You wake up feeling great. After a shower and breakfast, you get dressed in what you think is an outfit that portrays your individual style. But when you get to work someone makes a negative comment and you automatically feel as though the spotlight is on you. Suddenly you have second thoughts about what you once believed a great outfit. You no longer feel good about the day, in fact, you wish you just stayed in bed and called in sick. Does this sound familiar? Then you may suffer from feelings of being self conscious.
What is Self-consciousness?
Self-consciousness is being acutely preoccupied with one’s self and others perception. It is also a fear of being severely judged by others for doing or saying the wrong thing. Usually the self-conscious person is very uncomfortable with being noticed. He or she believes the spotlight is always on them and that perfect, or at the very least “normal” behavior, is expected at all times. These unpleasant feelings are often associated with paranoia or shyness.
When you are self conscious, you think everyone is judging you and scrutinizing your every move. You are always worried about looking stupid and doing embarrassing things. This feeling of intense scrutiny can make it very hard to enjoy life and express yourself fully.
Being self-conscious can stop you from:
- Enjoying yourself
- Performing and learning as well as you could
- Making new friends
- Behaving naturally
Showing it off or keeping it private
There are two types of self-consciousness, private self-consciousness and public self-consciousness. Private self-consciousness is being introspective focusing on inner thoughts and feelings. Public self-consciousness, on the other hand is being aware of how others view you.
Our pubic self-consciousness is manifested through our looks. There is a reason why millions of dollars are spent on gym memberships, diet pills, clothes, make-up, etc. We are concerned with how others perceive us. We are careful to always appear in control and never stupid or inept. Our public self-consciousness is a huge part of how we see ourselves, our self-confidence and self-worth.
Fighting with one’s self
Being overly self-conscious eventually creates a trap of constantly feeling embarrassment and shame. For instance, imagine having to give a presentation and forgetting the first few lines of the speech. If you are overly self conscious, you may fumble for note cards instead of just winging it or laughing it off. During the rest of the speech, you are embarrassed because of this tiny mistake and mortified of what the audience must think of you. Afterward, you may relentlessly beat yourself up. The bad thing is that if you have enough embarrassing moments your self-image begins to crumble and feelings of shame become commonplace. Remember that everyone makes mistakes; everyone who has ever given a speech has forgotten a word or two.
How to not be self-conscious
Creating a regular pattern of success is one way to end the trap of embarrassment and shame associated with self-consciousness. Successfully completing tasks builds confidence and often leads to future success.
- Be on time. Punctuality is always good. Being punctual makes you more disciplined and creates a healthy habit that will keep you calm and diminishes feelings of being rushed.
- Be as honest as possible. Lies are usually found out, and will only make you look bad. Shame and embarrassment will not be too far behind.
- Do away with the gossip. Try to avoid those who gossip as well. Constantly having to worry about what others are saying behind your back is nerve racking. Don’t do it to others because they will repay in kind. Instead, try seeking meaningful conversations with others.
If you do find yourself in an embarrassing situation, you can avoid feelings of shame by recovering gracefully. Try laughing it off and explain why you made the mistake, then change the subject. Do not get defensive and lash out or lie. These actions will only make you feel worse about the situation.
Don’t run away from embarrassing social situations. Everyone wants to flee from an embarrassing situation. However, escaping to avoid the people you were embarrassed in front of will only leave you feeling more shame and isolation. It is important to remember that most of the time people tend to focus more on their worries.
Work on accepting yourself
One of the best ways to overcome self consciousness it to learn to accept yourself unconditionally. Having a strong sense of self will prevent internalizing of negative comments and actions by others. For example, if someone says you are stupid, instead of internalizing this comment, you may realize that the person is just trying to push your buttons. But instead giving them the reaction they crave, you may say something like: “That’s your opinion, it’s too bad you feel that way.” Then give a little shrug for added effect and walk away.
If you have trouble accepting yourself; don’t fret, this can be learned and internalized. Here are few ways you can accept yourself.
1. Begin with setting an intention
According to psychotherapist, Jeffery Sumber, MA, “Self-acceptance begins with intention.”Make it a propriety to stop blaming, doubting and feeling ashamed. Shift your thoughts to allow for tolerance and acceptance of your flaws and to start to trust yourself.
