Self-consciousness usually occurs when you are focusing intensely on yourself. You are concerned about what others think of you and struggle to get past that image. It could be set off by something as simple as you walking into a room and tripping over or introducing a friend to someone whose name you have forgotten. That feeling of embarrassment soon leads to self-accusations of being forgetful, clumsy, silly and incapable. Then you reinforce those names every time something goes wrong and before you know it you are in a vicious circle of personal attacks that erode your self-esteem; a slippery slope to a place you don’t want to go.
So what is it that brings about this obsession of self-consciousness? Quite often it is worrying about what others will think of you, how they will perceive you. People tend to write other people’s scripts for them reinforcing their own thinking with phrases like ‘I know he thinks I’m stupid’ or ‘everyone is looking at me like I’m an idiot’. The truth is most people are too busy obsessing about their own mistakes to spend too long worrying about yours!
It is important to create and acknowledge successes in your life, no matter how small they may seem, as these will provide confidence building bricks that confirm your abilities, keeping you focused on what you can do. And the more of these bricks you have the less self-conscious you become when things do not go according to plan. You learn how to dust yourself off and not labour the point for too long. You may even learn to laugh these moments of self-consciousness off (I experienced this recently when I went running and slid along the gravel path, removing a few layers of skin… hurt like hell but I lived and managed to share the story with a degree of humour)!
So the easiest way to reduce self-consciousness is to stop focusing on yourself in a way that does not make you feel good – ex. ‘my hair’s a mess’, or ‘I’m hopeless at remembering names’ – and redirect the focus to an external force – ‘where’s the local hairdressers?’ or ‘I wonder what techniques there are for remembering names?’ Ask any question that takes your thinking away from you. This is something you can practice whenever you feel yourself being overly self-conscious, just being able to think beyond you in that moment.