Get Over Self-Consciousness

man with bag over head
No, having a bag over the head won’t get rid of self-consciousness. However, there are sensible solutions. Photo by Donn Dughi

There was a time when I must have been the most self-conscious person on earth. I was completely preoccupied with myself and imagined others looking at me strangely, though I was afraid to look at them to verify if what I imagined was correct.

As the cliche goes, being wrapped up in yourself makes you a small package. I felt so small that it was as if I could easily be thrown about by a world that seemed against me.

That was then. Now that the worst is over and I’m not half as self-conscious as I used to be, I think I know something about what self-consciousness is about and, more importantly, how to get over it.

Agony of Self-Consciousness

Unfortunately, self-consciousness is agonizing. Ouch!

Thankfully, the more pain, the more motivation to take action to get better.

So before getting to three of the easiest and quickest cures for self-consciousness, let’s consider how self-consciousness is painful. 🙁

Being self-conscious is like having stage fright in everyday situations where you’re not even on stage yet feel like the center of attention and like every little move you make is being judged. Sure, it can sometimes feel good to be the center of attention, but not if it makes you flip out.

The real reason we feel judged by others when we’re self-conscious is NOT because others are really judging but because we’re judging ourselves.

slimy character
Do you treat yourself like slime?

Then again, we could be factually accurate about being disregarded and treated like slime when we’re self-conscious. That’s because other people mirror us. So if we treat ourselves like slime, it isn’t surprising that others do too.

Being self-conscious means feeling like a reject. When we’re self-conscious, we expect rejection. Expecting it makes it more likely to happen.

What Causes Us To Be Self-Conscious?

As stated before, being self-critical is the fundamental reason for being self-conscious.

Let’s take a look at how we might become self-critical.

It might be due to a specific cause. For example. many teens have acne, which can make them self-conscious. If acne (or whatever) is actually the reason, then once the acne disappears, then being self-conscious also goes away.

However, self-consciousness is often due to matters that are deeper.

For example, it may be due to a habitual way of seeing oneself as an outsider. It goes without saying that seeing oneself as being “different” will cause self-consciousness.

outsider separate from rest
Feeling a sense of separateness from others can cause self-consciousness.

Social alienation means feeling separate from other people, leading to self-consciousness.

According to Sean Cooper, aka Shyness and Social Anxiety Guy, toxic shame is a general feeling of being flawed and defective. It’s self-shame. This obviously causes self-consciousness as well.

A person’s congenital constitution or personality type may also mean having a predisposition to be self-conscious. According to the Enneagram of Personality, being an Enneagram type 4 means being more self-aware and potentially self-conscious.

No matter what the cause, everyone can use the same effective tactics to get over self-consciousness.

Tactic #1–Focus On Sights Or Sounds

cars on the street
A simple way to be less self-conscious is to watch or listen to the world around you.

Choose something in the environment to pay attention to. In other words, observe your surroundings using your senses. This will make you forget about yourself.

I find it easier to focus using just one sense, either audio or visual. This means either LISTENING to the world around me or else WATCHING what’s around me. (If I try to observe or take in everything, it’s overwhelming and harder to focus.)

If I choose audio or listening to the sounds around me, I’ll deliberately “eavesdrop” on people who may be talking as well as sounds like cars driving by or birds chirping. But if I choose visual, I’ll notice what others are wearing, the buildings or architecture, nature such as trees, etc.

Whenever I do this, I can immediately forget myself, and not focusing on oneself means being less self-conscious.

So if you find yourself feeling self-conscious, this is an effective way to nix it on the spot.

Tactic #2–Focus On Other People

Here’s a quick and easy way to shift the focus onto other people:

Ask questions about others in your head. This is an effective method I got from SocialProNow. Doing this will enable you to be genuinely interested in others.

Here’s how: When you’re in a situation with other people, replace thinking about what others might be thinking of you with wondering about them by asking questions (in your head) regarding them.

For example, when seeing someone across the room, you might think to yourself, “I wonder where that person lives?” or “What does she like to do for fun?” or “Does he have any pets?” or “How was his day?”

Thinking this way gets you interested in other people.

person looking out window
A good way to become genuinely interested in others (and get over being self-conscious) is to wonder about random people you see when looking out the window.

