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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 interacting. I 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.
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.