Is being awkward stopping us from creating change?
An honest look at how awkwardness creates a barrier to inclusivity and how we can overcome it.
I don't think we can underestimate just how impactful the trends around us can be, particularly when growing up. Influencing is a full time profession and a marketing industry worth $16.4 billion worldwide. If I look around, influences and trends are deeply absorbed by all those around me. From what we say to what we wear, there’s a sentimentality surrounding it too.
Growing up, being ‘awkward’ was a trend. ‘Awkward turtle’, a phenomenon I still reference to this day, was creating a turtle with your hand when something was awkward. I know, I still don’t quite get it either.
We have thrived off of this self deprecating, socially awkward narrative and it’s come to define a generation.
Part of me wonders whether this trend for awkwardness has created a barrier for this generation. If I link it to my work, there’s a great deal of awkwardness and stigma around conversations to do with race - this is nothing new and definitely not generationally specific. That’s why our purpose at MatriarchLtd. Is so focused on making conversations around inclusion more common and accessible.
Undoubtedly too, there’s a self-esteem issue tied into the awkwardness. It’s so much easier to doubt yourself before anyone else has the chance to. But as someone whose self esteem was impacted not out of a social choice but my racial identity, this can be a harmful headspace. We don’t give ourselves enough credit and we can miss out due to the fear of how we’re seen. It’s not worth it.
And I think this is all worth noting because of the vocal strength of my generation and our growing capability to have difficult conversations. We’ve grown up into a world where they are less and less hidden and with taboos being unwrapped, stigmatisation is being actively tackled. This is the quality of our generation worth promoting through honest and real conversations, so we don’t backtrack into social awkwardness. What a shame it would be to miss out on a game changing conversation because we were ‘too awkward’ to have a go.
Confidence is of course key. I’m a big proponent of ‘fake it til you make it’, a style I’ve powered through life with. But with inclusivity and equality, faking it is the last thing you want to do. So instead, I’ll advise to do the most awkward thing imaginable -
Admit that you don’t know what to do.
As a Brown British Woman, wanting to be right all the time has become somewhat of a survival tactic. But since going to uni and being led by a lot of fantastic women, I am able to lean more into not knowing the answer and asking for help. I remember in my first internship when I was 18, I heard my manager Laura often asking questions if she wasn’t sure, asking for clarification or explanation for reaching out to others for help. I admired her for something I struggled to admit to and it’s something I always come back to. This is a principle I blend into my professional life, and something I know I need to bring into my personal life more.
But I think it’s a star quality for inclusion conversations and mindsets. It’s okay to not know if there’s a willingness to listen and learn. Feeling too awkward to say so when the stakes are as high as having the power to make someone feel like they belong in your company or not, is not worth it.
So let’s not let awkwardness be a barrier to change, actively ask for help and make our spaces safer and more inclusive for other people.
MatriarchLtd. is our business that delivers game changing racial inclusion work to schools and organisations.
Our work embraces discomfort to create real change and make the world a safer, more inclusive place. Find us on Instagram and LinkedIn and get in touch via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if MatriarchLtd. sounds like something you need!