Have an Awkward Day!

“Have a great day.” “Have a good day.” There’s just too much pressure on good and great. I’m all for results and achievement but I have watched the whole ‘good’ and ‘great’ thing kill any possibility of learning and growth. Why? Because learning is messy, learning can be ugly, learning is downright awkward.

I’ll put it simply. Without letting yourself be awkward you won’t learn anything worth learning. When babies learn to walk they totter and wobble and fall and get up and for some reason we don’t call this awkward—we call it adorable. But this is the blueprint for learning everything. We totter and wobble and fall down and get up. And we need to see it as just as adore-able. We need to adore that awkward part of ourselves. We need to adore it more, or adore it at all. Awkwardness is the sign that you are actually doing something different. If everything is going smoothly, it’s a good bet that you aren’t changing anything or learning anything new.

This is true for new skills, but especially new behaviors—and adults hate being awkward in front of others. And this dislike of awkwardness is especially difficult when the very thing you need to learn has to do with interacting with others differently. You can’t learn to have a different way of talking to others without doing it in front of other people. Bummer, huh?

If you want to learn to be more honest, or to ask for help, or to assert yourself more you have to really, really, get in to the whole awkward thing. I mean you have to jump in with both feet and wiggle around in it. You have to love awkward.

The good news about human interactions is that perfection isn’t actually the pinnacle. Repair is. In studies of securely versus insecurely attached infants the differences in caretaking wasn’t that the caretakers of securely attached infants were doing a perfect job connecting with their infants: they made as many mistakes or misses as the caretakers of insecurely attached infants. The difference was that the caretakers of securely attached infants went in for repair after the miss. They sought to reconnect—to soothe—to figure out what went amiss. The caretakers of insecurely attached infants did not. Being in connection with others isn’t about saying it right all the time. It is about miss and repair. Miss and repair. Miss and repair.

But tolerating miss and repair is about tolerating awkwardness and staying in the moment long enough to say it again, to ask a question, to admit your confusion. To stumble in another’s presence and survive it. Give yourself permission today to stretch and do something new. You have to tolerate the miss and repair with others--and you have to do it with yourself too. Let yourself off the hook--be kinder to yourself when you get frustrated. Totter and wobble and fall down and get up. Remember that you are adorable. Have an awkward day!

© Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD 2016


A Healing Story: Using Wisdom from Pixar to Heal from Trauma

Healing is a creative process and an active process. We have to be an active part of bringing pieces together, of creating a whole out of what was shattered and a new whole out of how we making meaning of the trauma. It is an active of creativity. In a recent article in Fast Company about creativity at Pixar studios, Ed Catmull, one of the leaders at Pixar, describes the act of creation like raising a child. He compares the movie, the idea of the movie, to an ‘ugly baby,.’ … “when you think of how a movie starts out. It's a baby. It's like the fetus of a movie star; we all start out ugly. Every one of Pixar's stories starts out that way. A new thing is hard to define; it's not attractive, and it requires protection. When I was a researcher at DARPA, I had protection for what was ill-defined. Every new idea in any field needs protection. Pixar is set up to protect our director's ugly baby.”