Many people feel less connected to others; they are socially inhibited by their flaws. Here is a liberating truth: when people accept their differences, they make and keep better and deeper connections. How does that work? How can you benefit from accepting your awkwardness and flaws?
“Why can’t I be that witty?” “My laugh is too loud.” “I’m just too weird.” Negative self-talk about our self-perceived awkwardness can become a barrier, pushing us away from the authentic human connections that we want and would enjoy.
Here is a truth that can liberate us all: embracing our imperfections, our quirks, and our social awkwardness can be the key to forming deeper and more meaningful connections.
There is no such thing as social perfection; let’s bust that highly destructive myth. The reality is that everyone experiences awkwardness in all sorts of contexts.
Which of us has not seen a brilliant person tripping over their words during an important presentation? Even a super-skilled, confident elite athlete can blush after receiving an overblown compliment. The most diplomatic and socially skilled people you know have all felt lost at a party, stumbling, stammering, and clumsy. We all do. Each of us is doing our best to navigate this messy human experience called life. We are all trying to find our social footing and connect meaningfully with others.
Instead of hiding our imperfections, as most people are prone to doing, let’s celebrate them. When we show our authentic selves, flaws and all, we make it possible and comfortable for others to do the same. Being us gives others permission to be themselves, too. When we let down our mask, the impossible facade of perfection, we open the door to genuine connection.
Specifically, how can embracing your awkwardness foster deeper connections?
Vulnerability sows the seeds of trust
When we expose our own awkwardness and vulnerability, we invite others to share theirs. When we connect over shared experiences of fallibility, it builds trust and creates a sense of camaraderie.
Authenticity attracts the right people
When we let go of the need to impress, we tend to attract people who see and appreciate us as we actually are. Non-verbally, by being ourselves, we say, “I accept you as you are, too.”
The people who laugh with us, at our awkward jokes, our rambling stories, and accept our missteps are those who want to know us as we actually are and not have a “relationship” with a mask, a façade, or an illusion. Deeper connections are built on genuine understanding and acceptance, not on our spun, carefully constructed, or false persona. For years, I was emotionally and intellectually attracted to eccentric people and never knew why. Now I do.
Awkwardness often manifests as humorous self-deprecation. A well-timed laugh at our own expense can break the ice, diffuse tension, and instantly put others at ease. Shared laughter is a powerful bonding agent, creating a sense of connection and lightheartedness. People who laugh together stay together. G.K. Chesterton shared this piece of observational wisdom: “Angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly.”
When I am delivering a talk in front of hundreds of people, it is inevitable that I will make a mistake. When I do, I invite the audience to laugh with me at my folly. When we laugh together, we create a better connection. Self-immolatory humour is highly endearing.
Awkwardness makes you memorable
Do you remember someone who spilled a drink all over themselves? Almost certainly. Equally, you may remember a person who asked an unintentionally hilarious question. Why? Emotions – genuine shared emotions – help us connect. Shared emotions make people and events memorable. They are the basis of the stories that are retold with fond laughter. Owning our awkwardness makes us interesting, memorable, and human.
Awkwardness precedes growth
Only people with sufficient self-awareness and self-consciousness can feel awkward. That self-awareness is massively useful for self-development. If we embrace our awkwardness, it allows us to identify areas where we might want to grow, develop social skills, or learn to navigate certain situations with more grace. Owning our imperfections empowers us to work with them and on them. We can become a more confident and comfortable version of ourselves.
“Embrace our awkwardness” isn’t an imploration to walk around announcing our flaws to the world. It’s about accepting our quirks, finding humour in our missteps, and accepting ourselves as the genuine, sometimes messy, humans that we are. It’s about viewing our vulnerability not as a weakness but as a potent tool for building deep, meaningful connections.
Here are some tried-and-tested ways to embrace your awkwardness.
- Challenge your negative self-talk. When you catch yourself criticising your awkwardness, real or imagined, reframe the situation. Tell yourself, “That was funny!” or “It’s OK to be human.”
- Step outside your comfort zone. Try new things, even if, perhaps, especially if they feel scary. The more you expose yourself to new social situations, the more comfortable you’ll become. Here is a phrase that is worth remembering: there is no growth in the comfort zone, and there is no comfort in the growth zone.
- Find your tribe. Surround yourself with people who appreciate your humour, flaws, foibles, quirks, and genuine self; with people who will enjoy and even celebrate your awkward moments and offer support when you need it.
- Remember, everyone is awkward. Most people seek to create a façade, a social mask. We see them from the outside. Inside, we all have our own insecurities and vulnerabilities. Focus on the fact that we are all in the same situation, trying to navigate the social jungle one misstep at a time.
The next time you feel your face blushing or your tongue seems disconnected from your brain, remember this: your awkwardness is an invitation to connect, to share, and to build relationships that go beyond the superficial.
To improve your existing relationships and form new ones, embrace your imperfections and laugh at your stumbles. The most meaningful and enduring bonds are built on mutual acceptance and understanding. Embrace your awkwardness and go build connections.
Professor Nigel MacLennan runs the performance coaching practice PsyPerform.