The Science of Awkwardness and How to Overcome it

According to Merriam-Webster, awkwardness is defined as:

  1. Lacking Dexterity or skill
  2. Lacking ease or grace
  3. Lacking social grace and assurance

But what is it really? I’m going to get a big head right now and swear to paint-by-number Jesus (he’s hanging on my wall now) that everyone reading this has experienced a level of awkwardness (embarrassment) in one way or another. Can it be shyness, embarrassment or perhaps simply feeling out of place? To myself, I feel the most appropriate way to look at awkwardness is to realize that not only is awkwardness a normal everyday occurrence in  life, but awkwardness is nothing more than one or more people pretending one or more of the above items in our definition are not present in a situation.

I’m quite awkward on Youtube

And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that, however what would our lives look like if we chose to stop responding to the negative social pressures and stigmas of being “different” and simply chose to be “ourselves?” Would we still feel the negative effects of social pressure if we realized that awkwardness is often less about what others think and more about what we, ourselves perceive? In all honesty, this is in fact what is really going on, we quite often believe there is this great big spotlight on us, highlighting our every flaw and indiscretion. I know some of you are laughing but it’s true. Many of us develop a sense of external observance from others akin to the movie The Truman Show.

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The truth is, awkwardness is really nothing more than our minds not agreeing with a social outcome whether it was expected or not. From my experience, awkwardness depends largely upon reference experiences to determine certain expectations. If our perception includes (mostly) unrealistic expectations, chances are we will receive just that through the process of our reticular activating system. We perceive what we suspect and even desire, often filling in the blanks of our minds and the what ifs of our perspective by making assumptions and uneducated conclusions. After a set of consistent reference experiences are logged into our perspective, our motivation (ACTIONS are directly affected by how we feel) is then adjusted based on the level of challenge/cognitive ability present.

So how do we overcome awkwardness? Well, the first step in overcoming a behavioral hurdle such as awkwardness is to realize that not only does everyone in the world feel awkward at one time or another but, (like most instances of social anxiety), it can be used to our advantage. Clients can feel less awkward and less anxiety by understanding these feelings are completely normal, are part of our biological defense mechanisms and can in time be used as an indicator for potential for success. In fact, one of the biggest reasons we feel awkward is simply because the situation we have arrived at is different than what we expected and has the potential to have unexpected outcomes good and bad. This is when we can attack these feelings of anxiety head on! These moments of uneasiness are the most crucial in our process of behavioral adjustment because it is during these moments of panic and anxiety where we make our most significant progress. In the Psychological world, this is an approach commonly referred to as exposure therapy.

Feeling awkwardness and social anxiety is important as we adjust our behavior. Let’s say we would like to talk to a rather important person, such as our boss about his or her evaluation of our performance and the possibility of a promotion. Getting past the initial awkward feelings of occupying the time of someone we realize does not waste time can be rather daunting. However, realizing our boss is not only a fellow person with hopes, dreams and faults can be quite crucial in treating our boss with compassion and realness, which can in turn imbue us with a sense of belonging amongst those we wish to have a closer relationship. As human beings we have a natural tendency to put others on a pedestal when we view them as having importance or even through the Halo effect.

According to the The Psychology Dictionary, the tendency to allow one characteristic of an individual to influence our judgment of other characteristics, the halo effect may work positively or negatively. If a person appears outgoing and attractive, we may judge him to be brighter than he is. If he is disagreeable or distasteful, we may judge his intelligence more severely. The halo effect is a common reaction, and a compelling illustration of the power of suggestion. It is also one of the major sources of personal bias and distortions of judgment (Pam, 2018).

If you feel you are affected by awkwardness and would like to explore your options in modifying this behavior through a coaching program, contact me for a free consultation. We will not only address what you feel your shortcomings to achieving what you want may be, but identify one very important thing: who are YOU according to YOU! Please contact me via for a free consultation and we will explore not only who you are but how we can closer align your lifestyle to your ideal self.

Who YOU really are! Trainwrecks, I tell you this frequently and I will likely never stop hammering home this important message: STOP GIVING A FUCK WHAT OTHERS THINK ABOUT YOU! Stop focusing on what others think and begin to pay attention to the way you make others feel. Being comfortable with others is more about realizing THEY are human and have ups and downs than it is obsessing about OUR ups and downs. Seriously, once we begin to realize others are just as imperfect and fallible as us, we have the opportunity to share humor and realistic observation. We are all worried (for obnoxious reasons) whether we are good enough. We are all on the fence of whether we are moving in the right direction, especially those of us who have had a good streak for a while because it means the potential for failure is right around the corner.

So, lets have a discussion! Make sure you smash that LIKE button as you comment below.

  • What are some ways you have been able to overcome your own awkwardness?
  • What is a personal example of how your entire perception was changed simply by giving another person permission to be an imperfect person?
  • Finally, what is a way you notice others experiencing a level of awkwardness and social anxiety as a result of being around you? Yes, YOU! This has likely happened to you more than you realize, once you begin to think about it. I assure you.

Overcoming awkwardness is not something we can overcome with a magic pill or through simple overnight action. Overcoming awkwardness is a process filled with achieving small accomplishments. Moving past social anxiety can have some difficulty involved but the reward far outweighs the cost by providing a pathway to achieving a higher level of achievement in one of the core mental attributes for success to possess: CONFIDENCE! Confidence is the root of reproducible success. Confidence is often what sets the leaders apart from the followers. Confidence shows not only a history of reproducible success, confidence shows a measurable level of evolutionary success through progressive failure.

Let’s smash our way right past our awkwardness and social anxiety! Through a little bit of pain and initial discomfort we can lessen the effects of social pressure by facing our fears head-on and not accepting the regular status quo we’ve grown used to. We can do this!

You’re Welcome. Internet.

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This post was heavily influenced by CHILLVIBES


Definition of awkwardness

The Truman Show

The Halo Effect

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