We live in a world where people are trained to judge. Sometimes, we judge ourselves too, with a hyper-critical eye. I often find myself caught in this never-ending loop, especially in social situations. Some self-critical statements that trouble my mind include:
Why do I behave like this?
I should change my attitude so that my friends will like me more.
Why do they hate me?
I shouldn’t have done this.
Am I a burden?
I could do better.
And that’s on being self-conscious.
Being self-conscious means being consumed by thoughts regarding how other people perceive you. However, being self-conscious is not the same thing as being self-aware. Self-consciousness doesn’t necessarily help you or improve your life.
Firstl, let’s take a look at the term self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to reflect and focus on your actions, personality, habits, and emotions without being attached to the outsider’s perspective. Although it may seem similar to self-consciousness, self-awareness focuses on improving yourself for personal reasons, rather than appeasing other’s perceptions.
Let’s see some examples. If you’re being self-conscious, your inner critic may sound like this:
I was so quiet at the reunion. Maybe if I started to talk more they would like me. They probably hated me.
Meanwhile, self-awareness would sound like this:
The reunion was super fun! I did stay silent most of the time. That’s perfectly fine, but maybe next time I’ll talk a bit more.
Self-consciousness may seem like a minor obstacle, or even a benefit, as it seemingly focuses on self-improvement. However, self-consciousness is often self-destructive, in contrast to self-awareness. Being aware of your surroundings drives you to become a more confident person, and strive for better outcomes. Some signs of a healthy, self-aware mindset are pride for accomplishing something new, or striving to change for the better when you notice a mistake.
Excessive obsession over the self can be detrimental to your mental health. When you are too preoccupied with the society’s rules, you tend to be excessively critical of every literal quirk in your personality.
In a hyper-conscious state, you ruminate over how you can alter yourself to conform to social standards. You are mad at yourself for your faults, and easily get jealous of others. One difficult side effect of being self conscious is self-isolation to avoid judgement. This makes tasks, such as buying groceries, extremely uncomfortable, as you fear everyone is watching you. You may feel nervous and on the verge of tears, and blame yourself for this self-inflicted torture. Self-consciousness can quickly spiral into a pit of all-consuming anxiety and depression.
I went from being a joyous girl to someone drowning in low self-esteem. I deteriorated from a social butterfly, into a girl with social anxiety. So, what was my solution?
First things first, recognize when you are engaging in negative self talk, and fight back against it. Counter those negative voices with positive affirmations. Never let your perceived weaknesses define you. Instead, acknowledge areas you could potentially improve, and gently encourage yourself to make changes. Remember, nobody is a perfect person. We all have our insecurities. Your personal struggles are magnified in your eyes, but others don’t see it that way.
This brings me to my next point. Most (decent) people do not care about your little quirks, flaws, or personality traits. Although there are definitely judgemental people, remember that their thoughts should not shape you or your self-worth. You know yourself better than anyone else.
Lastly, accept yourself for who you are. You are perfectly unique and incredibly amazing, just the way you are. Embrace your individuality, and find peace within yourself. This doesn’t mean you wake up every morning and fall in love with the person in the mirror. It can be baby steps, like a self-care day, or daily positive affirmations. You are so much bigger than negative thoughts and negative people. And you definitely aren’t alone in this journey. I’m right here with you!
Written by: Lyana Najib