How to Get Comfortable in Uncomfortable Situations

I'll bet there is something you'd like to do that you've been putting off for a long, long time. Maybe it's a one-time thing, such as asking for a raise or telling your husband that something he does drives you crazy. Or maybe it's a long-term pursuit, like writing or painting.

Whatever it is, I'll also bet that a fear of awkwardness is one of the main things holding you back. Merriam-Webster defines awkward as "lacking ease or grace, dexterity or skill." It doesn't sound like much fun at all. Until you consider that any new endeavor comes with a requisite period of awkwardness. Very few people in this world are good at something the first time they try it. If you want to avoid all periods of awkwardness, you're going to have to avoid all things new. And, as Martha Stewart says in her book The Martha Rules (which I highly recommend for anyone who runs or wants to start a business), "When you're through changing, you're through!"

Luckily, there are two simple things you can do to get over the fear of looking like you don't know what you're doing: 1) Give yourself permission to be awkward; 2) Practice being in awkward situations. Only you can grant yourself the permission. But consider the alternative: if you never try something that might require you to look or sound silly, you'll never experience anything new. As for the practice part, I can help. See below:

Practice Awkward Pose (AKA Chair Pose)

  • Stand with your feet about 8 inches apart.
  • Reach your arms way up toward the sky, keeping your hands about 12 inches apart, palms facing each other.
    Awkward Yoga Pose
  • Let the sides of your body reach up and become long.
  • Bend your knees deeply and lower your bottom, as if you were sitting in an invisible chair.
  • Let your booty grow heavy and move down toward the floor as your chest rises and lifts up toward your hands.
  • Stay here for at least five slow, deep breaths.
  • To come out of the pose, straighten your legs and let your arms come down by your sides.

That may not have been your most graceful moment, but it wasn't horrible, was it? Practicing awkward yoga poses builds endurance and helps you become strong and supple enough to keep persisting, even when life gets ungainly.

Other Ways to Practice Being Awkward

  • Write your grocery and to-do lists with your non-dominant hand
  • Go out to eat or to the movies alone
  • Speak up at the next meeting you attend
  • Volunteer to do something that scares you just a little bit – like mowing the lawn, or hosting a dinner party, or cooking with an exotic new ingredient
  • Sleep with your head at the foot of your bed

These little forays into awkwardness can help you become comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Once you have the confidence to welcome feeling awkward, look out! Things that used to seem out of reach will soon be within your grasp.

Kate Hanley is a freelance writer who specializes in exploring the mind-body connection. She completed her yoga teacher training at OM Yoga in New York City and has studied with yoga experts like Rodney Yee and Cyndi Lee, and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg.

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