While lurking on Instagram, I noticed a picture. The caption read, “Why Am I so Awkward?” In the picture was a female, 20-something striking a pose. I immediately thought of my 15-year old daughter, who is not a fan of picture taking. She also claims that awkwardness is her lot in life. As a father, it is my duty to explain life from the male perspective. As a formerly awkward individual, it is my responsibility to close the ranks, and support my fellow awks!
My message is:
Awkwardness is the first and vital stage in the development of Awesomeness. Enjoy its freedom! Refuse any shame! The prize is to win. Just like it’s a game.
Believe me because I have been through it. I was called “froggy” because of the way I looked in pictures. I was self-conscious about my teeth, my lips, my hair, my “smile” and more. I felt awkward and often out of place. The more I attempted to express my uniqueness, the more people shamed me into conformity. I was in high school when I realized something that worked for me. I realized that I would NEVER live up to THEIR standards. I could never be what THEY wanted me to be. If I was what they wanted, I could never be what I WANT.
And there was a lot I wanted to be: successful, mobile, agile, learned, as well as tall, good looking, and articulate. My realization came in the midst of being bullied on the school bus. I was isolated in that space. I wish someone would have shared with me what I am about to share with you. Awkwardness begins the process. It is the caterpillar entering into the chrysalis of development to emerge, after a time, as a butterfly. Not only recognizing your beauty, but gaining the ability to fly.
- AWKWARD. The first stage is often the hardest because it is new and unfamiliar. Enjoy this stage and its freedom. Experiment with new things sustainably. Styles, screen names, genres of music, career interests and more are yours to explore.
- WEIRD. You are aware that others seem to question your choices and your interests. Realize that their questions are their quest to understand your freedom. They want that freedom for themselves.
- CREATIVE. At this stage, you begin to realize that your mind is unchained while others are stuck on the “right” way or the way they were told. You have an enviable ability, not only to think outside the box, but to reconfigure the box.
- CONFIDENT. Recognition of your unique ability supports a confidence that you are able to problem solve at a level beyond your peers. You still hear some snickers and questions. But, they are in the background while you excel in the foreground. After each interaction where you excel, those who questioned seek out your help.
- CULTURED. At this stage, confidence gives way to the realization that the world of knowledge is exponentially greater than you once comprehended. You begin to see that your uniqueness is a construct for understanding the world. It is a way to filter the vast information you are bombarded with. While others tune out new information, you catalog it for future use.
- SOPHISTICATED. In the sophistication stage, you are looked upon as extremely smart and capable by others, and that makes you attractive on another level. The immature questions of the past are now recognition of your value by others. This is why it is so important to maintain your own sense of your value without the worry of other’s opinions. It is not your conformity, but your uniqueness that will be needed to solve new problems.
- AWESOME. Keep the faith, learn from your mistakes, and the seventh stage will meet you putting it all together. Every stage teaches you something valuable about yourself and the people around you. At this stage, realize your responsibility to live your awesomeness as an example to other caterpillars just awakening to their awkwardness. Share your story as encouragement to them.
So, surround yourself with people who embrace their uniqueness, their awkwardness. Refuse to judge yourself by any other standard but the standard of “developing.” You are a work in progress. Beautiful patterns to be seen, lots of legs like energy, voracious appetite for knowledge, and the ability to enjoy a good nap. Enjoy this moment and each along the way. You will notice one day that you have developed wings. You will have the courage to fly.