What kind of socially awkward are you?

Posted on January 18, 2012



Social Awkwardness and you

The other night, a friend of mine decided it would be a good idea to show the following photo to some people she had never met before during a very civilised ‘get to know you’ dinner.

When I asked her why, she said: “I don’t know what I was thinking.  I just wanted them to like me.”

This confession came as we traded stories of the socially awkward and weirdly self-sabotaging things we find ourselves doing when we want people to like us.

For example, I had just got done telling her about my latest overshare, which involved me informing an almost perfect stranger about a recent experience with a urinary tract infection.

I liked this person and hoped we could maybe forge a friendship and the only way I could figure to do that in the heat of the moment was to tell her about something gross involving me.

While trading tales of social retardation, my friend and I observed a worrying trend that when we’re feeling uncomfortable; we sometimes morph into bizarre versions of ourselves despite wanting desperately to put our best foot forward.

We then panic and worry that the people we just completely awkwarded out think we’re utter freaks and then somehow that pattern becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And I thought all this crap was supposed to be sorted out in my twenties?

It gets hard when you’re forced out of your comfort zone

My friend and I are in fairly similar situations in that we have both married in the last year or two and have moved away from our nearest and dearest into a completely new social context.

This, while in some ways exciting, is mostly hard work because you lose the luxury of years of history and familiarity with old friends and have to:

  1. Break into existing social cliques – not easily done
  2. Hope that you fit in – try showing photos of gunts, I’ve heard it helps…
  3. Try to temper your behaviour until people know you well enough to understand that you’re not a freak show.  Something that in my case (and judging by the photo above, my friend’s) could take years.

When I feel socially awkward and uncomfortable I do one of two things:

1)   Go completely quiet – sometimes it’s just easier to withdraw and feel sorry for yourself than it is to try and break into conversations with people.

2)   Assume a familiarity with people that they may find weird – e.g. I tell you about my UTI. I also talk at a million miles an hour and make inappropriate jokes.

Don’t get me wrong, I also talk a lot and make inappropriate jokes when I’m feeing completely comfortable in my social surroundings, but there is a marked difference in how things play out.

Do you try too hard?

As I lamented my tale of social woe to another friend recently, she made the observation that perhaps I tried a little too hard sometimes.  That maybe I overcompensated when I didn’t need to.

I have stewed on this since and tried to analyse my behaviour to see where I may have made things harder for myself socially than they needed to be.

Am I just too different?  Am I not fun/relaxing/easy to be with?  Do people simply not have room in their lives for a new friend?  Do I just not click with people?

But then I realised that I was approaching things all wrong.

Because I’m fine.

I’m an ok person.  And there are even people out there who like me and want to hang out with me.

I know, right…

And the same is true for you.

So perhaps instead of torturing myself and feeling awkward and inadequate, I need to chill out with the whole thing and stop vying for approval I don’t need.

When I’m feeling a bit crap, maybe instead of wallowing in my social inadequacies I should be more intentional in carving out time with people I can be fully myself with.  Fill up the ol’ love tank, isn’t it…

I’m sure I’ll still feel awkward at weddings and parties from time to time and I’m sure I’ll wish I was in the cool kids club as well (and don’t pretend like you don’t wish the same), but maybe if I chill out and invest more in the good relationships I have rather than stressing out about relationships I perceive I don’t, things will get easier overall.

Something to think about, perhaps.

Yours in social awkwardness,