Always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of someone else. Judy Garland
I saw my friend Elizabeth at the post office last week. I was glad to see her and we stood and chatted for a bit. A few minutes into our conversation, Elizabeth said, ‘Are you looking at my hairline? It looks awful, doesn’t it? My hairdresser always leaves dye on my scalp and it looks terrible.’
In fact, I was looking into her eyes and thinking how nice it was to see her and that she looked happy and well. I told her this, and, because Elizabeth is actually pretty well grounded and self-confident, she laughed at her own self-consciousness and our conversation returned to plans for getting together and partners and children and all manner of other things.
But that brief exchange got me thinking about how often we do that to ourselves. We are certain that others are focused on our flaws and imperfections and that’s all we can think about. Sure that others are seeing us in a bad light, we may withdraw, either physically or emotionally, or, we may hold back our enthusiasm and pleasure, or our ideas and contributions. And, when we do, we limit ourselves in all sorts of important ways. Embarrassment or the fear of embarrassment become self-fulfilling limits on our joy and our success.
Elizabeth didn’t allow that to happen to her. She claimed her feelings of insecurity and, when she did, she opened herself to possibility. I had the opportunity to correct her fearful distortion and she was free to move on to more interesting and life affirming thoughts and feelings.
It isn’t always possible to be as open as Elizabeth was with meâ€¦.we are friends, after all, and she trusted me not to hurt her. When we are with strangers or in a business setting, we might not want to open ourselves up to others in that way. But we can still give ourselves a corrective experience. Anytime we become aware that we have moved into self-consciousness, we can use corrective self-talk, along with a few other tricks to move ourselves back out again.
My personal favorite mantra for those moments was given to me years ago by a woman who would be appalled to hear herself called a guru, but that is what she was to me. I was scheduled to chair a meeting that I had not chaired before in a setting that was unfamiliar and a little intimidating to me. Waiting for the meeting to start, I said to Elaine, ‘I am really nervous about this. I’m afraid I will make a mess of it.’ And Elaine said, ‘Oh, please, you are not that important.’
I think I was a little insulted at that moment, but the meeting went fine and I remembered what she said whenever I felt insecure. As I have done ever since. The truth is I am not that important and most folks are thinking a lot more about themselves than they are about me anyhow. So, when I feel myself moving into self-consciousness, I hear her voice and I laugh inside and go on.
Here are a few other tips for dealing with self-consciousness. Try them out, find the ones that work for you, or modify and create your own. Just don’t let your fear of embarrassment hold you back from living the life you were meant to live or from being that first rate version of yourself.
Change your self-criticism to self-affirmation
Focus on the other person
Straighten your spine, hold your head up
Imagine a safe place and yourself surrounded by people who love you
Focus on your purpose.
Feel your feet on the ground or the floor
You really aren’t that important. Your words, actions, bad hair, or social mistakes won’t be remembered by many for more than a few seconds, so relax and enjoy yourself. That IS important. My husband, a wise man, reminds me from time to time that this, right here, right now, is the showâ€¦â€¦’This is not a dress rehearsal – live like you mean it.’
Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one’s identity as a being of worth and dignity. â€¨Rollo May.