I have a quiet dread of my own awkwardness: being indecisive, flailing in public, feeling like an imposter, knowingly half-assing things. I'm a subconscious subscriber to the AAA club: Actively Avoiding Awkwardness. But leaning into awkwardness is a way to disrupt the forces that keep us stuck and welcome more of the juice of life itself.
The root of the word awkward comes from an Old Norse word that means “turned the wrong way.”
Awkwardness is the blanket term for anything that disrupts the grain of our social conventions -these deeply embedded beliefs and constructs that invisibly influence every aspect of our lives. Awkward is a label assigned to behavior that confronts our notions of decorum and superficial normalcy. Awkwardness is the waiting room for the real classrooms of life, vulnerability and intimacy. It’s a waiting room you can only find by being willing to go the wrong way down the one way street of social conventions.
Feeling awkward is an indicator of personal growth.
As I look back over my spiritual journey, the times when I took the greatest steps forward were all times when I felt awkward, and I intentionally chose to lean into that feeling. Due to my privilege and other factors in my life, I’ve been graced with a good amount of social courage. And I often choose to use it by embracing awkwardness.
I remember when I first realized that the perception of awkwardness was a fruitful thing to contemplate, and even disrupt. It was my first post-divorce holiday season. I was so heartbroken about the loss of our nuclear family unit that I didn’t want to shop, decorate, cook or bake (I still don't, actually).
I saw a post on Facebook about a friend hosting a Holiday Sing A Long. I was so excited! Here’s a way to find my holiday spirit!
I began to invite friends to go to this with me, and every person turned me down, for varying reasons. One person told me that they thought it seemed “awkward.” After a dozen rejections (I actually counted because I got curious) I began to consider how powerful a sense of perceived "awkwardness" is.
It can prevent us from having new experiences, especially if you're an introvert. Extra love to all the introverts out there.
How many juicy life experiences do we miss, simply out of fear of awkwardness? It can feel awkward to tell someone that you love them. Learning can be awkward. Being uncertain can be awkward.
Just this morning, on social media, someone posted on the upcoming Cuddle Party Event that it "sounds awkward".
I get it. I felt the same way before my first one.
Life is awkward! None of us have it figured out! We're all faking it!
Besides, like I learned, from a 16-year-old once,"It's only awkward if you make it awkward". It's really our perception, our fear of awkwardness that deters us.
Leaning into awkwardness is a way to disrupt the forces that keep us stuck and welcome more of the juice of life itself.