6 Ways to Improve Relationships by Tackling Self-Consciousness

When I was growing up, I was a great soccer star, a swimming champion, and a well-read student.

Deep down, though, I was struggling to make more than a few good relationships with other people.

One of the biggest hindrances in my life has been self-consciousness.

Not only did I worry what other people thought about me, but I would intentionally avoid social situations where I would be uncomfortable.

I had no problem with people in general, but in some cases I avoided them like the plague.

Why? I sweat.

A lot. 

I sweat so much I have to carry around a little cloth with me. I sweat so much, I sometimes have to wring out that cloth.

While in grade school I asked to be excused from class to avoid square dancing – I never came back to class that day.

It’s a disease called hyperhidrosis, but I always imagined that nobody would understand the scientific aspects so I became incredibly self-conscious.

If I had to shake people’s hand, I would feel strange around them for fear that they were disgusted by me.

Love Yourself or Nobody Else Will

Far from a loner, my closest friends were those who knew about my sweaty hands. We rarely talked about it, but they knew.

The relationship I had with those friends was great because I learned to accept myself when I was around them.

With most other people, I never accepted my sweating disease.

More importantly, when I felt uncomfortable and disgusted with myself, the emotions were reciprocated by others through a part of the brain known as “mirror neurons”.

The frontal lobe has neurons that signal when you are being touched, but there are also neurons that signal when you see other people being touched. In the same way, when my sweaty hands made me feel noticeably uncomfortable, other people were feeling the same discomfort.

Now, I have grown enough to overcome most of my self-consciousness with sweating. Before anyone else could love me, I realized that I had to love myself. Embracing my situation and myself was the only way that I could be accepted fully by others.

While it is a life-long process when self-consciousness has rooted itself deep in your mind, here are 6 ways that I have been able to tackle self-consciousness:

  1. Embrace what you cannot control. Conventional wisdom often tells us that it is good to accept ourselves the way we are. Acceptance is great, but I feel it doesn’t have a strong enough connotation to promote real change with self-consciousness. Don’t just accept what you cannot control, but fully embrace it. It may never be a positive thing, but it is a part of you and embrace how much stronger the adversity has made you become.
  2. Create selective blind spots. Many people who are naturally free from crippling self-consciousness are simply ignorant of their flaws. You can replicate this by telling yourself whatever you need to make yourself feel better. For example, I might tell myself that my sweating is actually a good thing for some identified reason.
  3. Recognize where your flaws are helpful. No matter how bitter your problems, there are probably some ways that they can help. When I drop dry food on the floor, my sweaty hands act like an efficient sweeper. In one instance, a member of the opposite sex continued raving about how attractive it was. Why be self-conscious when other people might like it?
  4. Talk to many strangers. Regardless of what you are self-conscious about, talking to strangers and people in general will help you to feel more comfortable. As much as you accept and embrace your own flaws, the true test is getting out with strangers and interacting with them on a routine basis. Not getting good feedback from people? Maybe you haven’t really gotten rid of self-consciousness. Keep testing and trying.
  5. Bleed emotionally with others. Not everyone is emotional in the same way, but when you bleed about your thoughts and feelings, there is nothing left to hide. Start telling friends about whatever makes you self-conscious and you will realize that it is mostly in your imagination. Then tell the world in a blog (like this one) and there are even fewer people to hide from.
  6. Do something completely absurd in public. Going out in public and doing something completely absurd might sound silly, but afterwards there is little to be self-conscious about. As with bleeding emotionally, you go to the extreme in a physical sense to recognize that your problems are not that great. Last week I ran for two miles in my underwear around campus (for charity) and I could feel self-consciousness slipping away.

If you have other methods to help you love yourself more, practice them as long as you need to in order to remove self-consciousness.

It has dictated my life for many years so it is a slow and steady process, but an absolutely necessary one.

By removing self-consciousness in your life, you will find better relationships with people who are as comfortable with you as you are with yourself.

Written on 5/20/2013 by Mans Denton. Mans Denton is an entrepreneur and self-improvement nut. His blog, The Hacked Mind, takes a scientific approach to improving life, including dietary, sleep, and meditative practices. He also likes to explore abstract self-improvement methods, such as conquering self-consciousness. Photo Credit
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