For “extra credit”, you can practice this method even when you’re not self-conscious, such as when at home alone.

For example, when alone, you might look out the window at someone and wonder, “Where does she live?” or “I wonder where he’s going,” or  “She looks happy (or upset)”, etc.

Practicing this will make you feel less socially alienated and more connected to the world.

Another benefit is it will make it easier to start conversations. That’s because by asking questions in your head such as “I wonder what he likes to do for fun?” or “Where did she get that elegant outfit?” or “I wonder why he’s carrying flowers and who’s it for?”, it becomes natural to think outwardly and use questions like these as conversation starters.

Tactic #3–Use Your Body Effectively

How you feel has a lot to do with your body language.

In a nutshell, if you have awkward or timid body language, you’ll feel more awkward or timid. However, if you have assertive or self-assured body language, you’ll feel more self-assured.

Looking back, my body language used to be awkward. I now see that it contributed to my worries about how others may be having negative thoughts about me.

confident poses
To be less self-conscious, carry yourself in a confident manner. When standing, have a confident stance. Practice in the mirror to determine what looks confident as well as what’s comfortable for you.

So one day I stood in front of a mirror and practiced some new self-assured ways of standing, includes what to do with my arms and hands when standing while interactingI decided simply letting my arms hang relaxed at my sides felt and looked confident.

A few days after my mirror rehearsal, someone came over to fix the heater and I noticed that I felt confident when standing and interacting with him, and this was because I wasn’t obsessing about being awkward.

The repair person asked if I own the duplex apartment that I live in, and I said I didn’t. A little while later, he asked again if I owned the place. (Maybe he thought I owned it because my body language projected confidence and power?)

Indeed, our body language is a huge factor in how we’re perceived as well as whether we feel confident.

Conclusion

It may be agonizing to be self-conscious, but thankfully, these three strategies to get over it work right off the bat.

Try one strategy at a time, such as focusing on sights or sounds when you’re out and about. Practice this for about one week. Then try another strategy, i.e., mentally asking questions about people when you’re out and about. Continue doing whatever works.

By doing this, even if self-consciousness has been a chronic perplexing problem, it will quickly go away and be a thing of the past.

14 Replies to “Get Over Self-Consciousness

  1. I really like your suggestion on reformulating self-criticism to questions about others. If we can make ourselves curious and focus on something else other than our worries about how WE might be seen, interacting with other people becomes a lot easier and feels a lot less forced. People like (well, mostly) answering personal questions and respond well to sincere curiosity.

    1. Thanks, Penelope. The wonderful thing is one can do that even when one is at home and alone. This helps make one less self-preoccupied and genuinely interested in others. Part of it is just changing habitual thinking, it seems. Instead of perceiving oneself as separate from others, we can develop a sense of empathy.

      So the other day I looked out my window and saw two people across the street walking, and I asked questions in my mind about them. Actually, I noticed what they were wearing first and one, which was a young guy, wore jeans that had multiple holes in them. Then I wondered what they might be feeling. They both seemed to be in a good mood. I could feel that I was genuinely acquiring an interest in them (other people). This interest in others transfers well to social situations.

  2. very interesting post Jean!

    I think words only have the meanings that we attach to them. so i’m glad when I saw you make a distinction between “self-consciousness” and “self-awareness”, because i think the latter can be an incredibly powerful awakening moment where you realise that you are the controller of the thoughts and not the thoughts themselves. in a way, a similar positive spin can be placed on “self – consciousness”, in that you are aware of your consciousness, and therefore aware of your ability to change it to suit, our consciousness is often determined by what our thoughts are focused on, and we can always change that focus. hence change what we’re conscious of, towards the positive, not towards the negative.

    all the best,

    jerry

    1. Yes, there seems to be a fine line between self-consciousness and self-awareness, and sometimes being too self-aware can also make one feel self-conscious and self-critical. But once one becomes aware of being self-critical, then one can change that default and become positive, even laudatory towards oneself and thus self-awareness becomes helpful rather than a hindrance. Overall, I’d say it’s helpful to be very self-aware, but as with most things, there’s a positive and negative aspect or light and darkness to it. By using the techniques mentioned in my post which I acquired from introspection and research, one should go from negative self-awareness to positive self-awareness that helps in being a good communicator. Thanks, Jerry.

