“I know I should speak up more.... and I want to!  But, what if they think what I have to say is stupid?  They will judge me by what I say...”

“I’m so fearful of what others will think of me, I just freeze in social situations, and go blank.”

“I hate being the centre of attention, with everyone looking at me... I just want to run away.”

I’ve heard this and so much more, many times, from my (previously) self-conscious clients.  And I am sure you could add your version too...

And then I hear as well... “If only I could speak up, my life would be so much better...”  “I want to make more friends, but... I don’t know how...” and “Is there really a way to overcome feeling so self conscious?”

And I smile and confidently reply “Yes.”

Self Conscious Definition

“People who shine from within don’t need the spotlight.” - Unknown

What is Self Consciousness?  When I talk about being Self Conscious I am referring to a way of thinking and being that is often also referred to as being shy, or feeling socially anxious.  

Self Conscious people hold themselves back and only speak or add to the conversation if forced to, like by being asked a question or having to present in a meeting.  And they tend to decline invitations, shying away from any social events, fearing to have to speak with people.  

They appear as the shy, quiet type (and usually aren’t like that once you get to know them and they know you).  When they do speak it’s usually with a lot of nervousness, and sometimes they will blush excessively, or break into a sweat, or get a rash on their necks, or even stammer on their words, or go blank and freeze.

This is not to be confused with introverts, who just like to have some alone time.   Rather, Self Conscious people are so aware of themselves and how they believe others perceive them, that they battle to make conversation and restrict their interactions with people.  And their relationships suffer.

Pitfalls of not changing

There are drawbacks to holding yourself back from engaging with others, which can sometimes be severe.  You probably know this better than anyone.

From my own experience, and also a decade of helping people overcome self consciousness, I’ve learnt that you probably feel “there’s nothing I can do about it – it’s just the way I am” or you’ve been saying to yourself “I have no idea how to become more outspoken.”  Also with being so fearful as it is of speaking to others, and having them judge you, you’re not likely to ask someone how to find your voice or request the help you need.

There’s hope!

Well – from personally having overcome my own reservedness and by helping others do the same, I know now that it is a learnt behaviour.  There is a structure to the way we think and feel and thus behave that can be called ‘being self conscious’.  And there is a structure to the way we think and feel and thus behave that can be called ‘self-aware and self-confident’.  You just need to move from one to the other, to start experiencing different results in life.

What you are missing out on

And if you don’t make that move, then you’re not going to start speaking up more at work, getting noticed and being given the credit for your ideas, improving your network or even getting that next promotion.

And socially, you won’t make friends easily, or find lovers or enjoy your life in general.  You’ll just keep sitting on the side, watching others from a window, locked in your self consciousness.  

And you’ll keep wishing to feel the freedom of letting go a little, participating in conversations, joining in the fun, and most importantly: contributing more to the world.

Instead of freedom of expressions, you’ll continue to have the experience of the world as one of feeling unsafe, fearful and anxious.  You'll keep overly planning everything you do to avoid people and stay living in fear of someone talking to you, or inviting you to a social event, or to do the next presentation at work.

How to overcome self consciousness

So if you are ready to overcome your self-consciousness, and start living your life the way you deep down know you can, where you just talk, and naturally participate in conversations, and even volunteer to do that presentation, then know these points:

Self Confidence is a strategy

Self Consciousness is not a personality trait that is fixed and unchangeable.  It is a way of thinking that resulted from your upbringing and conditioning, and usually from a bad experience of speaking up in a group.  Even though it is often confused with shyness or introversion, it is not the same thing.  Often introverts and shy people developed self-conscious ways of thinking, and then behaving, because of times when they were put on the spot and asked “Why are you so quiet?” as if it is a bad thing.  

Yet we are in control of our thinking (yes we are!) and thus we can change the states we are in and how we behave (yes we can!).  It’s just about unlearning the strategy of holding yourself back and fearing attention.  And then rather developing the tools to interrupt the self consciousness and learn the more useful strategy of self-awareness and self-confidence. 

This will help you experience those empowering states more often, and change the way you express yourself, and change your life in a most positive way!

Where is your focus?

“The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.” - Brian Tracy

An important start is to notice where you put your focus.  Do you focus entirely on yourself and then believe too that everyone is looking at you and even worse, judging you?  This is called the spotlight effect.  

A far more useful strategy is to learn to focus rather on your message.  What do you want to say?  What’s the content of the conversation?  This way the spotlight is taken off you, and onto the topic.

How is your self-esteem?

Do you have self-esteem? Or other-esteem?  

My guess is you have constructed your sense of worth on what others think of you, and so you have other esteem, linking your esteem to what you say or do, and feel like you have to prove yourself all the time.  Fear of failure is often a big part of this.  

If so, then what happens is any situation where your self-worth is experienced as being tested (like speaking up in public), you feel threatened.  

This triggers your lower brain functions into flight or fight mode, resulting in you having less access to your higher brain capacity or ability to think rationally through the situation.  And there goes any brain power to focus on presenting, let alone thinking on your feet!

When you learn that true self-esteem is unconditional, you’ll realise your inherent value and that what you do or say is just an expression of you and is the way you can add (your) value to the world.  

Whenever you are self-conscious you are simply showing that you are not conscious of the self at all. You don’t know who you are. If you had known, then there would have been no problem— then... you are not worried what others say about you— it is irrelevant!  When you are self-conscious you are in trouble. When you are self-conscious you are really showing symptoms that you don’t know who you are. Your very self-consciousness indicates that you have not come home yet.”
- Osho

Two Steps to Take now

These are the two key parts of overcoming self consciousness:

  1. Putting the spotlight off of you (I share more about how in my ebook - download it here), and
  2. Developing true self-esteem. 

 And it’s easier than you think, once you learn and practice the right strategies.

You can then just drop the ‘self’ part and develop your consciousness, freeing up your energy to contribute more, and experience more of life.  And then you’ll be well on your way to creating a life you love and enjoy!

Download ebook now

About the Author:

Telana is a dynamic, transformational Personal Coach and Blogger who specializes in communicating and relating.  She helps people have no regrets in life by having conversations that count.   Follow her on Twitter or her podcast show, Let’s Talk Communication