It’s one thing to be interested in how you are perceived by others, it’s another to be overwhelmed by wondering what people are (or a particular person is) thinking about you. Being consumed by what someone else is thinking about you indicates self-consciousness.
Which is not to be confused with being consciously aware of one’s self.
If you are self conscious, you are obsessed by what other people think about you and are threatened by their (perceived) thoughts, or even worse, if they actually voice the slightest criticism.
It may be of some comfort to realize that people are not as likely to think as much about you as you might like to give them credit for.
For instance, if you’re giving an important speech in front of peers at a formal affair, you’re introduced by the emcee and as you walk up to the podium you trip over the microphone cord. You don’t fall, but your misstep was painfully noticeable. You regain your composure, make your way to the podium and look out at all the faces staring at you.
The self conscious person assumes the entire audience is thinking something like, “what a klutz!” or that you’re, “so nervous,” you’re, “stumbling all over yourself,” and, “can’t even walk straight,” or they might be wondering if you’re drunk.
While the self respecting person (on the other end of the spectrum) would simply recognize the unfortunate cord placement which was nearly the cause of a full onstage fall, shrug it off, walk up to the podium and begin his or her speech as if nothing happened.
The self conscious person in this scenario might approach a confidant after the speech and say, “Did you see that huge mic cord stretched across the stage that nearly killed me as I was trying to make my speech? I tripped, nearly killed myself and must’ve seemed the fool, or people might have thought I was drunk.”
The confidant is likely to honestly reply, “Oh, I didn’t even notice.” As neither did most, if not all of the attending audience. The self-conscious create an enormous amount of self-imposed drama and internal dialogue based on ideas without merit: nothing.
Thinking is one thing, what about what someone says?
What someone says about you, or to you about you, doesn’t really have as much to do with you, as it does with them.
You might be introduced to a personal trainer who says, “You are amazing. You would be so much more amazing if you were to lose 15 or 20 pounds and firm up in a couple of target areas. I could help you with that.”
The self conscious mind machine goes into overdrive spitting out a mental ticker tape, asserting the trainer, “called me fat … said I was flabby … overweight … a big blob of jelly … I’m not as amazing as I could be because I’m a fatty …” and on and on it goes with the self criticism that could potentially lead to self loathing, “I hate myself.”
Self respecting people would ask for the trainer’s card and might say, “Thank you.” And if they’re not considering themselves a potential client, might offer the card to someone else who might be looking to spend more quality time at the gym.
What if you asked your partner, “How does my butt look in these jeans?” to which they reply, “Yeah… I wouldn’t be putting that butt in those jeans if I were you.”
Don’t worry about it. You have no idea what was going on inside the mind and body of your respective partner at the time you asked the question that made them respond like that.
Most everyone is self conscious to some degree, but to move from self consciousness to respecting yourself in all things is the goal of one growing in conscious awareness of one’s self. Not to deny anything is as it is, but simply to recognize that things are what they are, shrug it off and don’t let it (whatever it is) knock you off-track (even though it may knock you off-balance momentarily) and resume your life.
Stay tuned and I will give you some tips on how to overcome self-consciousness.