Appreciate and celebrate your strengths
Instead of focusing on short comings, try making of list of your strengths. Having trouble thinking of good things to write about yourself? Take it slow and start with the basics, maybe something like: “I’m a good and kind person,” or “I am a great friend.” Also make a list of all the hardships you have overcome, the goals you have accomplished. Often making a list will allow you to see themselves more clearly. Keep this list close by and review it as often as possible. Remind yourself of your worth.
3 Grieve and accept not having realized some dreams
Many times we cannot accept ourselves because we are holding on to ideas of who or what we wanted to become. Maybe you dreamed of becoming a fashion designer, or a doctor or even a CEO of a multi-million dollar conglomerate. If these dreams did not come into fruition, it does not make you a loser. If you can accept and grieve the loss of these goals and dreams, then you can be on your way to being the best possible person you can be.
Acceptance and resignation are not the same thing
Acceptance is a letting go of the past and the things you are unable to control. Don’t think of it as being weak and helpless. Instead think of it as being empowered and being in control of the things that can be changed. Acknowledging that there is a problem is often the first step to making positive and lasting changes.
Be kind to yourself.
Most people are hesitant to show themselves even a little bit of self-love because they feel unworthy. However, to have self-acceptance one must love themselves because of their flaws not in spite of them.
One way to be kind to yourself is to forgive yourself for past regrets. Dwelling on past regrets prevents us from practicing self-acceptance and feeds the overly self-conscious part of your mind. It does not matter if it is something you did or a quirk that resulted in an embarrassing moment. The truth is that there is no time machine, no way to go back in time and change things. If feelings of remorse, return then remember that if you made the best decision you could at the time, then that means you did the best you could. No one can blame you for that, so why blame and beat yourself up? Try to forgive yourself, and move on.
Quiet your inner critic
For many people their inner critic is the voice of reason. But usually that inner voice is full of harsh and unwelcome criticism and judgment. When your inner critic rears its ugly head, quickly combat it with positive self-talk.
Example of positive self talk for confidence
- I am just as capable as anyone else
- I am a good person and will not let a few mistakes define who I am
- I know with a little time and some effort I can accomplish anything
- I know who I am and that I am a good and worthy person
- I can accomplish any task that I choose to take on
- I am worthwhile, successful, and happy
Surround yourself with the right people
Do you surround yourself with negative or toxic friends? Are you put down, made fun of or gossiped about? Just because you hang out with someone and have a few interests, does not necessarily make for a real friendship. Sometimes even family members can be emotionally draining and offer very little in the way of support. Find people who are encouraging and honest without being judgmental. When you find the right friends, then you have formed a strong support system of people you can rely on and who believe in you. Like diamonds, good friends are hard to find, but rest assured they are out there.
Stop Judging others
When you feel intimidated by others and think they are better than you, remember that you may be over emphasizing a certain aspect about that person. At the same time you are minimizing the bad parts. Long story short, you are making the person near perfect. We all know, or have at least heard the saying, “No one is perfect.” Instead try to see the person the way they really are.
Volunteer your time by helping out in your community or a charity
Volunteering is a fantastic way to demonstrate how your actions benefit others. When you sacrificially give your time to help others it will be next to impossible for you to feel inadequate or unworthy. Think of what you would like to do and search for opportunities in your community based on your interests. Do you enjoy cooking? Look for organizations that operates a soup kitchen. Do you play sports? Try your local YMCA for opportunities to volunteer your time teaching kids basketball.
Anxiety disorder can be a contributing factor for self-conscious behavior. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be a great step in helping people gain a more realistic view of themselves and how others perceive them. If therapy is not helping, a doctor or a therapist may suggest anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication to combat the negative thoughts and calm negative heightened emotions.
Everyone struggles with being self conscious at one time or another. Even famous people are not immune. Take these self-conscious quotes from famous celebrities.
—Marilyn Monroe, actress
—Alison Sweeney, soap opera actress
“Maybe it has something to do with turning 30. I don’t feel as shy or nervous or self-conscious. I have more confidence that I can handle what life brings me. I don’t feel scared to have an idea and express it.”
—Michelle Williams, actress
—Kenny Rogers, singer
—Ray Bradbury, author
As you can gather from reading these quotes, even celebrities have problems with insecurity. Their anxiety is probably worse because unlike most people reading this, they are really in the spotlight. But the thing they all have in common is the strength to live their lives, even though they were not always confident. Don’t let this anxiety rule your life, you can be your best self despite it.