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Redefining the Meaning of “Social Awkwardness”

When I take a walk down memory lane, I can still remember the cramped hallways and rusty lockers of high school. And when I dig a little deeper, I remember a super fun and exciting conversation I had in grade nine with a friend who told me I was so socially awkward and that I had an awkward air around me wherever I went. I can assure you I had no hard feelings, but it started up the gears in my inquisitive little head and really got me thinking for a while: what does it mean to be socially awkward?

For the longest time, I thought of social awkwardness as that misfit in the group that just didn’t belong or the one person in the group who just wasn’t in on the joke and was cluelessly trying to process the punchline. Those self-conscious little thoughts started to turn into full-fledged sessions where I started analyzing everything I was saying and everyone’s reactions to that. I became obsessed with analyzing myself in social situations to the point where I might as well have gone into a career in psychology research because the time I spent thinking about this was definitely longer than 9-5 work hours.

When I started university, I experienced the exact same internal debate. I met people who would become my closest friends, yet I kept internalizing this notion that I was so awkward, nobody really wanted to stay my friend and that acquaintances were probably weirded out by me. I started to immediately doubt anyone who didn’t reciprocate my enthusiasm instantly and started to believe that I was put onto their “please avoid at all costs” social list.

The truth is that the way you think about things has more power over your own world than you realize. Every time I fed into those insecure thoughts, I fed into the monster that had created this distorted world that I assumed was reality. The world will only see you in that negative way if you keep thinking it will because your actions will directly reflect what you think.

Every negative thing can be broken down into little pieces, with each of those pieces turning into something positive that really contributes to who you are as a person. Even if you don’t seem to understand “normal” jokes, maybe you have a unique perspective that other people would appreciate it. Or maybe you think you’re over-enthusiastic, but that energy and spirit is something someone else would admire. “Socially awkward” consists of two short words with a negative connotation behind it, but that doesn’t mean it actually is. Those two words don’t encompass all the wonderful little things about you that you keep mistaking as “socially awkward."

And the most important thing I realized? Sometimes, it’s not about you but about the people you hang out with at different times in your life. Around some people you might feel like you just don’t understand them or really fit in, but when you find the people get you, things won’t be awkward. It might take some time, but one or two friends that get you will more than make up for a lifetime of friendships that failed because you guys didn’t vibe well.

If you were to ask me what “social awkwardness” meant in high school, I’d probably tell you it was some sort of condition you were cursed with – the curse to never fit in with any crowd. If you ask me today, I’d tell you something completely different. I’d tell you that it’s a complete blessing.