Maybe it’s because the idea of awkwardness triggers those traumatic early memories of adolescence. But every time we’re in a new situation we’re afraid of tripping up again, terrified the veil of adulthood will fall and we’ll be standing vulnerable, uncool and as awkward as we were as teens.
We grow up, but rarely do we leave these earlier experiences behind. We get better at hiding it. We have the ability to avoid certain situations that would peel it out of us. That’s why besides talking to remove awkward silences or doing any new activity that will bring out our clumsiness, we also can’t stand discomfort.
Maybe we can afford to upgrade to business class, for example, so we don’t need to feel uncomfortable in a 10-hour flight. But there are other ways we evade discomfort. Discomfort like awkwardness becomes a game as we age.
How do we get older without having to deal with either?
Age lends itself to more pain, increase of chronic illnesses and situations beyond our control. In response, fear grows.
To fight back we don’t want to get rid of our things. We eat at the same restaurant. We stop traveling. We don’t reach out to make new friends. We settle.
Growing is living so when we put the brakes on change, we’re preventing our true purpose from breaking through.
This is why I think awkwardness and discomfort are so essential. It returns us to a time in our life when we were growing constantly. We were forced to. Every day we were learning something new about the world. Every day we were adjusting ourselves, our expectations and responses to life. We were bumbling fools because that’s how you grow. We couldn’t stop it even if we wanted to. We were awkward and uncomfortable, and think about it-weren’t we beautiful back then?
If you’re feeling stuck right now, there’s probably some part of your life you’re afraid of. You’re holding yourself tight and perfect. You’re wearing a facade of what you think others expect you to look like. You’re old enough to play the game and you think you’re succeeding at it. But if you’re not putting yourself out there, up for rejection, up for a little discomfort, you’re not growing.
What am I talking about when I mean awkward and uncomfortable?
I mean going up to someone new and having a meaningful conversation. I mean putting yourself out there to be rejected in some way. I mean taking a new class that you might fail at. I mean saying the thing you really want to say even though you’re afraid of saying it. I mean pushing yourself a tiny pebble and then pushing yourself a little more next time.
Since you’re older, you can live your life escaping all the situations that will make you feel awkward and uncomfortable, but that would be a life of regret.
Small exposures to things that terrify you is how you break your fears. It’s how you do the thing you’ve always wanted to. It’s how you become your true self and live an authentic life.
If you’re feeling awkward or uncomfortable, then you’re doing it perfect. And don’t worry, I’m with you. I’m an introvert who was an awkward teen that grew up into an equally awkward adult who sometimes feels uncomfortable and does the awkward uncomfortable thing anyway.