Raise your hand if you’ve ever done or said something awkward?
Waving to someone when you think they are waving at you but it’s really the person behind you…awkward. When a server says “enjoy your meal” and you reply “Thanks, you too!”…awk. Saying goodbye to someone and realize they are walking the same way as you…yikes. It’s a feeling of pain that all of us will occasionally experience. But when we think back to those moments all we want to do is cringe.
This feeling we experience often gets labeled as humiliation, embarrassment, or awkwardness.
Awkwardness is actually the result from the conflict between the way we present ourselves and the way the world is actually seeing us. There is an awareness to how we are coming off to the world but an ambiguity of what to do next. The embarrassment we feel happens when we don’t like that version of self others see. Psychologist Philippe Rochat at Emory called it the “irreconcilable gap” between who you think you are and who the world is seeing.
Melissa Dahl, the author of “Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness” writes “the best way to be comfortable with that part of yourself again is to share the awkwardness with someone else”. You might find that awkward moments unite us in our mutual human ridiculousness. There is a comfort that we experience when hearing about someone’s excruciating moment.
When you can connect to another person and see a piece of yourself in them, we practice feeling embarrassment through compassion. It’s an expression of self-recognition and tenderness.
“Little humiliations can bring people together, if we let them,” Dahl writes. “The ridiculous in me honors the ridiculous in you.”
How can you embrace the awkwardness by sharing a piece of your cringeworthy moment with someone else today?
Written by: Emily Ruggles