By Trisha Leong
We’ve all had that “Oh my god what do I do now” moment. Enduring long and cringy silences, explaining a joke to a bunch of people who didn’t get it (and worse, having them still not understand), high-fives left unnoticed, your crush standing beside you as you grapple for something – no, anything! – to say, only to later regret what just came tumbling out of your cheeseburger-filled mouth…
Awkwardness is real. So what can we do about it?
One thing this uncomfortably powerful emotion can tell us is that our comfort zones have been trespassed. Most of us are naturally wired to stay in the warm embrace of the familiar, and seldom adventure into interacting with different groups of people or new situations all by ourselves because it can be so new to us – scary, even. But the thing is, if we want our life (especially our young adulthood) to be memorable and special, we have to step outside the walls of comfort we build around ourselves and dare to deviate from the norm (not to mention allow these deviations to enter our life as well).
Heart-wrenchingly awkward moments can slap us square in the face, whenever and however they want. In times like these, it could also serve as a challenge that tests the strength of our ability to hold true to who we are. Our moral codes, promises to ourselves, perceptions of our identities and that of others are left exposed; it is up to us to either stand confident in our ways, or to conform to the expectations of others. Think about it.
“Be yourself”. If you’ve never had someone say this to you, you must have at least heard or read it before elsewhere. Indeed, this short statement often reaps scoffs or a roll of eyes from those addressed. Why? Because most of us already know this to be true and desire to behave in the ways we identify with; but at the same time, we don’t really know what we should behave like. One reason we feel awkward is because we think others are watching us, judging us, remembering this embarrassing moment of ours… oh, the torture.
But see, we have a tendency to believe this “imaginary audience”. More often than not, we overthink every action by convincing ourselves that others are just as concerned about our cringe-worthy moments as we are. But this is hardly true, because the reality is that your perceived “audience” is probably just as concerned about their own awkwardness, their cringe-worthy moments and their supposed faults. So hey, let the moment pass, have a laugh over it, embrace the discomfort you experienced and bounce back into trying new things.
Adopting this new habit of not clutching onto our uncomfortable situations will take time. The best way we can become more skilled at handling these stiff moments is to of course, enthusiastically engage ourselves in new activities and environments. Be the one to walk up to someone and strike a conversation, or if this is what you usually do, then try letting others do most of the talking while you exercise your listening skills. Not a sports person? Well, now you have a reason to go to the field and try kicking, bouncing or passing a ball. Done with that? Now watch a YouTube video and try learning some dance moves if you can’t remember the last time you twirled around and had fun wiggling your body. The important thing is to find joy in all these experiences because life is meant to be enjoyed, not avoided.
Trying to implement this as a permanent attitude in our lives will definitely make us feel even more awkward with ourselves. But after a few tries at it, there will be a change in you, and as small as it may be, remember that it is still a success; so keep going!
Meeting new people, having difficult conversations, not knowing what to do… these can all become some of the best times in our life if we jump in with a mind free from judgment of ourselves and others. Go ahead. Cringe and laugh about it, remember it with glee. Create more memories! Life is too short to hold back your smiles and laughter. How would you want to remember yours?