I did one of my best celebratory jigs when I kissed diapers goodbye. I did a victory chant around the entire house when I kissed training pants goodbye. I did a Tom Cruise-esque Risky Business shimmy when I kissed car seats goodbye.
Well, I’m gonna do the damn worm on the hardwood floors if I can get through this awkward phase my daughter recently entered.
I know it is a tween/teen rite of passage and this too shall pass. But recently, I started thinking, what if I had actually known little nuggets from life, sports, friends, enemies, and school while I was going through the awkwardness of those teenage middle school/high school years?
What if I had known earlier that I was not alone and that the awkwardness would (eventually) go away? AHHHH, the thought. Maybe I would not necessarily have loved it all, but perhaps I would have been closer to at least accepting it.
That’s why I decided to create a list of all the things I wish I had known as an awkward, pimple-faced, short-haired tomboy who my brothers’ friends called Jimmy (yes, Jimmy). I hope you will share it with anyone in your life going through that beautifully necessary awkward phase. And add to it. The goal is not to take away awkward, but to embrace it.
- Be PROUD OF YOU. Lose the idea of perfect. There is no such thing. Even with my padded bras and big earrings (so they didn’t think I was a boy) and crazy hair, I survived. And thrived. Eventually.
- Speaking of crazy hair … if only someone had just told me that my hair would indeed grow down and not up or straight out. I did really believe my hair, being so thick and curly, would grow horizontally, not vertically.
- Laugh more — and laugh at yourself more. School brings enough pressure. Find the humor, even when you have a big ol’ zit on your nose. Or are half-chimp, like I was (thank goodness for Nair Hair Removal). Or have friends who bring drama. Laughter helps it go away. So …
- Find like-minded friends who can laugh with you, not at you. Don’t waste your time or energy on mean girls (or boys). Surround yourself with happy people who treat everyone nicely.
- Fear does not mean you are failing. Fear simply means you are living and growing. Show me one person who is fearless and I will show you a robot. Accept the feeling, and then move forward with courage.
- Butterflies are a great thing. They mean you care. Now just teach them to fly in formation.
- OWN YOUR AWESOME. Yep, you. Own it. You are awesome. I am not asking you to wear a shirt that says I AM AWESOME (I am demanding it), but stand up and speak up.
- Everyday, live with “an attitude of gratitude,” as my friend Amy Liss says. Amy was born with cerebral palsy and has been confined to a wheelchair and unable to walk or eat on her own her entire life. Now in her mid 30s, she passes on gratitude and positivity every. single. day. So can we.
- Awkward is non-discriminatory. It affects all teens, of all ages, in all galaxies. FACT: Even the seemingly coolest kids feel awkward.
- The “popular” kid who drinks a lot, parties a lot, and maybe even does drugs, becomes the kid who never left the area and never went on to college. That cool kid is no longer cool. DO NOT BE THAT KID.
- Which reminds me, “Cool” is subjective. Who defines it by the way? Don’t let others define it. And certainly do not let pictures on social media define it. You define it. Define it by being consistently kind and seeking nothing in return. Kind is cool.
- Open up your world. I am convinced life is relationships and connecting with others (actually face to face). Take a moment each day to introduce yourself to someone new, someone outside of your “circle” of friends. Lift your head up from your cell phone and show someone you care to say hello. It is amazing how empowering it is just to feel recognized.
- Play sports. And if you don’t play sports, just move. Be active. If you burn out on one activity, find a new one. Create a new one. Movement = healthy = happy.
- Treat the world with respect and then attack it with relentless, wonderfully awkward passion. Whether you are 5 or 50 or 100 years old. The world will thank you.
- Awkward never goes away. You just learn to embrace it. And once you do embrace it, life opens up. (Which is why I wish I had this list when I was a darn teenager.)
- You are not crazy, you are COURAGEOUS.
- And yes, none of this is easy. Life is full of uncomfortable. Which is why it takes courage and laughter and a dream team around you.
- My best advice to get through awkward? Try this: Laugh without smiling. Yes, go on. No smiling. Try it. Laugh without smiling. It’s really hard, right? That is why it is just easier to laugh while smiling. Smile. (Clenched teeth does not count as smiling.)
- And if all else fails, just wear big earrings, they solve the world’s problems. Or eat big donuts, they are good for the soul.
This piece has been partially excerpted from Julie Foudy’s book Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU, available on Amazon May 2, 2017.