Life has a way of making things reeeeeeally awkward at times. We’ve all had those moments.
Running into an ex with their new significant other.
Walking into the wrong room and interrupting a meeting with all eyes on you.
Accidentally saying “sir” when it should have been “ma’am” or vice versa.
Stumbling over words during an important presentation.
Screaming in the middle of church services… oh wait, just me?
You see, I have Tourette Syndrome, and I do things like that. All. The. Time.
The other awkward moments seem to pale in comparison to being… different. *shudders* Does it get more awkward than that?
I have moments where I literally cannot control the sounds coming out of my mouth or my body’s actions. So I know a thing or two about awkward.
Wanna know a secret? It’s my favorite thing.
I love catching people off guard and being in awkward situations.
The reason things are so awkward is because we don’t know what to do with them. Society, or culture, is made up of rules we need to follow. When we encounter something not in this “rule book” things get awkward. Fast.
There are no guidelines of what to do. We don’t know how to react, so we hesitate. This creates that feeling of awkwardness. It’s a feeling of “what now?”
In society we have been conditioned to act a certain way, say certain things and follow the rules and stick to the status quo.
I obviously don’t stick to the status quo, no matter how hard I tried. I tried for several years. I wanted to just be normal. The closer I got to achieving this, the more unhappy I got.
I figured it was because I still wasn’t “normal” enough. I would double down my efforts, erasing key components of who I was.
Believe it or not, this was actually before I developed Tourette’s.
I didn’t start showing signs of Tourette’s until I was a senior in high school. They started small, sounding like hiccups, but not hurting as much. It wasn’t something I had to hide, it was just like a cough or a sneeze.
At least until they started to evolve…
I started screaming, my shoulder started kicking, and my life started to change.
There goes my shot at normal.
At the same time this was going on, I was in college studying culture. Realizing that it is a social construct and how much it varies from place to place was incredibly enlightening and validating for me.
There was nothing wrong with me. I just was different and people don’t know what to do with different.
Realizing that awkward is just a gap in the rules society has created gave me an advantage.
I may not control what comes out of my mouth, but I control what happens next.
No one ever knows how to respond when I scream out of nowhere. But I do. So I get to guide what happens next. I get to be the one to laugh and make light of the situation. I get to be the one to smile mysteriously at their confusion. I get to be the one who explains what is going on.
There is no right answer for how to handle these situations. So when I am the first person an individual has met. I get to tell them what the “right” answer is.
This concept can apply to any awkward situation. Things only get awkward when one or both parties are not sure how to respond to a situation.
So when something happens, just go with it! Don’t hesitate to say what is on your mind, how you feel or act in a certain way. You are leading the situation, and others will respond and follow your lead.
The best part it is you don’t even have to know what you are doing. But you are the one leading and taking control when no one else wants to.
It’s certainly helpful if you know what is going on and how to respond, but not entirely necessary. It gets easier with practice.
1. Ask Questions
If you come across something new, don’t hesitate to ask questions and to learn.
I love when people ask me questions about Tourette Syndrome. It makes me feel smart. I love when people ask about me and get to know me. Who doesn’t like talking about themselves? You are an expert on the topic of you, after all.
2. Treat People Like People
Just because someone is different, doesn’t mean they aren’t human. They have their own personality and people can react differently to the same situation.
Put yourself in their shoes for a minute and think how you would want others to respond if you were them. Try to understand what life would be like and how you would want someone to respond if you were deaf, blind, in a wheelchair or who knows what else.
Life can throw all sorts of curveballs. Just be nice and recognize the person.
3. Be Willing to Be Wrong
No matter how much research you do or how many questions you ask, you still won’t know everything. Don’t get defensive if a mistake is made.
4. Have a Sense of Humor
If you do get caught in an awkward situation, you might as well make it fun.
Life is meant to be enjoyed. People like to laugh. Don’t stress about the awkward situation. Make a joke if you can. Just relax and go with it.
Awkward situations aren’t that scary. They aren’t something to stress over for days.
They are simply uncharted territory where you get to make the rules.
Take control and lead these opportunities. Use that awkwardness to help and educate yourself and/or others.
Sometimes you just have throw the “rule book” out the window and run with it.
Being different is an advantage and should be used as such. You have a unique perspective on life that others don’t see… yet.
You can’t make a difference until you are different. Some of us just have more practice being different.
Different is hard, and you already know this. So wouldn’t you rather have the kind of hard that helps others and leaves the world a better place, rather than the suffering kind of hard?
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