How often do you cringe at uncomfortable life situations? Did you like someone’s photograph accidently on Instagram and cringe? What are the things that embarrass you? Author Melissa Dahl’s fascinating book, Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness, asks us to look at cringeworthy moments differently and perceive them as valuable. After a lifetime of cringing, Dahl became intrigued by awkwardness: a universal but underappreciated emotion.
To overcome the fixed notions of awkwardness, Dahl goes on awkward friend dates using a “Tinder-for-friendship” app, takes improv comedy lessons, and even reads aloud from her (highly embarrassing!) middle school diary to a crowd of strangers. Awkward moments are opportunities to test yourself.
When everyone else is pretending to have it under control, you can be a little braver and grow a little bigger — while remaining true to your awkward self. And along the way, you might find that awkward moments unite us in our mutual human ridiculousness.
Don’t be engulfed by awkwardness: We overestimate how closely others are noticing what we do or how we look. People do scrutinise us less than we fear. Don’t keep mental footage of yourself tripping in that party. People forget.
Question the discomfort: Ask yourself: What are the experiences that make you feel awkward? Why do they happen? When are we most at risk of stumbling into situations that make us cringe? To cope better, let’s cringe together.
Prepare for ‘cringe attacks’: We all have to deal with little uncomfortable moments, micro humiliations and embarrassments. Don’t hold on. Let go. Bad experiences shouldn’t make strong memories.
Everyone has a different definition of awkward: One person’s awkward moment will be different from another person’s discomfort and silliness. Awkwardness is self-consciousness with this undercurrent of uncertainty. You’re really aware of how you’re coming off to the world and then there’s an ambiguity about what to do next.
Embarrassment is a huge part of it. Embarrassment and vicarious awkwardness are something we need to redefine and not let it haunt us. It’s essential to reframe the idea of awkwardness and not allow it to isolate us. It’s true that embracing embarrassing conversations or exposing situations can improve your life.
Dealing with cringeworthy moments: It’s important to confront the feelings that make you cringe. Feelings of awkwardness can ultimately be a force for good, teaching us empathy and motivating us to become the person we want to be. When instead of running away from our cringeworthy experiences, we share them with other people. Don’t get too taken in by “meta-perception”, we don’t know our reality in the world and how it perceives us.
Next time when you’re faced with a cringeworthy moment, laugh it off, and discuss with a friend. Let’s cringe together!