Feeling self-conscious is something we can all relate to at one point or another, but it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all problem. Our insecurities are most often centered around our physical attributes, which makes sense when considering how much our society focuses on looks. Still, sometimes being self-conscious can revolve around other aspects of comparison, like financial assets, social status, or material possessions. Regardless of the source, we all deserve to feel comfortable and happy in our skin, life, and our own inner peace, so it’s important to work towards alleviating these feelings as soon as we notice them.
When we feel self-conscious, it consumes us. It seems impossible to think about anything else, and it can ruin an otherwise pleasant outing, event, or even your whole day. Self-consciousness starts with comparison, and sometimes those comparisons are so ingrained into our minds that we don’t even recognize that step in the process—eventually, we just feel upset, depressed, worried, anxious, and a whole host of other dread-filled emotions.
Learning to find and identify the comparison or seed that leads us towards feeling self-conscious is not always easy. If you’re changing in front of a close friend and they offer you a stretch mark cream, you’ll likely know exactly what sparked your worrisome feelings; however, many of the times that we become self-conscious, we’re basing our fears purely off of information we have ingested over time, rather than about any factual information about ourselves.
Think of it this way: If no one ever told you what they like, or what they expect, you wouldn’t have any information to compare yourself against. When we see pictures of women who look a certain way get a lot of “likes” or a lot of attention, we immediately twist that information to mean that “this is what is desirable to all people, and I am not this.” In reality, even if literal millions of people can agree that they appreciate a certain look or quality, there are still literal millions more who will feel the opposite way!
Even a majority opinion on “standards” concerning looks or status will never necessitate that everyone else is invalid or less valuable. No one is more valuable than anyone else, and it is very important to avoid putting other people on a pedestal. Even the people we admire most have flaws; don’t be afraid to see those people as regular humans, just like you and me.
YOU CAN DO THIS
Those thoughts may not be enough to completely prevent feeling self-conscious, but there are plenty of things you can practice doing to alleviate and later eliminate this useless anxiety from your life. (You are beautiful, girl—these self-savage thoughts are not worth your time!)
First, figure out exactly what you’re feeling self-conscious about. We don’t always act out our emotions in a healthy way, and sometimes we may not be positive what the “root” of our anxiety is until we reflect on it. Once you’ve identified the problem, consider whether or not it has a workable solution. For example, if you’re self-conscious about your ashy knees and elbows, pick up a dry skin lotion and work towards healing your body. With a bit of time, testing, and patience, problems like these can be completely resolved. (If you’re stuck somewhere in a pinch, ask a friend, teacher, nurse, or another resource if they can spare you any Vaseline.)
BUT, IT’S A PART OF ME
Let’s say, though, that your “problem” can’t be “fixed” like the example above. What if you’re self-conscious about something you can’t change, now, or with time? Some fundamental element of you, a part of who you are, just bothers you. This is something you will likely have to make peace with—but that sounds very much like accepting something negative, rather than celebrating something positive. You should love all of yourself! And I think it’s possible, but your current perspective might be too focused on your anxieties to let that happen.
Think now about someone you’re close with. A friend, sibling, cousin, or guardian, maybe. They are all different from you and probably have things that they are self-conscious about that differ from yours. Imagine for a second, though, that they have the quality you’re upset about. Would you treat them any differently? What would you say to them if they came to you, crying, sad, or anxious about it?
Odds are, you would 100% treat your friend better than you’re treating yourself. You would talk to them kindly, minimize their irrational worries, and point out all of their strengths. You would still love them, respect them, and care for them. Sometimes it helps to acknowledge that this is also how we should be treating ourselves.
Can you think of examples of people you know, admire, or care about who seem to embrace their differences? These people are no more powerful, successful, or good looking than you are. Even if it takes time, you can build a space of confidence and self-love and reclaim your ability to be present during fun times and exciting life adventures, instead of letting self-conscious thoughts dim your experience. Practice moving forward from these thoughts as soon as you notice them. Turn your attention outward, focus on someone else’s words, or get your mind involved in another thought process.
Dwelling on our self-conscious thoughts only makes them worse. We are already putting something we’re worried about under a microscope and making it appear much more noticeable than it actually is; give your brain and your body a break by pushing past self-conscious feelings as they crop up. The more success you have with this little mental game, the easier it will become to automatically ignore your worries.
Of course, sometimes we’ll get caught up and spiral and end up crying in front of the mirror, but that’s OK, too, because we can cope with that! No, it never feels good, but just like with the thoughts themselves, the best practice is to move forward. Pick yourself up, remember that you’re strong, and be kind to yourself. If you’re struggling with where to start, try to rationalize your self-conscious worries with facts. Oftentimes, our emotions overrule the facts or even utilize tiny bits of information to make sense of something much larger, helping us create a false narrative. Take the time to sort out what you’re feeling versus what you actually know for a fact.
Most of all, keep on repeating to yourself that you deserve to feel happy and proud of yourself. Your accomplishments and your appearance are not going to be on track with everyone else, and that’s what makes you unique and interesting!