One of the things I hate most is walking into a crowded room. If I know a few people, it’s half OK. If its a room full of strangers my anxiety levels rise sky high.
Anyone else out there like me?
In his book “The new psycho-cybernetics”, Maxwell Maltz says that “excessive concern over what other people think inhibits personality more than any other factor.”
When I walk into a room of strangers I become excessively self-conscious. I’m convinced that everyone, EVERYONE, is looking at me, judging me, disliking me, wishing I wasn’t there.
The silly fact is that most people are worrying about the same thing – they’re too busy worrying about themselves being judged that they won’t really notice you.
Feeling self-conscious and shy is uncomfortable. Most people hate feeling like that.
What’s more serious, is that when you are feeling self-conscious, you do not behave like your ‘normal’ self. You may speak more softly, or not contribute to a conversation at all. You may keep your opinions to yourself. You may giggle instead up laughing heartily.
Being self-conscious inhibits your authenticity.
How do you overcome this? The answer that people hate to hear: With practice and determination. (No magic pills here!)
Here are some of the things that have worked for me:
- Always arrive at a function early. It’s easier to strike up a conversation with one other person than facing a room full of people and wondering who to talk to.
- Turn your focus outwards. Instead of worrying about what people are thinking of you, and imagining that they’re all looking at you, focus on others. Who is looking uncomfortable? Go and speak to them and see how soon you can bring a smile to their faces.
- Spend some time imagining whats its like in a social situation with friends you enjoy. Focus on letting that feeling wash over you as you walk into a uncomfortable situation.
- Remind yourself that we tend to believe that other people think about us far more than they actually do. It doesn’t matter what other people believe about you. What YOU believe about YOU is far more important.
- When you notice that you are feeling self-conscious, focus on someone else. Ask them a question. Pay them a sincere compliment. Become more interested in the other than in yourself.
- Focus on truly listening to other people. When you are feeling self-conscious you barely hear what the other is saying, and spend time formulating your next response so that you make a good impression. Drop this technique, and focus on listening to the other person.
What are the kinds of things you’ve tried that have helped?
Overcoming self-consciousness is possible. You have to decide, then practice different techniques, until you find something that works for you.
You’ll know when you’re getting it right because you’ll behave authentically in difficult social situations – and you’ll feel better.
“Shyness has a strange element of narcissism,
a belief that how we look, how we perform,
is truly important to other people.”
Andre Dubus III