"Awkward' is a ubiquitous teen word to denote socially unsanctioned behavior. It usually implies first- or secondhand embarrassment when you or a friend step outside the rules. Awkward doesn't sound overtly judgmental or negative; it's deliberately vague." Mary H.K. Choi

I'm awkward. I'm nervous. I sweat a whole lot. I talk to myself way too much. I'm constantly in my own head trying to appear comfortable on the outside but I'm internally screaming. Why am I so awkward? Do other people notice how awkward I am? What can I do to be less ... well - awkward? These are the questions that play over and over in my head. I don't know what to do with my hands. I'm not really relaxed but I'm hoping other people perceive me to be. What should I say? When is my moment? Will anyone notice me? Does anyone care whether I'm here? Why does this look so easy for everyone else? Why not me? Social awkwardness is this self-induced purgatory of most debilitating proportions. It's not being to quite understand how to interact with other people. It's the persistent nervousness with people, ignorance of social norms, being misunderstood, choppy conversations, hypervisibility/invisibility in social situations, and superficial connections. Most people feel socially awkward at different moments in their life but some people in it. It's a sense of dread instead of excitement at the prospect of talking to someone. I have no clue if it will ever subside but being wary of new people feels like the bane of existence? Why can't I just have the automatic comfort others do? Why not me?

What's actually wrong with being awkward? In actuality, nothing, but we live in a world of judgement, stratification, and conformity. Those that fall outside of the confines of ways to socialize that have been normalized are deemed outsiders, odd, and just plain weird. It's a false dichotomy, and one that is ultimately exclusionary in the ways invalidates people for just being who they are. Awkwardness oftentimes manifests itself as the projections of the insecurities of others. Other people being unable to tolerate, no accept, no celebrate you for who you are is not a reflection of you or your inherent worth but rather their inability to recognize someone as they are. The failures of others should be received as an indictment of who we are. So sometimes we miss social cues, make a joke that doesn't quite land, or are not quite seamless in our conversation transitions but we're still people. Are people cringing because they are actually irked or is the cringe-induced by their idea of what is cool/uncool? Is that cringe sympathy/pity or is it genuine empathy that recognizes someone else as they are? What's so bad at not quite getting "it" or fitting in? How is coloring outside the lines bad? Who gets to determine what and who is normal? Who dictates social behaviors? Why can't be bread or at least amend the rules to be more accommodating? It's okay to be different AND we don't need anyone else's approval, acknowledgement, or assurance to do so. 

Do you ever wonder how other people are experiencing you? I mean do you get lost in a conversation because your personal monologue turns into an impassioned soliloquy of the most obtuse variety. I zone out when things get loud, there's too many people around, or when people don't seem to be interested in my contribution to the conversation. I can be content just observing, looking from afar as other people commune, listening, and affirming others. When more than four people are talking, I need the conversation to break up into separate ones so I can engage. I'm reading people, their body language, tone, movements, etc. I'm spending my downtime in between speaking assessing what other people may be feeling and/or thinking. I'm curious if they perceive me to be as awkward as I believe myself to be. Why do they keep look at me? Is there something on my face? Am I smiling too big? Are they looking past me? Am I in the way? Do they want me here? Am I adding anything to this conversation? What role am I playing here? How much space am I taking up? Have I brought other people in? Can I take the time to breathe and listen instead of speak? And my favorite - am I actually awkward or do people do not see me that way. The cognitive dissonance between who we believe ourselves to be and how others experience us can be striking. Reconciling the two takes time. Who we see ourselves as and who others perceive us to be need some common ground. 

Naming your own awkwardness can be empowering. Just pointing out that you weren't graceful, posed, or put together for a second in a world that demands unattainable perfection is a revolutionary act. It's individualistic. It's liberating. It's reclaiming a fleeting moment of being ordinary and making that mundane extraordinary. Taking back the power from impossible standards, unreachable aspirations, and unrealistic sanitizing of our average  lives gives us control. We get to choose how our mistakes, clumsiness, and forgetfulness impacts. We determine the significance of our interactions. We get to spin our awkwardness of our way to make it is as big or as little a deal as we like. Making fun of yourself is part of embracing all of you. When we recognize our own fallibility it goes from being a weakness to a strength. Make fun of yourself. Laugh at you. Poke fun at your ridiculousness. Be a regular person. Be average. Be plain. It's okay just to be. It's okay to not be awe-inspiring, to go above and beyond, to be amazing. It's okay just to be alright; and to be alright with that. We're imperfectly human, and we would be wise to remember that. To come unraveled, to let loose, to fall apart, and to be "off." Constantly being on is exhausting. It's unsustainable and disingenuous. Sometimes letting the us behind the acting, the show we put on, and the parts we play out let's us breathe. We deserve to breathe. We deserve to just be. We deserve to be embraced in our essence - without the extras. X


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