I am not always (or even often) on point, funny, witty, snarky, pretty or know what to say. In many, many social situations, I am awkward. The kind of awkward where I feel like a cow on ice. Or a ballerina on a football field. Or a psychic at a science convention (that’s actually happened, by the way).
Sometimes, I’m just really, stinkin’ awkward.
And I bet you are, sometimes, too.
For the past four years, I’ve flown to Virginia to cook for 30-40 outgoing, enthusiastic
hippies up-and-coming slackline yogis earning their certification as a YogaSlacker Teacher. This group of folks tends to be outgoing, extroverted, hands-on, funny, a bit exhibitionist and talented to the extreme.
I just cook the food.
Yes, I can slackline. I do yoga. And I can even be quite funny. But I’m not naturally extroverted and I tend to either have two modes in large groups – extra snarky, as a protection mechanism (my over-compensation for being sensitive), or quiet and withdrawn.
I don’t fit in. And what’s worse, I feel like I don’t fit in.
Last year, I brought this up to my wonderful co-cook and good friend. I said to her, “I just don’t fit in.” She looked me square in the eyes, sighed, and said,
No, you don’t fit in. But it doesn’t matter, because there is a place for you here.
At first, I was like, Fuck. See? Even she agrees with me – with my deepest fear. But once I accepted those two things to be true – that I didn’t really fit in, but that it didn’t matter, because there was a place for me – I relaxed. I let go a bit. I calmed down. It was such a relief to me to realize that no matter if I fit in or not, there was a place for me.
Now, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t awkward.
Sometimes we look at awkwardness as the thing to vanquish from our lives. I think it plays on our desire to do all the things right, to follow the rules and look like we know what the hell we’re doing. I once heard someone say that they worked really hard to not be awkward, and I thought, What a strange thing to work on. Here’s why:
The goal of not being awkward assumes that you would need to inherently know how to handle every situation that came your way. Each new social situation, with new environments, new people, those people’s stories and personalities, how they smelled, what you ate that day and how it settled, how much sleep you had, how far you traveled, if you remembered to brush your teeth, if they forgot to brush their teeth – the list is endless.
Unless you live in a cave – a literal cave in the mountains – alone, and don’t come out, and experience nothing new with no visitors then how can you possibly expect to never be or feel awkward?
You can’t. And I don’t believe that not feeling awkward is the goal.
The goal is to allow yourself to feel awkward without beating yourself up about it. To allow yourself to show up and be awkward and not create a story about how it means you’re lacking in some way. To acknowledge how you feel, give yourself permission to feel that way, and keep showing up. This is what responding to the environment – rather than reacting – really means.
There are more places than not that I don’t fit in. I’m a psychic energy healing, introverted, highly sensitive, feminist, pregnant martial artist. I get how weird that is to most people. But I also love who I am, and continuously work on giving myself permission to feel how I feel. To show up however I show up. And to remember that I am here – on this planet and in this body – on purpose. So that means there’s a place for me.
Give yourself permission to be awkward.
Awkward means that you’re alive. It means you’re trying something new. It means that you’re trying, period. It means that you’re not sure of every step and you don’t know all the rules yet (plus, screw the rules!). It means that you’re human, and that you’re humble, and that you’re just trying to figure it all out.
Awkwardness is sometimes the result of being alive and willing to try new things and new situations. Permission to let yourself move through the phase of awkwardness in order to experience is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
Tomorrow, I’m going to get on an airplane and fly six hours to the east coast. I have a middle seat, and I’m pregnant, which means I’ll have to pee roughly eight times during the flight. So I plan to inform the row mate lucky (unlucky?) enough to have the isle seat of all of this. At 7:45am. It’s going to be awkward. I can’t wait.