+
upworthy
Education

Why awkwardness is such a real thing for people everywhere and one big key to overcoming it

This is super helpful info for people who struggle with social anxiety.

woman in a restaurant covering her face with her hand

In our brains, awkwardness can feel as painful as being bullied.

Some people fear heights or small spaces, some fear spiders or snakes, and some fear illness or death. When taken to an extreme, such fears can form of an anxiety disorder, but they are understandable fears to have because any one of those things could theoretically spell our demise.

But what about fearing something that isn't physically dangerous at all, but rather psychologically uncomfortable, like…awkwardness?

For people with social anxiety, the fear of awkwardness is as real as the fear of death. "I'd rather cross a glass bridge over a 1,000-foot canyon than introduce myself to someone new" is a totally normal thought for a socially anxious person. The silences and pauses that mark most social interactions are magnified to painful degrees and the feelings of self-consciousness most of us experience in those moments are felt in extremes in the mind of a socially anxious person.

No one likes feeling awkward, of course, but why is it even a thing in the first place? What makes some interactions feel so uncomfortable to our brains? And more importantly, how do we overcome the fear of awkwardness, especially those who find themselves completely paralyzed by it?


The YouTube channel VSauce shared some of the science behind awkwardness, what's happening chemically and emotionally when we feel awkward and some of the perspective shifts that can help keep us from fixating on awkward feelings.

First, the video explains that awkwardness is actually a social good because our feelings of self-consciousness prompt us to avoid certain actions in ways that actual laws and formal etiquette don't.

"People who demonstrate self-consciousness when needed are communicating cooperative intentions, which helps them get along well with others," host Michael explains. "It's no coincidence that brains,susceptible to feeling occasional awkwardness, would become so common.They're successful at cooperating,at social life. Feeling awkward shows that you understand and are keen on smooth social exchanges.Now, too much or too little concern for social rules isn't healthy, but researchers found that just the right amount is great. When a person shows remorse or embarrassment or awkward discomfort, when appropriate,others perceive them as being more trustworthy, and their actions as more forgivable."

In other words, having the capacity to feel awkward actually makes us more likeable. So why does it feel so awful?

Our brains actually respond to awkwardness similarly to how they react to pain or name-calling, flowing along the same neural pathways, resulting in similar physical sensations and triggering our fight-or-flight response. (Thanks, evolution!)

But there are ways to tamp down our overreaction to awkward moments, which can be especially helpful for people who struggle with social anxiety. One reason awkwardness sticks with us so much is that we worry too much about what people are thinking about us, and social anxiety magnifies that worry. The more we realize that people aren't thinking about us nearly as much as we think they are, the more we can let awkward moments go.

In fact, there's a word for the realization that we are just extras in other people's stories, and not the main character—sonder. We are only the protagonist in our own lives. Other people are focused on their own lives.

"Acknowledging this makes your awkwardness look small," Michael says, adding, "But it also makes all of you look small. Tiny. A needle in a giant haystack." That's both a positive and a negative, but that perspective can help us in those moments when we're feeling the pain of awkwardness.

Watch:

You can follow VSauce for more insights on the human experience on YouTube here.

Family

Dad takes 7-week paternity leave after his second child is born and is stunned by the results

"These past seven weeks really opened up my eyes on how the household has actually ran, and 110% of that is because of my wife."

@ustheremingtons/TikTok

There's a lot to be gleaned from this.

Participating in paternity leave offers fathers so much more than an opportunity to bond with their new kids. It also allows them to help around the house and take on domestic responsibilities that many new mothers have to face alone…while also tending to a newborn.

All in all, it enables couples to handle the daunting new chapter as a team, making it less stressful on both parties. Or at least equally stressful on both parties. Democracy!

TikTok creator and dad Caleb Remington, from the popular account @ustheremingtons, confesses that for baby number one, he wasn’t able to take a “single day of paternity leave.”

This time around, for baby number two, Remington had the privilege of taking seven weeks off (to be clear—his employer offered four weeks, and he used an additional three weeks of PTO).

The time off changed Remington’s entire outlook on parenting, and his insights are something all parents could probably use.

Keep ReadingShow less

Millenial names are now "old" names.

You can’t turn back the hands of time and so it’s impossible to avoid being labeled “old” by younger generations, no matter how hard you try. For many of us, our names are tied to the times when we were born and can start to sound really dated, no matter how fashionable they were at one point.

TikTokker Amber Cimotti found this out the hard way when her daughter noted that she has an “old” person's name.

“My daughter told me the name Ashley or Amanda — or my name is Amber — are like old people names and I never thought about it this way,” Amber explained in a video with over 3 million views.

Keep ReadingShow less

Christine Kesteloo has one big problem living on a cruise ship.

A lot of folks would love to trade lives with Christine Kesteloo. Her husband is the Chief Engineer on a cruise ship, so she gets to live on the boat pretty much for free as the “wife on board.” For Christine, life is a lot like living on a permanent vacation.

“I live on a cruise ship for half the year with my husband, and it's often as glamorous as it sounds,” she told Insider. “After all, I don't cook, clean, make my bed, do laundry or pay for food.“

Living an all-inclusive lifestyle seems like paradise, but it has some drawbacks. Having access to all-you-can-eat food all day long can really have an effect on one’s waistline. Kesteloo admits that living on a cruise ship takes a lot of self-discipline because the temptation is always right under her nose.

Keep ReadingShow less

Woman shows her misbehaving cat to 'the trenches'

You always hear about a "bad dog," giving the furry goofballs a reputation for getting into mischief, but what about bad cats. Not all cats are angels just lounging around the house until someone gives them food while fanning them with a giant palm leaf. Some cats have a sketchy "catigree" and every once in a while they let that wild streak show. When that happens, what is a cat owner to do?

A cat mom that goes by the user name Lambo Licia on Instagram posted a video showing exactly how she gets her cat in line when he's misbehaving. No, it's not with a spray bottle. She shows him what life is like in "the trenches." You know, the area of town where homeless cats roam and cat burglars have real whiskers and thumbs that don't work, leaving a strange fish smell wherever they lurk.

If Scared Straight: Cat Edition was an actual thing, Mega, the orange tabby would be the first to turn his life around. He looks absolutely petrified from all of the unruly cat behavior he sees out the window and his mom's commentary.

Keep ReadingShow less
Science

College students use AI to decode ancient scroll burned in Mount Vesuvius

“Some of these texts could completely rewrite the history of key periods of the ancient world."

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 C.E., it buried entire cities in volcanic materials. While Pompeii is the most famous site affected by the natural disaster, the nearby villa of Herculaneum was also laid to waste—including over 800 precious scrolls found inside Herculaneum’s library, which were carbonized by the heat, making them impossible to open and recover their contents.

Which brings us to the Vesuvius challenge, started by computer scientist Brent Seales and entrepreneurs Nat Friedman and Daniel Gross in March 2023. The contest would award $1 million in prizes to whoever could use machine learning to successfully read from the scrolls without damaging them.

On February 5, the prize-winning team was announced.
Keep ReadingShow less
Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons

Shaquille O'Neal retired from pro basketball in 2011, but he's still one of the most famous players ever.

Fame comes with a lot of challenges, but it also comes with some pretty obvious perks. There's the money that frequently follows fame, of course, but there's also the special treatment people automatically offer you.

Some famous folks might revel in that special treatment and some might even express gratitude for it. But occasionally, you find a celebrity who refuses it altogether.

Take basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal, for instance.

Keep ReadingShow less