Five Lessons You Can Learn from Awkward Moments!

It’s National Awkward Moments Day! And given that passion is celebrating the awkward in all of us, I would be remiss if I did not set aside time to discuss some of my favorite awkward moments!

First, I have to call out the fact that awkward moments get a bad rap. They get made fun of. People try to avoid having them. And when they do occur, we tend to try to put them as far into our past as possible. Hoping everyone we know will forget that awkward moment, and even fooling ourselves enough to almost forget it ourselves. But I have a different approach to awkward moments. You see, I believe that our awkwardness is what makes each of us amazing! And those moments that bring out our awkward need to be celebrated.

Your awkward is unique to you, and when those moments occur when your awkward shines through, you need to learn to embrace it, to love it, to Own Your Awkward.

If you aren’t there yet, I get it. I did not learn to own my awkward until just a few years ago. Since then I have been learning about how others have owned their awkward as well. I seek out people from every walk of life to learn what their awkward is, and more importantly, how they own it. Some of the best lessons I have learned come through the conversations I have in my podcast, Own Your Awkward. In honor of National Awkward Moments Day, I would like to share a few of the most important lessons with you.

Lesson One: There are many things to be awkward about

The first lesson learned is that there is an immense range of things we can all feel awkward about. In fact, if you can use it to describe yourself, then it can be your awkward. There are thousands of adjectives in the English language. That’s a lot to feel awkward about! And if anyone can appreciate the extent of this, it’s the Grammar Goddess herself, Susan Rooks, who opened up about her awkward as she found herself making her life out of the appreciation for words and using them correctly as an editor.

With the vast amount of opportunity for awkwardness, I have come to appreciate just how very different each of our awkwards is. One person may feel shy about getting out in a crowd as Jim Kellner discusses in his episode, while another may be just so comfortable in their skin that they have to be prepared for how others respond to their passions. This was the case with Suzanne Brandick who learned to embrace love as the cornerstone of her life, or Yonason Goldson who embraces ethics and challenges others to do the same in a business world.

Whether you might see another’s adjective as a positive word or in a negative light, they could still feel awkward about it. Who would ever think that love and ethics have anything to do with being awkward? But when you raise the flag to proclaim them as your platform, you find out just how awkward anything can begin to feel.

Lesson Two: Someone else has the opposite awkward

It’s not all about you. We hear that often enough, but when it comes to looking at the thing that makes you self conscious, it is hard to get out of your headspace long enough to entertain the idea that while you may feel awkward for one attribute, there is someone else across the room who feels awkward for the exact opposite reason.

It is by taking a step back and hearing the stories of others that we can open up to the thought that our own awkward could actually be desirable to another person. Throughout my conversations, I continually run into eye-opening moments when I learn that while one person may feel awkward for being too big, as Cheri Hardman opens up about in her episode, another person has had to own being too small, like Sarah Elkins as she owns her awkward of being tiny. I must note that there is nothing tiny about Sarah’s personality or accomplishments, so she has definitely owned her awkward!

Lesson Three: There is more than one way to Own Your Awkward

It took several months before I ever had someone mention a repeat awkward. I purposefully do not screen my guests or ask ahead of time for them to commit to what their awkward is. So more often than not, I am hearing their awkward for the first time on the show.

When I started the podcast, I wondered how I would handle having guests who share an awkward that a previous guest may have already mentioned. Would that show be worth airing? Should I coach people to pick a different awkward? I chose not to do either of things and I am glad I did not. As it turns out, what their awkward is, is only a small part of the conversation. The real work comes in how they have owned it. And just as there is more than one way to skin a cat, there is more than one way to Own Your Awkward.

I learned this with Genevieve Denise and Deborah Walker, who both claimed their awkward as being introverted. But that is where their paths separated and each took different journeys in how they have owned it in order to live their best lives. Surprisingly enough it happened again with Gwendelyn Kay and Shelley Brown, who both call out their awkward as being weird. Once again, their ways of owning it are completely different.

Seeing these differences, like different flavors of cake frosted over with the same type of icing, reminds me that I do not have to follow any one story to find my success. Just because one recipe doesn’t turn out right for me, doesn’t mean I should close the cook-book and stop trying to make a delicious dessert.

Lesson Four: Everyone has an awkward

Even though I make awkwardness my life, I still continue to learn. Some of my guests are so accomplished and seem so put together that I could not imagine them having anything awkward to deal with. But that is after all the point of my entire platform, we all have an awkward. So when I discussed feeling like an impostor with Melissa Hughes or bravery with Kimberly Davis, I felt more empowered in my own awkward space. It is by hearing the stories of others, by seeing that even the most successful people have had to put in the work to be okay with who they are, that we can find the courage to push through when the road seems too long, or the garden seems too full of weeds to produce any harvest.

Lesson Five: Owning your awkward is the key to success and happiness

I started this journey to share with the world that the key to a happy and successful life comes by first owning your awkward. This message is the baseline for all of the work I do in coaching, leadership training, and speaking. Given that objective, it should not seem like anything ground-breaking that this is my fifth lesson. Although, the amount of success I have seen people have to start from the moment they owned their awkward, has been inspiring. We see this repeated in conversation after conversation as my guests talk about the transitions they have made to accept themselves and their situations in a way that allows them to create businesses, write books, and help others.

From Dennis Pitocco who shares his transitions after retirement to create a new platform for writers to connect and share, to Joe Kwon who is making it his mission to help others connect with charisma, and Laura Staley whose story is an inspiration. People who take something they don’t like or do not feel good at, like April Hall, who never liked math, and has now found that dislike for math has given her the gift to help others understand their data better.

Like it or not, success comes through accepting yourself. And accepting yourself starts when you Own Your Awkward.

Celebrate your awkward moments today

So as today is National Awkward Moments Day, take a chance to look at what your awkward might be. I challenge you to set aside a few minutes to create an awkward moment for yourself and to celebrate it. Think about what makes you different, what makes you unique, what makes you beautiful in a way that no one else is. This is your awkward whether you are ready to own it or not.

I would love to hear what your awkward is? Thank you for taking the time to share this part of your journey with me today. Please comment below with what you might consider to be your awkward, and of course tell us how you Own Your Awkward!


Andy Vargo
Andy Vargo
Keynote speaker, life coach, author and entertainer, Andy Vargo is all about helping you live your best life by learning how to ‘Own Your Awkward’! If you ever feel awkward about yourself, then you can understand how Andy Vargo lived the first forty years of his life. Coming out of the closet at forty doesn’t define him, pursuing his passion to help others does. During the day, Andy works corporate and school events as a motivational speaker and helps people master life changes as a one on one life coach. At night you can find him working stages around the northwest as a comedian making light of his journey with the gift of laughter. Awkward is not only his brand, but his style as Andy encourages each of us to ‘Own Your Awkward’ and be true to your genuine selves. In addition to authoring the Awkward Journal Series, Andy hosts the podcast, Own Your Awkward, co-hosts the Be The Better Local Show on BD Local and shares thoughts and ideas in his blog and video series available at awkwardcareer.

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  1. Love this, Andy! I took a page from your book (not literally) when working with a client earlier this year when he told me an exercise I had him do lead to an awkward situation. I said: “Okay, but why are you saying that like it’s a bad thing? Awkward isn’t necessarily bad.” And thanks for the mention and encouraging words, you sure know how to make it easier to own my awkwards… all of them.

    • Thank you so much Sarah! I love that response: “…but why are you saying that like it’s a bad thing?” The more we can reframe what we define as positive vs negative, the further we come in our ability to accept growth in different forms.