Taking a selfie - I hope others don't notice X, Y and Z - People are too busy with their own lives: reason to ease up. Image courtesy of bplanet at freedigitalphotos.net
I admit I am often in the habit of “taking things personally”. For example, if a friend doesn’t seem as warm as usual, I think “I wonder what I have done wrong?” and “Don’t they like me anymore?” At the extreme, self-consciousness can actually cause paranoia.
However, what was helpful was considering how I react to others, for example being friendlier one day is due to my own personal reasons, that have nothing to do with anyone else whatsoever !
One of my dearest friends is endearingly candid. She told me “It’s not all about you, you know!” She said that’s what her family often say to her when she personalises something. I also felt better that I am not the only person who does this!
Reflecting upon this, it is true. It is ridiculous to have an exaggerated sense of your own importance, or your own faults and perceived deficiencies. This is because most people are too busy with their own concerns, their own lives, and yes – their own hang-ups! People don’t have that much time to worry about you! (I am not referring to those times close friends or family do worry, because they care: I am referring more to worrying about thinking people are judging your appearance or what you do.)
My friend’s observation really helped me. I considered her statement from how I think and feel about others. I know I am not thinking anything about them. I am too busy getting on with my own life. So, why should other people be different?
I can’t say how many people are self-conscious. Maybe we all from time to time are excessively preoccupied with what others think of us.
Self-consciousness is understandable even if it is unwarranted ninety-nine percent of the time! It is natural that we want to fit in, and so we don’t want people to look at us and think negatively of us, or judge what we are doing.
Perhaps introspective and introverted people may be more susceptible to more frequent feelings of self-consciousness. I have both these attributes, and I think if I actually focussed more on other people, if I talked to them more (I am admittedly shy), I’d forget myself!
If you are self-conscious, firstly being aware of this fact is helpful. This is because you can separate your feelings and thoughts from reality. You can tell yourself "This is my self-consciousness. People aren't thinking anything about me."
It can take a while to shake of self-consciousness. However, when you do, there is a great sense of freedom. There is less concern about whether others like you, approve of you and so on. I sometimes have to upbraid myself: “Justine, you are not that important! People have more weighty matters than to think about you”. It can be hard though to live this truth, though.
If you have been criticised or teased in the past about a particular attribute, or the way you look, perhaps you may be more susceptible to self-consciousness. For example, many women sadly think others are looking at them with regard to their body image. Another reality is, we all have hang-ups (or most of us) about the way we look from time to time.
You may look at others, and envy their seeming sense of freedom to feel they can be themselves without judgement. However, I have often been surprised to learn that seemingly confident, extroverted and relaxed people have admitted to actually being quite shy deep down. They also have conceded they worry what others think. So, even though self-consciousness can be unhelpful, you are not alone.
When you realise it's not all about you, this can bring with it a wonderful sense of freedom, because you can then relax and be yourself. You will spend less time pre-occupied with what others are thinking of you, and this can decrease social anxiety.
When you rationalise your feelings of self-consciousness, over time you can gradually learn to let go, to ease up: this gives you freedom to be yourself.