Hello, my name is Leila, and….I’m awkward.
Not physically, of course. No, physically I’m usually fairly graceful (says one who falls up stairs sometimes…). But socially, yeah, I’ll say it – I’m awkward.
I’m introverted, but am also shy. And, I am a highly sensitive person. All three of which contribute to me feeling awkward.
When I was young, my shyness made the largest contribution to my awkwardness. I was unable to speak to people I didn’t feel comfortable around.
The shyness would overtake me and cause my words to freeze. I wouldn’t want other people to look at me, let alone talk to me.
When faced with new people or an overwhelming social situation, I would hide any way that I could. I’d tuck my head down to stare at my shoes.
I would not make eye contact, and I certainly would not speak or draw attention to myself in any way, shape or form. I tried to be invisible.
The shyness still impacts me as an adult. I can’t hide in the same way that I did as a child. No more standing in the corner, staring at my shoes, But, I admit, I probably do the adult version.
When I feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed or nervous in a social setting, my mind still freezes.
My instinct still kicks in to avoid drawing attention to myself. I remain very quiet, mostly because I become unable to think. I can’t be myself. I can’t relax.
In this state, I still find it difficult to even make eye contact, so until those feelings pass I lose all ability to participate in conversation. I become, yep, awkward.
My introversion and sensitivity also combine together to contribute to my awkwardness. I get overwhelmed easily by social situations. Large crowds drain me quickly. And the stimuli from fast moving social interaction is usually more than I am able to keep up with.
I process information slowly. I need time and space to think before I feel comfortable contributing.
When I am in a fast paced social setting, I end up feeling like a slow-moving turtle, trapped on the centre line of a freeway.
Movement, activity, all rushes around and past me, and I can’t contribute, because I am frozen in place. I am unable to think quickly enough to match the speed that my environment requires.
During group conversations what often happens is that by the time I actually have something to say, the conversation has moved on to another subject. So I remain awkwardly silent, or I end up saying something delayed, or out of place.
My awkwardness embarrasses me sometimes. Okay…a lot of times. For most of my life, I did not accept my personality as a highly sensitive introvert. In fact, for most of my life I despised who I was.
So, for many years, I despised my awkwardness also.
Most of the time, in typical introvert fashion, I would get caught up in an internal dialogue after the fact. I would compare myself to other people, wondering why I could not be more outgoing and natural, like them.
I would spend sleepless nights, spiraling around in my thoughts. Staring at the ceiling, listening to the clock tick past the hours, wondering why I had said those words to that person yesterday; or why had I frozen and turned mute around that other person a few weeks ago; or why in the world had I laughed so loud and so awkwardly late, at that joke, six months ago.
Sleepless nights, hand over my face and a pit in my stomach, wondering why I was so awkward.
I read a quote recently, by actor Michael J. Fox. He said:
“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.”
I still get embarrassed sometimes by my awkwardness. There are still many times that I wish I could cut this part of my personality away, and replace it instead with mad, socially suave skills.
My awkwardness… is what it is. I can’t wish it away. It’s a part of me, and there are reasons why it’s there.
When I accept my awkwardness as “it is what it is”, however, it doesn’t mean I have to resign myself to being a slave to it. It doesn’t mean I give up, and stop working towards growth.
I might fantasize about wishing away my awkwardness sometimes, but it’s a trap of thinking that in order to feel content with myself, I need to change these negative things about myself.
I used to think that I needed to figure out how to fulfill that wish, and just be rid of them.But I’ve learned that growth and contentment come from learning how to work with and through those more negative aspects of my personality. They come by being honest with myself about where I need to start.
When I spend all my time wishing the problem away, I waste energy I could put into rolling up my sleeves, and working forward from where I really am.
I have seen a domino effect from accepting that I am awkward. During all those sleepless nights, laying there, hating who I was, regretting my awkwardness….. I felt isolated. Alone.
Like an alien, a freak of nature. Always the only one who lacked skills in this area. The only awkward one.
Acceptance has led me to an understanding that I am not alone in my awkwardness
I no longer spend so much time cringing inwardly at my behaviour, telling myself I am the only one. Acceptance has helped me to tear my eyes away from myself.Now I see that many people – friends, acquaintances and strangers, both online and in day-to-day life – have similar difficulties.
Knowing I’m not alone makes me feel less isolated.
And because I don’t feel as isolated, I take my awkwardness less seriously.
The worst part about those middle-of-the-night sessions berating myself for my awkwardness was that I would convince myself that whatever I had done…or not done…had ruined everything.
Now that person would forever think I was weird. Or now that friend would drift away, or talk about me poorly.
Once it really sunk in that I am not the only one who struggles with awkwardness, it has allowed me to give myself some grace.
I can let go of it easier, and see it as an eccentricity which I am working on, around and through, rather than tear myself to shreds over it.
So, I’ll say it again: Hello, my name is Leila, and I’m awkward. Gloriously awkward.
Image Credit:David M
A bend in the road led me to embrace my introversion, and to discover my identity as a highly sensitive person. As I have moved along the path in learning more about who I am, how to take care of myself as an introvert, and how to handle the challenges of life as an HSP - my love of writing has been rekindled and embraced once again. It intertwines with the journey I am on, and is reflected in what I write.