How to Improve Self-consciousness
Self-consciousness is one of the most uncomfortable and distressing emotions. You feel hyper-aware of yourself and your actions, and you feel like everyone is watching you closely. Your face starts to get warm, and you fidget with your sleeves or shuffle your feet to try to distract yourself from the awkward emotions. All you want to do is escape the situation and go somewhere private.
Everyone feels self-conscious emotions on occasion. Sometimes, we just find ourselves in embarrassing situations that make us feel like we’re being scrutinized. No one goes about their life without making a mistake or doing something awkward, so to a certain extent, feelings of self-consciousness and self-awareness are a part of life.
However, your self-conscious emotions should not affect your overall mental health or daily functioning. If you find that you’ve avoiding certain situations because you don’t want to feel anxious emotions or are constantly thinking about how self-conscious you are, you don’t have to live that way. Although no one can completely cut self-conscious emotions out of their lives, you can learn to dismiss your self-consciousness so that the thoughts don’t control your day.
What Is Self-consciousness?
Self-consciousness is a heightened sense of self-awareness. When you feel self-conscious, you become hyper-aware of everything you do or say. You notice when you fidget, you’re intensely aware of your facial expressions, and you may even fixate on the feelings of your clothes on your body or other physical sensations.
Self-conscious emotions make you feel like everyone else is watching you closely, too. Because you’re so aware of what you’re doing, your mind assumes that everyone in the room is as well. This can make you worry even more about how you look or act, so self-consciousness can easily turn into a vicious cycle.
What Causes Self-consciousness?
At times, self-conscious emotions are a natural and expected part of life. Humans are and always have been social beings, so we’ve evolved for tens of thousands of years to care about what others think of us. Historically, being accepted as a part of the group has been essential for survival, so we feel self-conscious as a way of making sure we’re behaving appropriately to gain approval from our community.
Self-conscious feelings often arise during unfamiliar or uncomfortable social situations. For example, you might feel self-conscious if you attend a party where you know very few people or if you trip and fall on the street. During these moments, you don’t want to be seen as odd or as an outsider, so you’re overly concerned with how you appear to others.
For some people, though, self-conscious emotions feel constant and excessive. People with anxiety issues, especially social anxiety, may feel self-conscious at almost all moments of the day. You might feel self-conscious for something small that no one else would notice, or you might even notice your self-conscious emotions creeping in for no reason at all.
What to Do if You Feel Self-conscious Emotions
Self-conscious emotions can be absolutely exhausting. When you feel self-conscious, you’re in a heightened state of awareness, and this is mentally draining. We’re not meant to feel intensely self-conscious all the time, so if you’re struggling with your self-conscious emotions, it’s important that you address the issue.
Here Are Four Tips for Handling Self-conscious Emotions
1. Learn to identify cognitive distortions to dismiss negative thoughts.
Cognitive distortions are illogical thinking habits that your critical inner self might tell you when you’re feeling particularly self-conscious. The following are some of the most common cognitive distortions that people with social anxiety or low self-esteem experience:
- • Mind reading: Believing that you know for sure what someone else is thinking about you.
- • Magnification: Exaggerating the severity of a problem.
- • All-or-nothing thinking: Seeing situations or people as entirely good or entirely bad with no middle ground.
- • Disqualifying the positive: Ignoring or invalidating the positive elements of a situation and focusing only on the negative.
- • Emotional reasoning: Assuming that because you feel a negative emotion, the thought behind the emotion must be true.
Learning to identify your cognitive distortions is one of the main facets of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. If you see a therapist, you can ask them about using CBT techniques to address your self-awareness.
You can practice this on your own, too, by familiarizing yourself with the common distortions and pointing them out when you think them. At first, your mind might not accept that you’re making a logical thinking error. However, the more you point out the distortions, the easier it will become to invalidate and dismiss these self-conscious thoughts.
2. Remember that everyone is flawed.
For some people, self-conscious emotions come from feelings of inadequacy. If you notice that you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people, this might be the cause of your self-doubt.
Chances are, you are not any more flawed than the average person you walk past on the street. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, everyone has embarrassing moments, and everyone is a work in progress. Most people are fairly good at hiding their flaws, though, so these faults might not be as immediately obvious to you as your own struggles.
By remembering that no one is perfect, you can avoid putting others on a pedestal. This will help you feel less pressured in social situations, which can reduce your self-consciousness.
It can also help to think about how often you ruminate on someone else’s embarrassing moments. When your friend or coworker makes a mistake, you probably don’t give it more than a passing thought. Just like you’re not too concerned about others’ awkward moments, the people in your life aren’t scrutinizing you.
3. Find calming strategies that help you in the moment.
Self-conscious emotions can be very uncomfortable to deal with in the moment, so you should have some strategies at the ready to calm down when you start feeling self-aware. One of the most popular and effective calming strategies is deep breathing. You can take a deep breath anywhere and at any time, and it’s a great way to redirect your attention to something other than your anxious emotions.
Another helpful trick is to methodically call your attention to different things in your environment. For example, you could use the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique to distract yourself from your self-conscious thoughts. This involves noticing the following:
- • Five things you can see
- • Four things you can touch or feel
- • Three things you can hear
- • Two things you can smell
- • One thing you can taste
4. Talk to a therapist.
If your heightened self-awareness is causing severely negative thoughts or emotions, you should reach out for professional support. Extreme self-consciousness is painful, and you don’t deserve to live this way. By working with a therapist, you can explore the root of your struggles and practice dismissing your self-critical thoughts.
When your mind is so used to telling you that everyone is watching and judging you, you may have a hard time breaking these thinking habits on your own. Your therapist is trained to help you work through these experiences and emotions, though. They may offer insight into your situation that you hadn’t considered before, which can be valuable for your overall health and happiness.