“I am awkward!” many of my clients with social anxiety lament.
My reply, “Life is awkward.” It is and it’s ok. It’s normal.
- Squeezing through the birth canal—awkward.
- Taking those first steps—awkward.
- First day of school—awkward.
- Asking someone on a first date—awkward.
- First sexual experience—awkward.
- Freshman orientation—awkward.
- Graduation gown and silly hat—awkward.
- Job interviews—awkward.
- Conflict with the boss—awkward.
- Meeting the future in-laws—awkward.
- The silence after the first fight with spouse—awkward.
- Your child projectile vomiting at Costco—awkward.
- Your child having a tantrum in public—awkward.
- Meeting your ex’s new partner—awkward.
- Meeting your new partner’s teenage children—awkward.
- Rectal/hernia/gynecological exams—awkward.
- First day in the retirement home—awkward.
- Buying your first box of Depends—awkward.
- Small talk at a funeral—awkward.
This is just a tiny sample of the awkwardness that accompanies us on our journey across the lifespan.
For many with social phobia, their anxiety tells them that it is not ok to be awkward. That’s why they may avoid dating, intimacy, friendships, promotions, and so on. They want to live with the fantasy that if they are careful, they can avoid awkwardness…they can’t.
So what to do?
Accept the reality that life is awkward. Try to have a sense of humor about it. Embrace the awkwardness and focus on all the good stuff life has to offer. Yes, asking someone out is awkward, but for the small price of awkwardness the benefits can be profound.
So go ahead. Be awkward, laugh at the human condition, and move forward towards your life goals.
Eric Goodman, Ph.D.