How to Deal with Excessive Self-Consciousness
“I am one of the world’s most self-conscious people. I really have to struggle.” — Marilyn Monroe
“I’m not shy!” I defended.
“You only talk when you’re spoken to,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean I’m shy. I just have nothing to say.”
“If you’re not shy about it, then why can’t I talk to them?”
“Because I don’t want them to know my private life!”
This is a recent argument. My boyfriend wants to “talk” to my students after I ranted about their misconduct. He happened to be friends with some of them.
But here’s the real issue. My boyfriend and I never knew about this misunderstanding. I was surprised —shocked even — that he thought of me differently throughout our three years.
“Shy”? I’m never shy. I’m sure of that. Yet, my problem was closely related.
I am self-conscious.
Shyness vs Self-Consciousness
Shyness and self-consciousness are two different variables. They look the same on the outside but they stir up differently on the inside.
According to a study, shyness is self-derogatory. It’s a negative self-bias where you look down on your capabilities, thus, limiting your actions. On the other hand, self-consciousness is how you see yourself in the eyes of others — a self-representation.
The thin line that set shyness and self-consciousness apart is preparedness. As I see shy people, however prepared they were, they still need a boost from others before they go.
On the other hand, self-conscious people ooze with confidence when they’ve prepared for it. This explains why some people can boldly do a public speech or a stage play, but make a fool of themselves when it’s impromptu.
I was a highly self-conscious introvert. Before I walk in the middle of a crowd, I make sure I’ve come prepared. It might be a good thing, but too much self-consciousness has tremendous side effects. It twins with perfectionism.
Thank goodness, I dramatically changed as I age.
I’m still self-conscious, but not as problematic as I was years ago. There’s a way to get rid of excessive self-consciousness and I want to share with you the ways I’m doing to overcome it.
What happens when you’re too self-conscious?
Again, self-consciousness is a good thing. It’s an illustration of intrapersonal intelligence — knowledge about one’s self. However, too much, like anything in this world, delivers more negatives than good.
So here are the common effects of excessive self-consciousness and how I “cured” the excess out of my system.
1. Self-consciousness hinders you from voicing out.
Self-conscious people love monologuing. They had more conversations with themselves than they have with others. Aside from personal conversations and self-evaluations, their minds are also filled with creativity and fresh ideas. However, with self-consciousness, these ideas rarely reach the surface.
We were tasked to make a short film during our university days. So I stared at thin air for days — this is how I fabricate a story. Then I ended up volunteering and discussing the plot with the class.
But instead of fulfillment, I sat down pondering to myself. “I looked stupid.” Imagine a fangirling introvert surrounded by nonchalant faces. It gets more embarrassing each time.
The next days, I promised to think twice, then thrice before making bold suggestions again.
If you experience the same, then let’s burst your bubble. It took me time to realize this, too.
But the truth is, nobody noticed your “stupidity”. Don’t act like you caught everyone’s attention. Half of the room was probably texting or daydreaming. They barely noticed what you’re overthinking about.
The problem with being too self-conscious is thinking too highly of yourself. But the world doesn’t revolve around you. People have their own lives. You’re the 1/1,000,000,000,000 part they have to think of.
So next time, say what you want to say. No one would remember it after a day, a week, a year. So say it anyway.
Another thing, do you cheer for a friend? Do you lift them up when they cry? Boost them when they can’t?
If you do, how difficult is it to cheer for yourself? The quote, “Be kind to yourself” changed me while on the verge of breakdowns.
You are the closest person to your self. Let your inner monologues be uplifting and encouraging, not torturing. Be your own best friend.
The mind is powerful, so make sure you collect the right thoughts. Build yourself a strong ally.
“If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.” — African Proverb
2. Self-consciousness wastes opportunities.
“I wish I was more confident.”
That was my line while looking at a friend who happily does whatever he wants. He looked motivated. I wished I was like him — confident.
But, I am confident, too — in a different category. People commend me for various reasons. I did great in academics. I starred in a stage play. I was a leader. I won competitions.
However, at the end of the day, it didn’t feel right. I’m the person who pulls my own brakes. I purposely limit myself because I’m afraid to be laughed at. When people made fun of me for doing something new, I stop. I walk away.
I lost opportunities more than I garnered. I blame it on being too self-conscious. Indeed, perfectionism, a perfect view of one’s self, isn’t always an advantage.
I won’t be writing here today if I let excessive self-consciousness overpower me. There’s a good solution to this problem.
Humility. It does the job.
Perfectionism is limiting. You think highly of yourself. Self-consciousness deals with self-representation, so you want to control how others see you. But it’s restricting.
When you live a life of humility, almost nothing disappoints you. You accept faults naturally.
It’s common to commit mistakes. It’s cool to live a simple life. It’s nice to talk to all types of characters. It’s okay not to wear branded clothes.
Fight self-consciousness with humility.
Accept how much of an imperfect person you are. To the point where your own lapses won’t disappoint you.
“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” — Mark Twain
3. Self-consciousness leads to feelings of anxiety, agitation, and depression.
Self-consciousness digs you into the pits of anxiety. It wastes opportunities and you end up feeling incapable.
It hit me countless times — bursts of excessive self-consciousness.
We played a friendly game during class. It should be fun, however, my excessive self-consciousness kicked in when we were against the smartest guy in class.
He’s a 35-year-old private school teacher who enrolled for his 2nd course. His confidence overflows. I was intimidated.
So instead of focusing on the game, my mind shifted inward. “Oh gosh, I’ll look like a fool here,” while in reality, no one’s paying attention to me. Nevertheless, I had a mental block.
As I said, the thin line that separates self-consciousness and shyness is preparation.
From my story above, I felt agitated because I was not mentally prepared to compete with the “smart” people. Even if I was smart enough, my self-consciousness overwhelms me to “look good” instead of “do good.”
I focused on not failing rather than winning. I focused on saving face, rather than trying. It’s the horrifying pit hole of excessive self-consciousness.
So what should you do when you’re in this situation? The same ways to solve the previous issues above.
- Think that no one’s paying attention to you. Do your thing.
- Humility plays a big role.
- It’s okay to commit mistakes.
And if I may add:
4. Remember that not everyone thinks like you.
I’m observant, so I had the notion that people observe me, too. But they do not. They don’t notice the tear on your shirt. They won’t remember you stuttered during your presentation.
Don’t think that everyone is as intrapersonally smart as you. Stop overthinking.
“Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you’re making.” — C.S. Lewis
Self-consciousness is intelligence. It’s good to be aware. But too much, to the point where it shuns your abilities, takes a toll on your mental and emotional health.
Today, I’m partly free. I won’t say “completely” because I am still self-conscious. I’m a very private person. (Ironically, I post my stories on Medium). But I felt freedom after leaving the heaviest baggage behind.
While you’re mindful of looking good for others, also be mindful of your progress and well-being. They are not responsible for how you live your life. You hold power in your own mind.
Be kind to your strongest ally — yourself.