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Thursday, July 18, 2024

This article will make you cringe

Reframing the idea of cringing


By MICHELLE MENDOZA — mimendoza@ucdavis.edu


In a recent phone call with my mom, she told me one of our family friend’s daughters was having trouble adjusting to college life. She was facing issues with her roommates and having a hard time connecting with people. She did not have many friends yet and just wanted to focus on her studies. The story reminded me of when I first started attending school in person after having classes and clubs online and how challenging it was to adjust to my new environment. My first time making friends in person at college was difficult, but I got through it. 

The best advice I can give for people adjusting to life in college is that sometimes it is necessary to be “cringy.” Cringing is the feeling of acute embarrassment or awkwardness, which can be uncomfortable to say the least, but it is something we need to get over when we want to try new things or do things we are interested in. I like to frame it as getting past thinking that you and the things you are interested in are cringy.

When we look back at old pictures from middle school, for example, it’s sometimes a little uncomfortable to relive our old fashion and makeup choices, because we were just learning how to express ourselves. We may not look as “bad” now as we think we did then, but we should have that same childlike courage to push through the most embarrassing parts of learning something new — after all, your favorite actors most likely started as passionate theater kids.

This year, I wanted to commit myself to a new activity: dance. I had never danced before and the only sport I was ever coordinated enough to do was track and field, which only required me to run within two lines, and sometimes I couldn’t even manage to do that. But somehow, by luck, I got to join one of the dance teams here in Davis. Even though it was open to any level of experience, a lot of people joining the team already knew how things went down and I would feel embarrassed whenever I couldn’t do turns properly or when I would lose my balance or didn’t pick up the choreography as quickly as others. 

I wasn’t good, and I started to lose confidence. It became harder to show up to practice. I would stick to doing my awkward dance movements in the back of the class with the rest of the people who were also lost in the complicated foot work. 

However, after a long time, things became less complicated. Looking back, I think the thing I was most worried about the whole time was looking stupid. And I did for a bit. I wanted to quit when I felt or thought I looked cringy. But if I were to quit when I wanted to, I would not have given myself the chance to get better.

I’m not the only person who has ever struggled with cringe and overcame it. Wisdom Kaye, a fashion TikToker and model, explained how he gets the confidence to wear all his crazy outfits and clothes. Kaye addressed this topic on a duetted TikTok in which Erica Mallet, another content creator, compared climbing a mountain to getting over cringing. Kaye joined the app in January 2020 and went viral for his rendition of the popular “Vogue Challenge.” Since his first video, he has gained almost 10 million followers and gotten to work with brands such as Dior, Fendi, Ralph Lauren, Vogue and Revlon. He has become known for making outfits from comments that present a style challenge, like one of his comments that reads, “wear red and green without making it look like Christmas = impossible.”

Kaye explained that he has always liked fashion and posts on TikTok for himself, not others. He wears what he wants to wear because he likes it, and only recently did other people start to like it too. His success is a result of his passion for fashion — and his confidence. Kaye has already made his journey up the “cringe mountain” and is descending into being comfortable with himself, and it’s definitely paying off.

Fear is one of our most powerful emotions. Many people have tried to reframe the way we treat fear as rejection therapy; if we embrace all the possibilities that can come from new opportunities we might not normally go for, we can learn that the world is much kinder than we imagine. So go for it, and embrace your cringe along the way.


Written by: Michelle Mendoza — mimendoza@ucdavis.edu

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