Mirriam Webster Dictionary defines the term self-conscious as “feeling uncomfortably nervous or embarrassed when in the presence of or when being observed by other people.” Everything could be going just fine until some event, new social circle, or new challenge presents itself, and you’re suddenly super aware of your being and how you’re perceived by others. Sometimes nothing triggers these feelings at all – they just show up, try to plant themselves in your brain and urge you to care way too much about what others think. The worst!
Full disclosure – this is not a blog post about how to not be self-conscious. Feelings, both good and bad, are part of the human experience. Each of us goes through all ends of the spectrum as we grow and evolve. Yes, even Beyoncé. Yes, even Oprah. Yes, even me! So I don’t want to write about how to never feel self-conscious again or never worry about what someone else is thinking. That’s just not realistic to me as a coach or as a person.
Instead, I’m going to share a few tips so that you’re prepared when those vibes come around, and can pull yourself out of that low energy sooner rather than later. Keep these mantras in your back pocket and use them whenever you need to! Share them with a friend or a loved one who needs to hear it. Each tip offers a different perspective and presents solutions to these feelings from different angles.
Answer this question honestly – how many times has someone shared something about themselves with you, and you reacted or responded in a way that implies what you think or what you would do? For example, a friend tells you she is starting her own business after years of dreaming about it, and plans to quit her job within 6 months of her launch. You can’t fathom starting your own business right now. Not to mention, the idea of quitting a secure job scares the sh*t out of you! So you try to be supportive, but warn her to be careful and suggest she wait at least a year before she quits.
Your advice to your friend had nothing to do with her and everything to do with you and your beliefs. Most people operate in this way, and it’s so important to remember this with anything you create, share or do. People are going to project their own feelings, beliefs, and fears on to you constantly (whether unintentionally or not). It’s up to you to take it with a grain of salt and keep charging forward. Don’t let it cloud your head or stir up feelings of self-conscious. Otherwise, the story that you write for yourself is going to be made up of other people’s energy, and it ends up not being your story at all. Isn’t that kind of a shame??
No one is perfect. I repeat, no human on this planet is perfect. Everyone is going to mess up, make mistakes, and do things that they learn from and improve upon. So let go of the perception that you have to have it 100% together. You’re human, and perfection is never going to be a thing. Plus, it is boring AF!! If you’re perfect, there is never anything new to learn or any room to grow.
Yes, there are opportunities to be great, and you should strive for greatness through practice and planning. But greatness is also built upon learning and growth, and you can’t really do that if you’re perfect. So, I urge you to imagine this weight being lifted off your shoulders, and take the pressure off of always having to say or do the “right” thing.
This is actually such a freeing concept when you think about it. Psychologists refer to this theory as the Spotlight effect, in which we tend to overestimate how much other people notice about us or think about us. We think there is a spotlight on us at all times, highlighting all of our mistakes or flaws, for all the world to see. But in reality, people aren’t that concerned about you because they’re hyper-focused on themselves! We are the star of the show in our own minds, but certainly not in others, and it’s a relief!! Just do you – no one is watching as attentively as you think they are.
Reese Witherspoon played the iconic character of Elle Woods in the 2001 movie, Legally Blonde. No one believed in Elle when she wanted to go to Harvard Law and become a lawyer. She was questioned and judged by family, friends, classmates, and her then-boyfriend. But she continued to believe in herself, be herself, and paved her own way, until she left others no choice but to believe in her too.
Granted, this is just a movie, but it’s actually a really good example for this tip. You have to believe in yourself first. Don’t wait for others to believe in you or reassure you to believe in yourself. No, love. It’s the other way around. Do your thing, know yourself, know your goals, and keep marching forward until others have no choice to join the parade. You set the tone for it all.
*To caveat this point, I want to make it clear that it is not up to you to convince people of your worth, either. Some people are never going to join your parade, and that’s not your problem. You don’t have time to waste on them or their perceptions. My point is to underscore the importance of believing in yourself first. It absolutely creates a ripple effect for everyone around you.
I love this idea because it eliminates all excuses not to do something. Feeling great? Good, do what you intended to do. Feeling scared and unsure? Good, lean in to that and do it anyway. Don’t wait until you’re 100% ready or confident to jump in to something. You’re going to be waiting around for a while and let’s be real, you’re just stalling. Do it afraid. Do it unsure. Adjust and improve along the way. The ability to do something even when you feel the fear eventually builds your confidence and actually reduces feelings of insecurity and self-consciousness. That’s a win-win. Create that kind of positive cycle for yourself!
Feelings of self-conscious will always come and go, but it’s your mindset around those feelings that really makes or breaks you. I hope these tips are helpful in managing those thoughts and remind you that it really does not matter what other people think of you, for so many reasons. If you struggle with this, get the right support. Listen to an inspiring podcast, hire a coach, work with a therapist, seek the wisdom of a supportive friend! There are so many resources available to help you take control of your mindset and put you in the driver’s seat. Until next time!