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How to Overcome Social Awkwardness

Updated on March 9, 2012

My name is Simone Smith, and I am exceedingly awkward. I make Awkward Penguin look like Alec Baldwin. When they taught kids how to behave in bars, at parties, in busses, on the streets, in offices, in classes, and at clubs, I must have been home sick. The very idea of leaving my apartment every morning makes me slightly queasy.

... And yet I am employed, happy, and blessed with some of the world's coolest friends. What's more, if you ask most people with whom I am acquainted if I am incredibly socially inept, they will respond in the negative. How did I pull this off?

Oh, I'll tell you.

Sometimes I put on armor-armor before leaving my apartment. But usually it's a bit more... figurative.
Sometimes I put on armor-armor before leaving my apartment. But usually it's a bit more... figurative.

Suiting Up

One approach that has helped me deal with the world at large- in spite of my inherently neurotic nature- is the idea of approaching everyday scenarios as though they are battles. This paradigm enables me to admit the fact that the world scares the s#!t out of me while also tricking me into being brave.

An important aspect of this approach involves suiting up. Would a soldier go into battle without suitable armor and weapons? Would he leave his encampment wearing sweats and a t-shirt (or, in my case, a ratty bra and boxers)? No. No, he would not. A true soldier would assess the situation in which he expects to find himself and arm himself accordingly.

In addition to protection, a solder's armor brings confidence. A proper outfit (or the application of makeup or a particular hairstyle) will do the same thing for you. So don't leave your home without wearing clothing and accouterments, be they a suit and tie or fishnets and a mini skirt, that will help you feel prepared and protected!

Your front door is the stage door! Don't forget to get into character.
Your front door is the stage door! Don't forget to get into character. | Source

What about you?

Is your behavior influenced by role models?

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Getting Into Character

In addition to giving you a feeling of security and comfort, the right clothing can help you get into character. This brings us to another paradigm that is helpful when contending with the Big Scary World and its associated horrors.

As good ol' Shakespeare put it, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

You, my sweet reader, are no exception. Why not have some fun with your character? You have the power to write your own lines, design your own personality, and determine your disposition. You have the power to behave however you like.

Why not, for the sake of survival (and personal benefit) adopt a slightly more socially adept character from time to time? Believe me, you have the power to trick people into thinking you're a Normal. If I can do it, anyone can.

Simply take time to decide who you want to be when you get dressed in the morning. Perhaps you have a couple characters or role models you will use as templates. Consider how they might behave in your position, get into character, and let the theatrical magic take over!

Assuming various roles has made a huge difference for me- mostly because I don't know how to behave in most social situations, and by following a set of heuristics demonstrated by a more adept individual, I can avoid a significant number of deer-in-the-headlights moments.

Babies make me uncomfortable. When they're presented to me, I ask myself... "What would one of the evil stepsisters from Cinderella do?" Oh right! They'd cringe and shrink back!
Babies make me uncomfortable. When they're presented to me, I ask myself... "What would one of the evil stepsisters from Cinderella do?" Oh right! They'd cringe and shrink back!

Have you found ways to fool others into believing you're not incredibly awkward?

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Visualizing and Preparing

In addition to getting into character, you can prepare for difficult social situations by mentally thinking through them ahead of time.

This is a tactic practiced by many professional athletes before important games and races. By visualizing success, we are more likely to succeed. So before you step outside your comfort zone, take some time to think through your future actions and how you might react to likely challenges.

Unfortunately, you will not be able to anticipate every wrench that is thrown into your careful plans. In these situations, it is particularly helpful to have a couple of character templates to turn to for basic heuristics.

For example, let's say that you've decided to base your public persona off of Han Solo. What would you do if you've successfully pulled something off and nobody recognizes your hard work? Before you have a hissy fit and start whining like a seven year old girl, ask yourself "WHAT WOULD HAN DO?"

This question will spare you the social suicide of your natural reaction by expressing your frustration with a simple, sarcastic "Don't everyone thank me at once."

So much better.


By dressing for success, getting into character, and mentally preparing myself for the horros I associate with basic social interaction, I have managed to find a somewhat happy place for myself in modern, American society.

I don't care how awkward you are; if I was able to pull this off, you will be too. Just give it a go!

Also, if you, too, maintain membership in the League of Awkwardness and have adopted different tactics that help you fool others into thinking you're socially adept (or even... a Normal!), share them in the comments below! It's always fun to compare notes.



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    • Chuck Bluestein profile image

      Chuck Bluestein 

      4 years ago from Morristown, AZ, USA

      They have these personal growth seminars where you can get a lot of practice at being with people. I remember the first one that I did starts with people walking around and introducing themselves to people and talking to each other for 1 minute and then off to someone else.

      I was extremely uncomfortable doing this? Why? I learned it was because of a lack of practice. I did several more of these seminars and I got to the point where I loved this process so it must have been a lack of practice.

