An ability to tolerate feeling awkward for long stretches of time, is a main skill that is required of so many contemporary jobs. It is such a necessary part of most jobs that there really shopuld be more training in how to deal with these often dehumanizing feelings. Whether you work for In And Out Burger, IKEA, Starbucks, Banana Republic, The Gap, The Apple Store or you work as a stripper or a professional- so many contemporary jobs involve long stretches of time where you are just standing there or sitting there feeling like an idiot. This feeling could be equal to embarrassment or a feeling of being in a position for which you don’t want to be in but have to be in for the money. Other people identify you as a person who cares about particular things that deep down you really could care less about. This is what often creates feelings of awkwardness.
Everyone has got to earn a living. Never has it seemed more difficult and expensive for individuals to make ends meet than it currently is. Whether it means spending five days a week wearing some ridiculous employee identification badge as a necklace over your shirt or dressing up in a ridiculous and dehumanizing uniform (such as the ones In And Out Burger employees are forced to wear), nowadays people are practically forced into taking certain jobs just so they can earn a buck. But please keep in mind- it is better to be made feel awkward by a job you could care less about but gives you a few bucks in your pocket than to feel awkward because you are broke.
When you are not uplifted by your employment, when who you are deep within is not in alignment with the work you do for money in the world, chances are you will often feel awkward while at work (maybe even after work also). We all know what it feels like to feel awkward. It is that feeling that generates thoughts like: What the fuck am I doing here?, This is embarrassing, I do not want to be seen in the way that people are seeing me, I don’t like this, this feels weird, What should I do now?, I can’t wait until work is done. There are so many different kinds of thoughts that feeling awkward creates. It would take me hours to write them all down. It is just important to understand that feelings of awkwardness are a fundamental part of most jobs. You are not a failure or a loser for feeling this way. Your life is not a mess. You are just living in the modern world.
Yesterday I went to IKEA to purchase a modern looking bookshelf. I saw several IKEA employees, dressed in their IKEA uniforms, standing around with forced smiles on their faces, trying to acknowledge the imperturbable costumers that walked past them. There was one young, female employee who caught my eye. Her red ponytail stuck out of the back-end of her hat as she smiled awkwardly at the costumers who walked past. She said “Hello, welcome to IKEA,” to everyone. By looking at her you could tell that she was really uncomfortable but also really needed the money. I am not sure if she felt uncomfortable because of just having to stand there and be ignored and feel like a jerk for money or if she felt uncomfortable because of just having to stand there and be ignored and feel like a jerk for money. Maybe it was a combination of both.
I felt for this young lady and my shopping experienced was somewhat darkened by old memories coming back to me about when I worked in similar awkward positions. It is no fun for anyone.
After IKEA, I stopped at In And Out Burger for some fries and had my order taken by some poor bastard who was paid to stand around in the parking lot dressed up as some kind of exiled cook in a shiny white kitchen uniform. As he took my order his cook’s hat fell off his head and in an act of pity and guilt I quickly opened my car door and picked it up for him. I could see the feelings that awkwardness produces in his eyes as he looked at me and said thank you. As if I had not had enough, I then went to Starbucks for a cup of afternoon coffee (which, I did despite the fact that their coffee tastes like chemicals) and the young man behind the register seemed to feel so awkward taking my order that I felt incredibly awkward just telling him I wanted a medium coffee. I tipped him two bucks, which I hoped would help smooth things out.
Feeling like you don’t belong, feeling like you have to do something that you do not want to do, feeling like you have somehow failed because of the things that you do for money are all a normal part of being a working individual in today’s economic climate. I know it sucks but it is just the way it is. It is as apart of the contemporary working world as apple pie is apart of the American mythology. The amount of employees and business owners who are working for the money so that they can afford some kind of cultural legitimacy and dignity far exceeds those who are working and earning money in a position which is a reflection of who they really are and exactly who they want to be seen as. The vast majority of working individuals no longer strive for this freedom or authenticity in through their work, now they just fill up on it when they watch TV and go to the movies.
At some point you have to ask yourself: Why feel bad about feeling something that is a normal part of the world within which you live? It is like feeling bad about the air quality where you live or feeling bad about the laws that you have to abide by. What is the point? These things are as much apart of the climate you live in as blood is apart of your body. Feeling awkward in your job position is a big part of what it means to have a job in today’s world! Granted someone who is standing around in an In And Out Burger uniform will feel these feelings to a greater degree than someone one who is working as a psychotherapist, a realtor or a tax accountant but I assure you that all of these jobs come along with a fair amount of awkwardness. Those lucky people who have found a form of paid employment, which is without any feelings of accompanying awkwardness, are lucky only because they have successfully escaped from the slavery-like-qualities that are an acceptable, normal and consensual part of today’s wage earning world.
One thought on “How To Feel Awkward At Work Without Feeling Bad About Yourself”
Thank you for this article. Even in the corporate world with years behind me where one might feel this to a lesser degree than working in retail, I still feel this way fairly often.