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 c