      Look at a baby. At first when the baby tries to walk, he is always falling down. But after a lot of practice, he is really good at it. Are you good at walking without falling down? That is because of practice.

      Another example is driving a car. At first you are concerned about so many things. But with practice it is very easy.

    • emilybee profile image


      6 years ago

      This is so true. Wearing nice clothes can make a person feel great - it's a total confidence booster!!! I feel like a new person when I have a nice outfit on-rather than wearing sweats which are comfy, but totally unpresentable and not a way to make a nice impression. Sometimes for like a big interview I think to myself, relax, be normal!!!! Haha it sometimes helps.

    • Gemini Fox profile image

      Gemini Fox 

      6 years ago

      Wow, you've summed up in one hub what's taken me years to figure out and still have not accomplished!! Thanks!

      Of course, another way to calm down is to realize that a whole lotta other people are doing the same thing and may be even worse off than you . . . so concentrating on making them feel better makes you forget yourself.

    • Sadie14 profile image

      Brittany B 

      6 years ago from U.S.

      Haha, Love it! I'm usually very socially awkward and could probably benefit from this advice! Thank you!

    • anglnwu profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice one, Simone. Now, I know i'm not the only one faking it in this wide scary world. Naturally, I'm quite happy to be by myself but when forced to, I'll try to psych myself up to the task. I know--lame. Thanks for sharing.

    • debbie roberts profile image

      Debbie Roberts 

      6 years ago from Greece

      I love the opening video, you are a brave lady!! I like your suggestions too, although I will always be myself when I'm out and about, the suiting and booting does make a big difference to help me appear socially unawkward - not sure that's a real word, but it works for me!!

      Visualisation is also good, but that tends to come to me after the event and by the next time the visuals have become distorted and all wrong.

      There is only one thing for it, us awkwards must hold our heads up high and be proud to be socially awkward and quirky!!

      A fun hub with brave opening!! Voted up and shared!!!

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      6 years ago from The Ozarks

      This method works for a particular situation that is isolated and will not require one to make a long term commitment to a character that is not our own. Where it fails is if we are expected to stay in character day in, day out for an extended period -- or for the rest of our lives.

    • Nare Anthony profile image

      Nare Gevorgyan 

      6 years ago

      You look so nice and talk to interesting, that little time left to Have a nice day!

    • vespawoolf profile image


      6 years ago from Peru, South America

      I love your video! It's hard to imagine you as socially awkward, though. I do dress the part and visualize scenarios, but have never tried the getting into character method. Will have to give it a try and let you know. But instead of Han Solo, I'm thinking more R2D2. : )

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Very original idea to discuss. I can say I did the same thing with shyness when I was younger. Acting! Yes, acting works for shyness too. I was so shy when I was young that I was shy about being shy. So I acted like I wasn't, just to get by. It worked.

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 

      6 years ago

      Really good hub Simone. I do well behind the keys but in social situations I can be rather shy and standing by the wall. I have never thought about acting..well a couple times when I had to speak in a group. I thought to myself..I do not know who is speaking right now but it is not

    • melbel profile image

      Melanie Palen 

      6 years ago from Midwest USA

      People think I'm crazy confident, but actually, haha, after reading XKCD comics, seeing LOLcats, and reading crap on Reddit... I realized that I'm not really alone in my strangeness and it's okay to be a little strange. So I have this ultra confident persona and I kind of became confident-ish through my lack thereof.

      The idea of going to a bar scares me and I often wonder how to act in social situations where I'm required to approach another person. The other day I was hanging out at Starbucks and someone's computer wasn't working and I KNEW what was wrong, but I didn't want to be like, "Hey, I wasn't SPYIN' on you or anything... but... I'm going to be a total d-bag now and tell you what you're doing wrong." So I just let them be upset over their computer not working, because I'm awesome like that.

      But when I was working I had this whole confident thing going once I got the hang of my job. Customers ate it up for some reason. I wasn't fake or anything, just super okay with me being slightly quirky. A few customers said I was like Flo from the Progressive commercials and someone actually offered me a job on the spot, which I turned down because I obviously was already at work. (Plus it would've looked kinda' bad.)

      That said, I still don't understand civilization. I do feel like it's awesome that I'm different. I think everyone likes to be unique... but I wish there were more people like me. I kind of wonder if I'd notice if others were like me... or just continue thinking I'm different.

      I'm looking for one thing in life:

      At the end of Land Before Time the dinosaurs make it to like this lush valley they've been searching for and when they get there, they meet up with all the other dinosaurs and it's this like home-y feeling... the dinosaurs all belong with each other. That would be awesome for me, to find a bunch of people I feel like I fit in with.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 

      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Are you serious Simone? You come across very confident to me. Loved your tips though and I must say 'dressing for success' helped me heaps in my younger years.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT! This is great advice. I've had this trouble before, and you are completely correct that it's best to pretend to be outgoing, even if you don't "feel" it. The problem is just forcing yourself to actually do it!


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