I hugged the director of my division this morning.
At my brand new job.
She wasn’t prepared for a hug.
She actually appeared to be going in for a handshake.
But I hugged her.
And then I shook her hand.
This was only our second time interacting.
(Yeah. That. Except that even after I processed that she was going in for a handshake and not a hug … I stayed committed to the hug. Because it felt far less awkward in my brain to force hug someone rather than back up and reset for a handshake.)
In my defense, I didn’t hug her the first time I met her.
During my interview.
I kept my awkward under control long enough to get hired.
But that’s the best I could do.
I should note that this is not the first time I’ve done this … forced a fairly standard encounter into something awkward by wrapping my arms around someone … that doesn’t actually know me.
I used to have a much better reign on my awkward. For most of my life, I kept it pretty closed up, along with my actual personality, so that no one had to really witness it. I was just … quiet. Restrained.
I’ve worked really hard in recent years, though, to start to let the world see me. And me is pretty awkward.
I still get kind of quiet sometimes. That’s generally me trying to hold the awkward in as I run around inside my brain frantically looking for something unawkward to contribute to the conversation. And it’s pretty messy in there. So, things are hard to find, hiding under all of the awkward possibilities. Plus I have cats.
It’s just way more than I can handle, so I just opt for quiet.
(Incidentally, I also get quiet when I’m trying to hold in the homicidal hunger rage. Food is a pretty solid solution in either situation.)
My point here (I do have one, I think) is that I’m allowing the awkward out more and more. It is who I am, and I’ve been doing this whole “becoming a more wholehearted person” thing, because … Brene’ Brown. And part of doing that is practicing vulnerability and presenting your authentic self to the world.
And for me that involves just kind of letting my awkward spill out for people to see. And sometimes maybe even apologizing for it. But mostly not.
But it has taken me this long to even consider letting the world see awkward, real me.
Brene’ (we’re on a first-name basis, only she doesn’t know it) says that most of us start closing ourselves off in middle school as a result of painful or shaming experiences. And it’s really hard work to start to open those places back up. Like, seriously hard work. So hard that it mostly seems better to just not. To just keep yourself quiet and shut down.
Except that life over here with those places open is actually really phenomenal. Freeing. It’s very freeing.
And I’ve still got a ton of work to do. There are still a lot of closed off places, and this work is terrifying and exhausting and mostly I just don’t want to do it. But I also do.
It’s all very complex. And it would probably be way easier to just not close places off in the first place.
So, maybe instead of continuing to raise kids that are sealing themselves off from the world, we invest in kids to help them keep those places open. To learn to value and cherish those places.
And let me be clear. I had phenomenal parents. They did everything they could to instill a strong sense of self-worth in me. (They obviously failed to teach me the difference between hug and handshake posturing, but outside of that they did a pretty solid job.)
The problem is that even if we are really loving, supportive, invested parents, we can’t always protect our kids from the other parts of the world that will damage them.
Sometimes kids just need more than really solid parenting.
So, maybe we support programs like Girls on the Run and Let Me Run, to help kids hold onto and develop their senses of self and self-worth in settings where they are most likely to get damaged. (Seriously, school can be a really vicious place.)
Also, maybe just teach your kids the difference between handshake posture and hug posture. Because some of us aren’t clear on that…