Many of us know the experience of losing ourselves in a movie, and being transported away from our lives for a while. During the film, we aren’t focused on our physical appearance or worrying about the state of our popularity. Instead, we are totally immersed in the show before us, and temporarily released from the thoughts that regularly occupy our attention. However, as soon as the movie ends, we are brought back to the story of our own lives, and sometimes that tale includes feelings of self-consciousness.
Our self-consciousness stems from a hyper-awareness of our perceived insufficiencies, and the assumption that others are judging us negatively. In truth, this is just a habit of judging ourselves adversely, and is not about other people. Therefore, even though it may seem like the negativity we feel is coming from outside us; it is really coming from within.
Consequently, rather than fearing external condemnation from others, we fear the disapproval of our internal critic. This internal faultfinder can be pretty harsh, especially when we want to try new things or risk being vulnerable in front of others.
For example, many of us have a fear of public speaking because we are concerned about potential unflattering judgments from the audience, and worried we will embarrass ourselves. With these kinds of self-doubting thoughts in our consciousness, it is no wonder we would want to avoid giving a public presentation. The criticisms we would receive appear as feedback from the audience but are actually echoing from within.
On the other hand, if we were to approach the podium with positive thoughts about ourselves and our abilities, this would naturally make the experience a whole lot more enjoyable. We would have nothing to fear at that point from our internal critic, and everything to gain from having belief in ourselves.
So, instead of asking the question, ‘what would people think about me?’ when we attempt to live more authentically, it would be more helpful to ask, ‘what do I think of me?’ The answer to that question would help to reveal the beliefs and thoughts we have about ourselves.
Therefore, the difference between self-consciousness and self-confidence lies in the way we think and what we believe. Self-conscious people look at experiences as further evidence of their failings, and confident people tend to focus on their strengths. Both of these viewpoints are learned responses, and can be unlearned which is good news for those of us who may struggle on the lower end of the self-love continuum.
This is not to say that we haven’t experienced criticisms from those around us or been directly harmed by others. However, we are often our harshest critic, and have thought much worse than they could say.
Besides, those that ridicule others are dealing with faulty beliefs about themselves too, which has nothing to do with us. It affects us but is not a reflection of us; it is a reflection of the one who is unfairly evaluating others.
It is a life long journey to become the full expression of who we really are, and not be concerned with the reactions, or expectations of others. Regardless of how evolved we may be, there will always be times when we feel vulnerable and afraid to express our true selves.
However, during those times, or other occasions when we are feeling uncomfortable, we can always get the training and practice needed in order to reduce some of our anxieties as well.
For instance, my husband and I got together with a group of people recently, so we could rehearse an upcoming talk we were giving and wanted to get their objective feedback. The results were wonderful because it gave us some great ways to enhance our speech, and reduced our concerns by becoming more prepared for when the event arises.
The more we become aware of our full potential and challenge the validity of negative judgments, the more we will come to love ourselves, and walk comfortably in our world.
Take a look at the judgments you believe are being directed at you, and write them down. Then, start challenging them by creating a more positive replacement.