Schuppel’s Scoop: it’s okay to feel awkward


Claire Schuppel

Claire Schuppel writes about the trials and tribulations of awkwardness.

Claire Schuppel, Arts & Life Editor

You know when a movie theater employee says “enjoy the show” and you say “you too”? As an easily embarrassed person, these moments have haunted me throughout my entire life. No matter if you are on the receiving end or the one delivering the message, there is nothing more mortifying. It begs the question: why are humans so ashamed of being awkward? 

When one makes passing comments, such as the movie example, there is a strict routine all of us follow:

“Hi, how are you?”

“I’m good, you?”

“I’m good, thanks!”

But then, there are moments when the script slightly changes and throws off the entire short interaction:

“Hi, Claire!”

“Good, how are you?”

This might not seem like a big deal – and it really isn’t – but many would come out of this moment with a wave of sudden embarrassment. This shame has only been heightened in recent years as we slowly emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic

These moments petrify me; I can still recall random moments where I stuttered through a sentence and it killed me. I have never been able to understand my own shame in this, besides the fact that I overthink each action I make that could be considered “out of the ordinary.” Personally, I find solace in finding out new pieces of information that make awkwardness feel a little less individualized. 

I learned recently in my Human Cognition class that we frequently go into autopilot when navigating simple, rinse and repeat interactions. We assume that when we see someone in passing, they too will follow the usual routine previously mentioned. Most of the time this is the case, but sometimes we suffer from lapses in our processing where we can’t find the right response quick enough. This routine was broken a bit when we were stuck at home, so getting used to normally interacting again comes with its errors.

Ty Tashiro of Popular Science put it well when writing, “On some subconscious level, we know that too many violations of small social rules can lead to social exile. Our minds have an overly sensitive emotional trigger when it comes to alerting us to unmet social expectations because our need to belong is so essential to our well-being.” The article discusses that, from an evolutionary standpoint, awkwardness does actually serve a purpose. As wonderful as uniqueness is, the feeling of awkwardness serves as a tool to redirect you to fit your social surroundings. 

The previously mentioned examples were tame examples of awkwardness, but the scope that “awkward” covers is vast. The feeling can emerge from stressful social situations to feeling like you stick out like a sore thumb in a room and everything in between. Again, this is a natural reaction to perceiving yourself as different from others, but people are so put off by these feelings. Looking on the bright side is helpful here, as your body is doing what it is supposed to do. 

It is an appealing idea that I can get these feelings to subside by gradually putting myself out of my comfort zone, so maybe we can use that as incentive. Though we may feel awkward as a response to feeling alienated, we can also find comfort in the fact that we all feel awkward sometimes! 

While it is easier said than done, it might be more constructive to meet this awkwardness with humor. Let’s make this a challenge for all of us, as I certainly need to force myself to be content with these ridiculous moments. Next time you are confronted with a wave of awkwardness, don’t let it invade your thoughts for more than a second; find the humor in the moment and shrug it off. It’s funny to slip up when we are talking and sometimes all we can do when we feel weird is laugh.