The Fear of Feeling Awkward
"Mom...this is so awkward!" We had friends staying with us from Colorado that we last saw 12 years ago when our girls were 2 and 4, and their girls were 3 and 6. Now they were all teenagers.
During dinner I got triggered when the Colorado girls were eating at the table and my two had their backs to them, eating at the counter. I had expected them to be able to interact. I was “should-ing” and shaming them into inviting the other girls into conversation and games. They kept telling me it was awkward. Uncomfortable. I didn’t listen. It felt important (to me) to make our guests’ kids feel welcome and to interact.
I told myself that my daughters “should” be able to handle this gracefully. Unconsciously I was thinking it reflected poorly on me if they couldn’t interact, that I hadn’t taught them manners well enough. I was attached to the strategy that they interact and have fun together. It was tense, I was tense.
When I did a body scan, I felt tension in my back and chest and jaw. I had trouble getting a deep breath. I felt irritable and frustrated, off. Areas of tightness in my body and hard feelings are my clue that I am not connected to my values, my needs. I was triggered and in a defensive reaction, feeling a threat, thinking I needed them to change to feel OK, to feel safe.
In hindsight, I could see that I wasn’t connected to myself or to them. I wish I had taken time to step away and notice my body tension, the pressure cooker sensation in my chest. That I had worked with my feelings and needs cards sooner to see that, in fact, I was feeling embarrassed and awkward. I was stuck in Not Enough-ness: not a good enough host, not a good enough mother. And shoulds: they should get along.
The unconscious strategies I chose (should-ing and shaming) did not serve me or my kids or our guests.
If I could do it again, I would invite them into another room and check in with them (after I had already checked in with myself by closing my eyes, doing a body scan, using my feelings and needs cards, and movement to Self Connect/Ground. Allowed myself to feel). I wish I could have done Empty Container Listening with them to allow them to be where they were, feel what they felt, make space for them to feel awkward. To share and explore and validate what was going on for them.
I was so uncomfortable feeling my own awkwardness; it triggered me to see them feeling it. I wasn’t mirrored as a child, so I have a habit of stuffing and ignoring uncomfortable feelings. This blocks me from my direct experience and awareness and connection to my values.
Later that night, I did work with my feelings and needs cards. I was feeling awkward and frustrated; I wanted connection. I was valuing friendship. I was yearning for ease. I was able to go to each of my daughters at bedtime and make a repair, own my part. Empty Container Listen to their experience and feelings.
The life line to grab for me to be able to make different choices is to keep slowing down and process interactions like last night (notice my feelings and needs and thoughts). The more I can see it after the fact, the more I get closer to doing it in the moment. The lifesaving floatation device in the moment is a body scan. In the meantime, I continue to use my awareness tools. To own my part: my feelings and needs. To keep showing up.