I’ll admit it: I hate going to formal parties. I feel like I’m in high school all over again, wearing the wrong thing and saying something that will totally embarrass myself in front of the ‘popular kids’ (in this case, the bosses, or the gorgeous socialites, or actually anyone else in the room). Once, in a fit of clumsiness, I bumped into a cocktail table and spilled a bit of my drink on the dress. I was convinced everyone had seen what had happened, or had noticed the stain, and I squirmed in embarrassment.
Experts call this the ‘spotlight effect’ when we think we’re getting more attention than we really do. Frankly, most people don’t care what we do or say. But we still think we’re being haunted by social judgments. Here are some tips on overcoming self-consciousness.
The price of self-consciousness
Our self-consciousness doesn’t just make us miserable at social gatherings. It can also hold us back from going after what we love. By magnifying our errors, we become too afraid of failure, and often underestimate our strengths. Sometimes we don’t speak up, mumbling an idea under our breath because we’re afraid people will laugh at it, and then get really pissed off at ourselves when someone else says exactly the same thing and is met with praise. And sometimes, we just miss out on the fun. We refuse to sing with friends at the karaoke bar. We don’t start a conversation with the cute guy at the party. We don’t sign up for Zoomba or any fitness routine that requires dancing in a roomful of people. We buy the ‘safe’ dress that won’t get any attention. Self-consciousness defines us in more ways than we think. We’re not just ‘shy’ we’re…trapped.
Go all out
A Miss Universe contestant, Brook Lee, was once asked what she would do If she didn’t have to do follow any rules. She said, “I would eat everything in the whole world—twice!” What would you do if you didn’t have to worry what other people said? Wear brighter colors? Sing aloud? Pick two or three on your list and do it, not just once, but TWICE. You’ll realize that it’s not as bad as you think, and you can even tell people, ‘I’m doing this because I used to be self-conscious about it…I’m proving to myself that my fears don’t matter!’ Chances are, they’ll cheer you on!
Act that the barriers don’t think
Don’t analyze your fear, don’t work around them, just tell yourself: ‘It’s all in the mind!’ and bravely go forward as if they were vapor. Pretend that you got a mutant power and that for 24 hours you are invisible: nobody can see or judge what you are doing. Simply do and act your best, with a confidence that is completely free of the possibility of failure.
Say, ‘so what?’
What are you afraid of? Play out all the worst case scenarios, and say, ‘So what?’ So what if you use the wrong word? So what if the other person can hear you sing? So what if you spill your drink on your dress? So what?
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