  3. Jean, I LITERALLY love this!!! For so long I would be so self-conscious and think, “Are other people talking about me?” – and all along, I was doing what you were saying and wrapping myself up in a package – without even noticing!

    And it’s true, we all have to continuously focus on improving our habitual mental pattern towards being interested in others. So True!

    Thank you Jean!!! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Rod. Your comment sounds kind of like a rave review. lol Appreciate it.

      It’s nice to find that others can relate. It’s probably because it’s human nature to experience more or less the topics on this website.

      Yes, resetting the mind to a new pattern makes all the difference in the world. I find the looking out the window and asking myself questions about others that I see, e.g. I wonder where she’s going, or he looks like he’s in a good mood, wonder why, to be effective in practicing getting outside myself and not feeling so estranged from strangers. 🙂

  4. This speaks to me Jean! I have always been self conscious about my looks and the way i smile and stand etc etc.. its a long list! But then as you mention i worked on it and practiced in front of a mirror for the longest time, this really does work by the way! Great article, i love how you mention your personality type and interact with the reader, you really bring a common trait in people and help them on finding a solution. You talk about this from experience and i feel thats the best way to go about it, hope more people find this and use it.
    Keep it up and all the best!

    Elias

    1. Hi Elias. Right, there’s actually myriad methods to eliminate self-consciousness if one really wants to. I was long-suffering until I figured out these ways. With these solutions, no more need to be self-consciousness unless one wants to remain that way. But who would want that? Thanks!

  5. I absolutely love this quote –
    “Being self-conscious is like having stage fright but in everyday situations where one isn’t even on stage yet feels like the center of attention and like every little move one makes is being judged negatively.”

    I appreciate that you define the concept before talking about how to cope with the issue. That way a reader will either be able to closely identify for him/herself or will be able to gain information that will assist them in supporting a loved one. Very information-rich article!

    1. Thanks, MJ. Well, that quote or description is based on personal experience and my intuition tells me that that’s the experience that humans in general have when we’re self-conscious. Whereas for some people, being self-conscious is just occasional, for others is more chronic. Either way, the methods apply.Self-consciousness, if excessive, can get in the way of socializing or starting conversations, which is why minimizing self-consciousness can be a prerequisite.

  6. This is a very interesting article, I enjoyed reading it. I used to be very conscious about myself. I kept wondering what other people think about me or what they might be saying about me which made me worry a lot about myself. But just as you said, I started asking questions about other people in my head and this really worked for me. It made me feel better and less self conscious. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Thank you, John. Yes, I only wish I knew this decades ago. It would have spared me from missing out on life during my youth. Don’t have to be self-conscious when you know the techniques to alleviate or get rid of it.

  7. I found your article on self-consciousness very interesting and familiar, I think for many of us it is a chemical imbalance inside of us which gives us these debilitating feelings about ourselves and others.

    You can find many people with physical disfigurement yet they are very confident people, so that does make me believe it has to do with an imbalance but I am sure it is different for many people

    Your tips are great tips for people to add to their life to focus more on other things rather than our thoughts of what others are thinking about us. I plan to add your tips to my own health plan to become more confident in myself .

    1. I’d agree, Jeffrey, that many if not most people who tend to be self-conscious probably have a predisposition, though whether it’s a “chemical imbalance” is moot. I mean, if it were a chemical imbalance, that would mean that a SUITABLE medication should solve the problem. I just don’t think that’s likely. Personally, I’ve tried meditations, and none worked. 

      I think even with predisposition to be self-conscious, it’s just a matter of not thinking in certain patterns that lead to self-consciousness. In my case, I no longer obsess about being “different” or that there’s something “wrong” with me because I’m not very sociable. Yet, I’d like to be more social, but instead of berating myself or obsessing about it and feeling inadequate which makes things worse, I now am able to see social skills and learning to be sociably confident the same thing as learning to ride a bike. Practice makes perfect. 

      Yes, coming from an introverted perspective, I do see focusing outwardly on the environment and other people as the most significant factor in getting over self-consciousness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *