Self-Critical and Socially Anxious

self-critical, socially anxiousWhen you are feeling self conscious, you take others’ behavior personally based on the assumption that everything others are doing is about “me”.  The people who are the most self-conscious are those that are prone to taking others behavior personally.

Actually,  taking others behavior personal and being self-conscious is a normal part of our development. During  childhood we take everything personally. The human judgment center is in the prefrontal cortex, which does not fully develop until  adolescence. Since the brain has not been fully developed, children will always jump to the conclusions that everything is about them. Kids think “me, me, me, always about me.” However, some people never out grow this style of thinking and challenge these childish assumptions.

When you feel self-conscious and take things personally, you feel ashamed, embarrassed, and disrespected. Your reaction is either to defend yourself or submit passively. Either way you take someone’s criticism and view it as literal, personal and serious. You make something big out of some behavior that is so little. You are left feeling insecure, judged, inadequate, or inferior.

When you feel self-conscious you look at your faults and imperfections compared to others. You may think it helps to motivate yourself to improve by comparing yourself to more successful friends and relatives. However, this unfavorable comparison  only confirms your underlying feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.

Imagine being out with a group of new friends, at a meeting with coworkers,  at a family gathering with the in-laws, on a date with an attractive person or standing in front of a large crowd of strangers.  Now everyone is happily chatting away and the mood is pleasant. Then someone says, “You have something on your nose”. Then while reaching to wipe your face, you spill a glass on the table and it falls and breaks. Now everyone is quiet and staring at you. It’s as if a spotlight has been turned on you and the rest of the room lights dimmed.  This is what self consciousness commonly feels like.

People feel self conscious in endless amounts of different situations. But the common thread is the feeling that everyone is watching and staring at you (even though rationally you know this isn’t true). The self conscious  person always feels like others are evaluating them, being critical of them, or “judging” them in some way.

Your mind (if it’s like most minds), spends a lot of time criticizing itself. If the thought “I’m so ugly” comes to mind and you start arguing with it, or resisting it. However, you are just investing more energy in that thought pattern in your brain.

If someone came up to you and said ‘You’re a purple elephant’, you would probably not get insulted, because there is no agreement that you have that goes ‘I believe that I might be a purple elephant and that is a bad thing.’

On the other hand, if someone comes up and says You would look better if you lost 15 lbs and got rid of that double-chin you would might get very upset. In fact, you might after reading that feel a little jab like “they’re right, I do have kind of a double-chin, I should really get rid of that.”

That’s because somewhere in your mind you have an agreement that (a) you might have a double-chin and (b) having a double-chin is a very bad thing to have. So when someone points that out, or you see an advertisment with a 120-lb model, your mind comes up with “I’m ugly” and you agree with it.

So the key is to stop agreeing with your negative thoughts. This doesn’t mean arguing with them or resisting them though. If someone said “You’re a purple elephant” you wouldn’t argue about how you really aren’t and how even purple elephants have feelings – you would just shrug and say “OK, whatever”. You would have no charge on it. That is the attitude to cultivate with your negative feelings and thoughts – a mental shrug. “Ok, that’s what my mind is doing, whatever.”


Leave a Reply

Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger