Do you ever feel cripplingly awkward? Yes, it is going to sound self-centred, BUT do you ever feel like the whole entire world is just staring at you? And you are so afraid to move or breathe or blink you just stay planted to the spot? Standing like a stone pillar? Just standing and hoping that the earth will open up and swallow you whole or the skies will become infested with aliens who will laser beam you upwards or the walls will envelop you?
Well, I have this feeling a lot. At different times in the day, in the week, in the month. Feeling awkward and not right is the most horrible and terrifying feeling one can have. Like you don’t fit in, like you never will. I don’t mean to fit in in the sense of being cool. I mean just feeling your soul chafing against your skin.
I’ve had this feeling in a crowd and I’ve had this feeling after I’ve tweeted something and someone has tweeted back a blunt response. Or maybe it wasn’t a blunt response, but the platform, the form of communication that makes the emotion in the sentence/tweet void. I have this feeling a lot in different situations.
This feeling can be encouraged by others and their words and it can also be encouraged by low self esteem and inward projection.
You see, as women we are often counted as second class citizens. As a woman of colour, I often feel like a third class woman. As a woman of colour who wears a headscarf, I feel even more inadequate. As a Muslim, sometimes I feel inhuman…especially when our Prime Minister calls Muslim women #traditionallysubmissive.
When we’re younger, we look to the adults around us for comfort and support. When we fall, whether physically, emotionally or mentally, we look to adults to make it okay, to do something, even if it is just reassurance. As a twenty-something, this reassurance now has to come from within you. You have to hold onto this reassurance and actually believe in it if you want to keep a hold of your sanity. I wonder where that image of invincible adults came from? I wonder where the word adult came from and why, suddenly after the age of 18, we are expected to suddenly become all-knowing, immune, responsible and model humans?
In today’s world, everything can influence us almost instantaneously. Thanks to advertising, marketing and a few million studies into human behaviour, we are being targeted like no other generation in the past – to accept the premeditated norms or feel awkward if we don’t.
- You see an advert for shaving razors. You remember you haven’t shaved your legs in two weeks. You automatically feel awkward, ashamed and embarrassed. It’s like they know.
- You are watching TV and see a really thin woman eating a specific type of cereal to get the perfect beach body ready for summer (even though she has a perfect beach body). You have a lovable muffin top and some curves, but the low self esteem you were okay with yourself ten seconds ago is now gone. Now you feel awkward, awkward in your own skin.
- You are in an interview, you are nervous. You don’t want people to judge you by your scarf. Suddenly the interviewer asks if you always wear your scarf everyday and how long you’ve worn it and if you will wear it to the office if you get the job. Yes, this is definitely awkward.
- You walk into a room. You want to talk to everyone but you realise you are the only headscarf wearing girl there, the only person of colour amongst these other white faces. Yes, this is awkward.
There is this really great quote from E. E. Cummings:
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
And I swear, this is so true. Being yourself, being you, being me is sometimes, if not all the time, the hardest thing we ever have to be.
Standing up for what we believe in even when we are singled out, when the floor beneath us is flying away and our legs turn to jelly means we are being true to ourselves.
For me being awkward is deeply cemented into my low self esteem. Being awkward is as much a part of me than anything else. There is no cure, we just have to keep fighting to be ourselves. One thing I have realised is that the awkwardness isn’t singularly the problem, it is the things that induce the awkwardness: society, stereotypes and burdening expectations.
I guess I’ve just been bracketing and filing all these feelings under ‘awkward’ for the last several years of my life so I’m not going to tell you I’ll be doing something different from now on. I’m going to keep fighting because I’ve always preferred to fight my way out than surrender and that is what I’m going to keep on doing.