Self-conscious thoughts can be difficult to deal with — but you can take steps to work through this challenging self-talk.
Do you often think about how others see you or worry about upsetting other people? You may be more self-conscious than others.
Being self-conscious involves being in an enhanced state of self-awareness. You might feel like everyone around you is scrutinizing your every move. You might feel like people are judging you.
When self-conscious thoughts start to interfere with your life, it may be helpful to make some changes. It may take time, but learning how to stop being self-conscious and embrace self-acceptance is possible.
“Self-consciousness refers to a mental state when you become preoccupied with your self-image, says Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, a certified psychiatrist based in Houston, Texas.
According to Gonzalez-Berrios, you’re essentially in a heightened state of self-reflection and understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, she explains.
While self-consciousness can help you better understand yourself, it can also lead to poor self-esteem. “If a person is too engrossed with oneself, then they always feel they’re being judged, scrutinized, or under the scanner,” explains Gonzalez-Berrios.
These unhealthy self-conscious emotions can affect your mental health and lead to social anxiety.
There are ways to reduce negative self-talk if you’re having trouble dealing with self-conscious emotions.
1. Acknowledge your strengths
To become less self-conscious, you may find it helpful to acknowledge your strengths, says Dr. David McConaghy, a professional psychiatrist based in New York, New York.
Do you have trouble recognizing your talents and abilities? McConaghy suggests creating a list of the things you’re great at and naming one daily. “Daily appreciation of your strengths is a highly effective method for reducing self-consciousness,” he says.
McConaghy also suggests compiling a list of the obstacles you’ve overcome and the objectives you’ve reached. Keeping these handy and occasionally glancing at them can help remind you who you are.
2. Reframe your negative thoughts
Negative self-talk about things you’re self-conscious about can replay on repeat in your mind. A negative thought loop can breed more negative thoughts, ultimately affecting your mental health and messing with your self-confidence.
Simone Smith Maldonado, a licensed therapist based in New Jersey, suggests reframing how you view yourself as a way to get out of this negative cycle.
Next time you think, “I can’t do anything right,” try to reframe the thought by saying to yourself, “I can do many things well.”
3. Understand that not everyone sees what you see
“The things that we’re usually self-conscious about are often small and not so easily noticed by others,” says Maldonado.
Try to remind yourself that people aren’t thinking and talking about you like you think they are, says Gonzalez-Berrios. “They do not know you well, so the question of criticizing or judging you doesn’t even arise.”
By recognizing that not everyone sees what you see, you may be able to take away some of the power of those self-conscious feelings, says Maldonado.
4. Develop a positive mindset
Much like reframing negative thoughts into positive ones, you may also find it helpful to develop a positive mindset by using positive affirmations.
Gonzalez-Berrios suggests telling yourself that you’re good enough in your own way. Try to remind yourself that you have many good qualities that others may not have.
5. Learn to accept your flaws
Accepting your flaws is easier said than done. But peace can come from accepting your perceived “flaws,” says Maldonado.
“Do not listen to your inner critic. It will always speak negatively about you,” says Gonzalez-Berrios. Try to accept the way you are while validating your thoughts and feelings.
6. Stop comparing yourself to others
Insecurities often come from comparing yourself to others. Gonzalez-Berrios says it’s important to stop comparing yourself to others because it can make you even more self-conscious.
“Don’t try to catch up with everyone around you,” says Gonzalez-Berrios. “Challenge the way you think about yourself. Let yourself know that the world around you is not better than you.”
7. Work with a therapist
When self-conscious thoughts are too much to deal with, and you’ve tried all other strategies, it may be time to consider speaking with a therapist.
A professional can help you get to the root of your self-conscious emotions and help you learn to challenge your unhealthy, negative self-talk. They can work with you to find alternatives to self-criticism and help you learn to manage your emotions.
Basic emotions begin within the first 9 months of life. And it’s not until around 18-24 months that you start to form general feelings of self-consciousness.
Around the age of 3, more complex self-consciousness feelings begin to appear. During adolescence, people often experience higher levels of self-consciousness because of social pressure.
As you move into adulthood, you have a more stable sense of yourself, so self-consciousness tends to level off. But, for some people, self-conscious thoughts can continue because of:
- low self-confidence
- mental health conditions like depression and anxiety
- adverse childhood experiences or trauma
Feeling self-conscious is when you’re totally aware of yourself and how others might perceive you. If you’re too focused on what others think of you and often worry you’re upsetting or offending others, this might adversely affect your well-being.
Self-conscious thoughts can be challenging to deal with. Strategies you can try to limit self-consciousness include:
- acknowledging your strengths
- reframing negative thoughts
- accepting not everyone sees what you see
- developing a positive mindset
- learning to accept your flaws
- avoiding comparing yourself to others
- speaking with a therapist
If feelings of self-consciousness interfere with your everyday life, consider speaking with a licensed professional. A therapist can help you get to the root of your self-consciousness and help you on your journey to reclaim your self-worth.