The Importance of Being Awkward

This is me at 9 years old. By 1985 standards I was right on schedule for awkward, but still.

The night before picture day I slept in pink sponge rollers in a deliberate attempt to do this to my hair. Also, my mom spent 20 solid minutes perfecting my feathered bangs per explicit instruction. Friends, 4th grade was the start of my awkward journey that didn’t end until my junior year of college.

Looking awkward was only the beginning. Long after the braces came off and the tapered acid-washed jeans fell by the wayside, the awkward remained. I was afraid to talk to strangers, uncomfortable with my body, and insecure about my opinions, each fear adding layer upon layer to my internal awkwardness. As much as I envied girls at the time who managed to exude confidence and poise in everything from their bodies to their outspoken thoughts, I’ve come to appreciate the value of my awkward journey.

While awkward kids don’t necessarily appreciate the gifts that set them apart from the rest, time reveals that they’re bits of coal transforming into diamonds; all they needed was a little time and careful mining.

Popular, or non-awkward kids, never had the luxury of developing their gifts or character slowly. They were role models, appointed by the student class as the benchmark of all that was attractive and acceptable. Sadly, the popular kids never had the freedom to make the mistakes of their youth anonymously. Perhaps even more sadly, the non-awkward were cheated out of the figurative swan transformation, that amazing thing that happens once we learn to embrace the many pieces that made us special and start owning ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder how kids who’ve escaped the pivotal age of awkward fare.

I happen to believe there’s such a curse as being too good looking. At the risk of sounding utterly obnoxious, I’m just going to come out and say it: I think my son is too handsome for his own good. To quote Zoolander, my son is “really, really, ridiculously good looking.” This Filipino-Caucasian blend worked some kind of extraterrestrial genetic magic to produce a very beautiful child. Unless this kid develops an epic acne situation sometime in the near future, I fear he just might escape his adolescence without even a hint of awkward. How absolutely unfortunate for him.

When he’s not breaking young hearts at school or being told how handsome he is by strangers, he’s just a regular boy who thinks all kids are regularly approached by casting agents and talent scouts. While I believe he knows he’s good looking, he doesn’t yet understand just how different he is and will continue to be treated on account of his attractive exterior. As awesome as that might sound, it’s sad. This kid is more than just a pretty face.

As painful as the awkward period was for those who lived through it, I think we can all agree that personal uncertainty taught us worthwhile lessons in character, humility, and integrity. Every person deserves the gifts of self-awareness and humbleness that come from being awkward. To say they shape our character wouldn’t give the transformation justice.

I’d like to offer my heartfelt thanks to Babble bloggers and staff who bravely offered awkward pictures of themselves to celebrate the beauty and importance of being awkward. Let it be known that these are some of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever had the pleasure to call friends.

  • Casey 1 of 9
    "10 years old. Until someone else submits one with a denim tuxedo, monobrow, permed bangs and Chucks? I WIN."
    Follow Casey on Babble Voices!
  • Andrea Z. 2 of 9
    Andrea Z.
    "Pre contacts and braces. Dear lawd."
    ~Andrea, Babble Manager, Blogs + Social Media
  • Buzz 3 of 9
    "My awkward phase was a little longer than most. Some might say it's still going."
    Follow Buzz on Babble Kids!
  • Corinne 4 of 9
    "I'm on the right, although this picture appears to also be rather awkward for my sister, Claire. Think Beanie Babies (yes, that grayish blur is an armadillo Beanie Baby), slicked back ponytail (I wore one every day), plus fluorescent windbreaker."
    ~Corinne, Babble Blog Coordinator
  • Amber 5 of 9
    "Bangs and Christmas sweaters were hot back then. Don't question it. Plus, I made that sweatshirt myself so I was practically a designer. I would like to add that I consider this my 'cocker spaniel hair phase' for obvious reasons."
    Follow Amber on Babble Kids!
  • Alexandra 6 of 9
    "This is my 6th grade class photo, when I had decided to grow out the bangs I'd had my whole life but no one told me to try combing them to the side. Also, green chenille."
    ~Alexandra, Babble Blog Coordinator
  • Meghan 7 of 9
    "Even though it's insanely blurry (1993 film photo, yo!) the awkardness (awkwardity?) is apparent...if my sweater and my too short bangs weren't enough, I'm pretty sure my jeans are pegged, just to make sure I had the whole gamut covered. Add to this the fact that I was on my way to a New Kids on the Block concert and I think I can safely say I was rocking the awkward stage."
    Follow Meghan on Babble Kids!
  • Andrea R. 8 of 9
    Andrea R.
    "Everything from the crooked bangs to the awkward hair length to the oxymoron that is a mock-turtleneck TANK TOP, I take no responsibility for. Thanks mom!"
    ~Andrea, Babble Associate Editor
  • Kacy 9 of 9
    "Hush. The word you're thinking is 'poise'."
    Follow Kacy on Babble Kids!

Were you an awkward kid? Did the experience teach you anything?

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