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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.

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


Health

Over or under? Surprisingly, there actually is a 'correct' way to hang a toilet paper roll.

Let's settle this silly-but-surprisingly-heated debate once and for all.

Elya/Wikimedia Commons

Should you hang the toilet paper roll over or under?


Humans have debated things large and small over the millennia, from the democracy to breastfeeding in public to how often people ought to wash their sheets.

But perhaps the most silly-yet-surprisingly-heated household debate is the one in which we argue over which way to hang the toilet paper roll.

The "over or under" question has plagued marriages and casual acquaintances alike for over 100 years, with both sides convinced they have the soundest reasoning for putting their toilet paper loose end out or loose end under. Some people feel so strongly about right vs. wrong TP hanging that they will even flip the roll over when they go to the bathroom in the homes of strangers.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not merely an inconsequential preference. There is actually a "correct" way to hang toilet paper, according to health experts as well as the man who invented the toilet paper roll in the first place.

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Family

Father takes daughter's bullying victim on a shopping trip to teach her a lesson

When Randy Smalls of South Carolina discovered that his teenage daughter was making fun of a classmate over her clothes and makeup, he took swift action.

Randy Smalls of South Carolina

Bullying is a huge problem. According to DoSomething.org, 1 in 5 students ages 12-18 in the United States are bullied during the school year, and approximately 160,000 teens have skipped school because of bullying.

So when Randy Smalls of South Carolina discovered that his teenage daughter was making fun of a classmate over her clothes and makeup, he took swift action.

Smalls instantly felt sympathy for Ryan Reese, a seventh-grader at Berkeley Middle School, having been bullied in his youth. So he took money meant for his daughter and went on a shopping spree with Ryan to get some new clothes and a makeover.

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Image shared by Madalyn Parker

Madalyn shared with her colleagues about her own mental health.




Madalyn Parker wanted to take a couple days off work. She didn't have the flu, nor did she have plans to be on a beach somewhere, sipping mojitos under a palm tree.

Parker, a web developer from Michigan, wanted a few days away from work to focus on her mental health.

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Asexuality is often misunderstood.

In general, it's believed to be the absence of any romantic interest, but asexual identity actually means that a person is not sexually attracted to anyone. Romantic feelings and the strength of those feelings can vary from person to person.

Currently, about 1% of adults have no interest in sex, though some experts believe that number could be higher. For a long time, information on asexuality was limited, but researchers recently have found information that gives us more knowledge about asexuality.

Being asexual can be tough, though — just ask the artists from Empathize This.

To demonstrate, they put together a comic on asexuality, defining it as a sexual orientation, not a dysfunction:

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Family

A study has been following 'gifted' kids for 45 years. Here's what we've learned.

Some of what we used to think about gifted kids turned out to be wrong.


What can we learn from letting seventh graders take the SAT?

In the 1960s, psychologist Julian Stanley realized that if you took the best-testing seventh graders from around the country and gave them standard college entry exams, those kids would score, on average, about as well as the typical college-bound high school senior.

However, the seventh graders who scored as well or better than high schoolers, Stanley found, had off-the-charts aptitude in quantitative, logical, and spatial reasoning.

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via Hunger 4 Words / Instagram

Christina Hunger, 26, is a speech-language pathologist in San Diego, California who believes that "everyone deserves a voice."

Hunger works with one- and two-year-old children, many of which use adaptive devices to communicate. So she wondered what would happen if she taught her two-month-old puppy, a Catahoula/Blue Heeler named Stella, to do the same.

"If dogs can understand words we say to them, shouldn't they be able to say words to us? Can dogs use AAC to communicate with humans?" she wondered.

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