I’d be the tall, gangly one flailing about in a circle of smaller women. Height is not necessarily an eccentricity, but it’s something that made me uncomfortable for a long time. Eventually I realized that I’ll never be short. So, why not figure out how to be tall in the most GG-licious way possible? You are who you are, so shift your thinking so that your qualities empower you instead of impairing you.
Remember that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. I suspect that a lot of our awkwardness comes from trying to fit in and do what we think is expected of us. If everyone is talking and you don’t have anything to say, don’t feel obligated to talk. When I force myself to talk – I always spaz out and say things that drive me crazy later. Why did I say that? I hope no one took it the wrong way. Did I cut her off? Was I talking really loud? Did that sound stupid? Did I just spit on that guy? Whether you choose to be the life of the party or sit in the corner with a book, do it confidently knowing that it’s exactly what you want to be doing.
Don’t overthink. I know. This is like saying don’t stare at funny looking people. But overthinking warps everything. Learn to be strategically and peacefully in the moment. This requires self-acceptance. I might be wondering how my breath smells or if I have a booger in my nose, but I know that if I focus on those things, I’ll become more and more ‘thinky’ and visibly frazzled. The best thing you can do is to not wonder too much about how everyone sees you. Instead, take a deep breath and think only about being yourself.
Give yourself permission. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Instead of listing all the socially awkward moments I’ve had as examples, I’ll suffice it to say that embarrassing things happen to everyone and the more you own your fumbles, the more comfortable you and everyone else will feel. Allow yourself the wiggle room to be a little left or right of center and be happy there. Laugh at yourself. Call yourself out. Learn to love the fool in you, as Thomas Rubin says:
“…the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects you against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom you also harbor and who would rob you of human aliveness, humility and dignity if it wasn’t for your fool.”
Be every woman. Embrace your paradox. You are confident and uncertain. Weak and strong. Straightforward and backwards. All of the above and none of the above. The best thing you can do to make your complexity work for you is to know yourself intimately. When you know who you are, the things that make you unusual are the same things that also make you magical.
The best way to be the most awkward girl in the room is to do it on purpose. With intention and creativity, decide for yourself how you want to exist, how you want to feel and how you want to express yourself. Let yourself be vulnerable. Let the people who don’t like it go, and let the people who do like it stay so you can build productive, authentic relationships. The kind of relationships that make you feel safe and beautiful and ironically, not the least bit awkward.