You are at a social gathering and you barely know anyone there, your only friend (the one that invited you) has fluttered away like the social butterfly they are leaving you to sit there awkwardly by yourself in the corner whilst you watch everyone willingly succumb to the intoxicating roar of music and dance. You hesitantly wait for someone to save you from your dreaded isolation however your friend and everyone else are too far in the entrancing atmosphere. You finally muster the willpower to try let go and have some fun however what looks like socializing is just rigid and awkward and frankly embarrassing
What's Really Happening
I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point whether it is socializing, performing, or dating, where we become ‘stuck’ in our heads and whatever we say or do just comes out awkward and unnatural. We end up mentally kicking ourselves for the awkwardness that ensues from what we say and do.
The implications of this stiffness or blocked state cause us to shrivel socially and feel emotionally crushed. It’s as if someone is suffocating us, depriving us of life in the moment and we feel our life force seep from our veins.
So What's Draining the Life From Us?
The answer is fear. Fear stops us from being and doing. It causes ‘blockages’ within our natural rhythm, it causes us to avoid confrontation and revert to our most basic instincts. Think about it for a moment and you will see why. It’s why most people don’t chase their dreams instead they settle for a stable job, it’s why most people stay within their social circles because they fear people who are different from them, it’s why most people are afraid of public speaking because they are afraid that they will get judged and ostracized. Whatever it is, fear is an inherent mechanism within us that stops us from doing the things that make us better as human beings and keeps us within our comfort zones.
Those that conquer their fears are set free whilst those who avoid fear are bound by its invisible prisons.
Self-Consciousness is merely one manifestation of our underlying fears. Generally, when we are self-conscious we are constantly evaluating our worth as a human being (‘will this person like me’, ‘I don’t fit in’, ‘what if this person laughs at me’ etc.) and this creates the fear that we are not good enough and that others won’t accept us for who we are. The constant self-evaluations clutter our thoughts and causes us to over think and hence creates blockages in our behavior, hence we become self-conscious.
There is Hope
Like most socially inhibited individuals, there is always alcohol to give us some liquid courage and social lubricant however let’s look at more natural ways to rid ourselves from self-consciousness once and for all.
Thankfully there are ways to remove the shackles of self-consciousness and free ourselves from the inhibitions of fear. For the sake of convenience, we will stick to the socializing example to remove self-consciousness (and hence fear) however the same concepts can be used in almost any situation.
When we become too attached to our outcome (i.e. wanting to be accepted by others) we create a proportional response in stress; the more we want something to happen the more stress within ourselves causing blockages. In other words, we need to learn to let go of the outcome by ‘not caring’. Of course this is simple to say but not easy to do.
It is one of life’s most frustrating paradoxes, (generally speaking) the more we want something the less likely we will get it and similarly, the less we don’t want something to happen the more likely it will happen.
I will share with you one tactic I use when I come across situations where I become too attached to the outcome. I simply tell myself things like ‘I don’t care about it’, ‘It doesn’t matter’, ‘there will be more opportunities’ and following it up with ‘I will just do my best’ or ‘I’m just going to make someone laugh/have fun’. When I say this to myself I really mean it! There’s no good lying to yourself because you will just achieve the opposite effect. It’s the conviction along with my intentions from the words that I say to myself that frees me from the stress and pressure of holding on too tight to my desired outcomes.
So next time you’re in a situation where the stakes of the outcome are high, tell yourself something like ‘I don’t care if I get it or not’ and ‘I will just do the best that I can’ and see the remarkable difference it can have on the outcome when you change the way you approach a situation. Yes it is counter-intuitive but isn’t life just one big paradox at times?
Get a Natural High
Have you ever had a natural high? How did it make you feel? Did you feel self-conscious?
The natural high can make you feel invincible, boost confidence levels, relax tense muscles and make you do things you normally wouldn’t do. It frees you to do become the greater version of yourself and that makes it such a powerful weapon against self-consciousness (and hence fears).
A natural high as opposed to ‘getting high’ from synthetic means is that euphoric feeling we get from activities that we enjoy. The natural high is the body’s response to doing activities that activate the reward systems that release feel good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. Basically anything that you enjoy can give you that release of feel good chemicals that in turn can significantly alter your mood.
Some common examples are Exercise (i.e. ‘Runner’s high’), hanging out with great friends, achievements in career, playing sports, traveling etc.
Focus on Having Fun
Let me ask you a question, which type of people, have the most fun without feeling self-conscious?
The answer, kids. Kids inherently have ‘fun’ programmed into their minds only to have society impose rules that transform them into self-conscious beings as they grow up. Anyone that has seen kids play can attest that when they play they become totally engrossed in their imaginary worlds. They forget the world around them and they don’t care what others think about them, they are purely focused on enjoying their imaginary circumstances.
I’m not saying that we engross ourselves in imaginary worlds, more like purely focus on having fun without caring about what happens around you.
In acting, one of the first things they teach you is to put the focus on the other person instead of yourself because as soon as you put the focus on yourself (i.e. how do I look when I act?) you become self-conscious and living in your head instead of the realms of the imaginary circumstances. Your focus should always be on the other person and this will eliminate self-consciousness.
Be genuinely curious about others and make it your mission that you have to get the other person laughing or at least have a great time. Try it a few times and see what magical things can happen when you aren’t living in your head and living in a world of unlimited possibilities.
It's all in the mind
Here are some simple yet effective ways to let go and remove those inner inhibitions that stop us from being free and living in the moment. Remember that a lot of the time, our fears are imagined and they serve no purpose except hold us back. Know that you are better than those fears that bind you, they can be cast out of our minds so that we can live freely in whatever reality we choose.
Like anything in life you must keep working at it and honing in on what you really want. Try one method at a time and see if it makes a difference, if it does great, then try other ways to rid yourself of the underlying fear. Life is just one big experiment, find what works and what doesn't work until you are happy to be your self in front of anyone.
Don't worry, be happy~