Have you ever thought about how most of the things you are awkward about are really very ordinary things and shouldn’t seem weird at all?
The fact is, things are only awkward if you make them. It’s a state of mind. Nothing has to be awkward, it only is because you labelled it so in your head. If you just let go of that idea, things stop being awkward.
Easier said than done, I know. Despite realizing that I overthink social interactions and that it’s irrational to do so, I know I will continue to be socially awkward. I can’t help it.
If you are anything like me, I bet you’ve been in situations that feel way more awkward than they rationally should. Here is an ED listicle of seven such cases.
- People singing Happy Birthday to you.
It’s a thirty second event where everyone stops what they are doing, and sing while standing in a semi-circular formation around a small fire. It’s just weird.
What am I supposed to do until they are done singing? Is it weird if I sing along? Do I just smile at them like a god-figure? I feel like a horrible person when all I can think is, “okay, you can stop now, I know it’s my birthday, but just shut the hell up already.”
I end up smiling awkwardly and avoiding eye contact, finally saying a squeaky ‘Thank You’ when the song ends.
- Being around friends of friends, who are as good as strangers to you.
This happens a lot in college. You are friends with someone, and you’re just chilling with them in the canteen. Then all of a sudden their friends whom you don’t personally know turn up and they have no idea who you are but everyone’s talking to everybody, so you play along.
There comes a point when it’s too late for formal introductions and then you just end up being forever awkward. Like, are you all friends now? Do you smile and wave when you see them next time? Or would that be creepy? So. Many. Questions.
- Realizing that you’re walking at the same speed as some stranger on the pavement beside you.
Most of the time there’s a running commentary going on in my head like, “and here’s Random Guy walking ahead in a blue shirt. I’m trying to circle around him but what’s this? The pavement is too narrow and Random Guy is racing smart in the middle so there’s not enough room. This is madness!”
If you’ve noticed first, you can kick into a higher gear and win the race before they even know there’s a race. I fear one day I might secretly race someone who is also secretly racing me and it will result in a full-blown sprint.
- Asking someone to repeat themselves for the third time.
This is a common occurrence while placing an order over the phone or in person. Real life example:
“Hi, I want one medium fries.”
“Sure, ma’am. Should I vomit?”
“Should I vomit, ma’am?”
“Uhm… oh, yeah. Yes. Please, warm it.”
In this case I managed to save grace, but it doesn’t always work out that way. There comes a point where you’d rather the earth split open and swallowed you whole than having to ask someone to repeat themselves again.
So, you just smile and say “yeah” and hope that your response made sense while you silently curse the gods, praying the person would just speak clearly.
- Receiving a compliment.
Are you supposed to return the favor? Just say thank you and move on? Downplay it to appear modest? I don’t know, I’m horrible at receiving compliments.
When a compliment comes from my closest friends, things are even more complicated because I am never sure if they are being sarcastic. But at least I can take the Bender approach and go, “Shut up, you li’l shit, I know it.”
- Accidentally touching someone.
Not anywhere… private, but in completely mundane places. Like touching someone’s hand while walking side by side. If it’s a close friend, it’s okay, but when it’s someone you’re not really that comfortable with yet, it can be hella awkward.
You don’t want to make a big deal out of it – I mean, it was just a light brush of hands – so you can’t say sorry. You just look away and pretend it never happened. Awk…ward.
- Changing direction when you’re walking by yourself.
Too risky man. Better circle around the block and lose this crowd. They’ve already seen you going in one direction. If you switch now, you’ll be a laughingstock to all of them, forever. Like, everyone will suddenly point fingers at you and go “HAHAHA, THAT IDIOT WAS GOING THE WRONG WAY! HAHAHA, DID YOU SEE THAT? WHAT A MORON!”
It would be so much cooler if I could just moonwalk to my new destination instead of randomly turning around. Alas!
There are endless such situations into which my brain pointlessly injects awkwardness when any normal person wouldn’t even bat an eyelid.
Waiting for the cashier to return your change and then putting it back into your wallet when there’s a queue behind you? That’s probably the worst kind of performance pressure.
I know most of you would probably think I’m stupid to let these things bother me, but I also know there are others out there who can relate. I have met many who do. So, for such people: it’s okay, you are not insane! Probably.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.