Self-consciousness is one of the biggest barriers to putting yourself across. Worrying about what everyone else is thinking of you holds you back in so many ways – not least, stifling your creativity by forcing you to conform. It also distorts your view of the world and prevents you from properly connecting with people, because your attention is focused inwards rather than outwards. Not only does self-consciousness sap your strength and your spirit, it’s actually counter-productive. It offers nothing useful, only negativity, stress and exhaustion. Alongside mastering the practical skills of whatever you’re setting out to achieve, the most crucial area to work on in order to make your dreams come true is how to overcome self-consciousness.
If you’re applying for a job, pitching for business, making a speech, taking part in a debate, giving a lecture, or even if you’re simply having a chat with a few friends, self-consciousness will warp and undermine your communication, making it significantly less successful and satisfactory, not only for you but also for the people you’re talking to. Hold on to this fact.
How to Overcome Self-Consciousness for a Specific Occasion
If you’re reading this in anticipation of a job interview, presentation, important meeting or some such challenge and you’re looking for a quick fix, here are a few strategies to get you through the event. Afterwards, you can build on this success and begin making the long-term shifts in your thinking that will liberate you from self-consciousness for ever.
Make sure you’re really well prepared. Self-consciousness is vastly reduced by the sense of control that comes with knowing exactly what you’re doing.
Focus on giving the audience what they need. You are, understandably, concerned about your part in the event, but don’t forget that everyone else involved will be concerned about their part in it too. Put yourself in their shoes for a few minutes and consider what worries they may be bringing with them. They may be unsure whether they’ll be able to follow what you’re saying, afraid of appearing stupid. If they have to speak as well, you can rely that they will be far more wrapped up in that than in listening to what you’ve got to say. If it’s up to them to decide whether to employ you, or to award your company a contract, this is a big decision and one that may weigh heavily. As it says on this self-improvement blog, other people are (just) people, and concentrating on helping them overcome their worries will take your mind off your own, as well as smoothing the path to your success.
Remember how disconcerting it is when other people are self-conscious. Sitting through a talk from a nervous presenter is a painful experience, as is interviewing someone who clearly feels they don’t deserve the job. This is what I mean about self-consciousness being counter-productive. Do not put your audience through this!
Keep the event in perspective. It’s not really life or death and a bit of philosophical calm will make everything easier.
Fake it till you make it. If you go in with the right attitude, feigning a healthy level of self-confidence, it will soon become genuine.
How to Overcome Self-Consciousness for Life
Overcoming self-consciousness on a permanent basis requires building yourself a solid, firm, secure foundation. Learning to love and respect yourself is something you consciously have to work at. If you baulk at that prospect, let me assure you it’s the right thing to do – as long as you’re honest with yourself about who the real you is.
Self-Consciousness versus Self-Awareness
It’s essential to distinguish between self-consciousness (which is unhelpful and to be eroded) and self-awareness (which is helpful and to be cultivated). Self-consciousness drains your power by limiting your horizons and leading you to project an image that is diffident and lacklustre. Self-awareness, on the other hand, provides you with the information you need to put yourself across to best effect.
Overcoming self-consciousness is not about trying to persuade yourself that you’re ideal as you are and that other people’s opinions are worthless. That’s the equal and opposite position, when what we’re aiming at is a happy medium.
What overcoming self-consciousness and becoming confident and secure is about is knowing you are just as good as everyone else. You don’t have to be perfect – and it’s a waste of energy striving to be – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard to be the best you can be. The only way to find the right balance between acceptance and endeavour is through self-awareness, knowing your own strengths and flaws, being honest with yourself about your actions, beliefs and motivations and understanding what goes on in your mind beneath the surface.
For example, if you’re aware you have irritating mannerisms, instead of telling yourself people have got to learn to see past them, you take responsibility for eliminating them. This is not allowing yourself to be shaped by others, it’s you taking control and improving your chances of success. As Brian Kim points out:
“You’ll find that by taking action toward minimizing your insecurities, the degree to which you feel insecure about them will start diminishing. There’s a big difference between not doing anything and always feeling insecure about it and doing something and gradually feeling less insecure about it till it no longer becomes a problem. One enslaves you, the other frees you.”
As your self-consciousness reduces, it will be replaced by confidence, emotional stability and inner peace. This is how you’ll know you’re getting the balance right. Have a look at this checklist of 8 Things Emotionally Stable People Don’t Do to see where you’re up to – the author uses language I might not but the points are sound ones well made.
Overcoming self-consciousness is, as I’ve said above, one of the best investments of time and effort you can make. Losing your inhibitions is by no means synonymous with making a fool of yourself. Quite the contrary, actually: it’s taking control.