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7 Struggles Only People Who Live Miles Away From Their Family Will Understand

7 Struggles Only People Who Live Miles Away From Their Family Will Understand

Families are usually what they would term “dysfunctional” in old sitcoms. Spending a few hours in a room with granddads, grandmas, uncles, aunts, your parents and siblings who like to tease you, can make you lose your cool and want to hit yourself over the head with a rock. However, as I’ve found out when I left my small, yet warm-hearted and proud country nestled deep in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula and spent a couple of years in London, family ties run really deep. You don’t even realize how much they mean to you or how much they contribute to your mental and emotional well being until you’re cut off, and get to see them only a couple of times a year. Here are a few big struggles that people who live far away from family have to endure.

1. We can spend an afternoon on Skype with our family, and still feel like crap afterwards

A common misconception is that getting some face time with your close ones can help curb that shadow of nostalgia that keeps cutting into our hearts. You see nostalgia can have certain benefits, but it can also be very emotionally draining. The problem is that, sometimes, seeing someone and having a great talk that reminds you of the good all days only pushes that shadow into overdrive an hour later, and you start to create an idealized image of the “good old days” and that beautiful hometown that no place on earth can compare to.

2. We can’t share some of our little moments with our new friends

There are certain things that you grow up with, common interests that you only share with your closest family. For me it was always boxing and wrestling with my dad, and our hunting trips. We’d spend the weekends leading up to the hunt sighting in our rifles, shooting 40-50 rounds down range, and just having a blast. I can still hear the characteristic clack-cling of dad’s old Zastava Arms Mauser 98 bolt action. Unfortunately, none of my friends and acquaintances in merry old England really understood the thrill I felt, and a lot of them would even gasp at the fact that someone would shoot and eat a live creature.

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3. We get irritated when we hear someone moan about a family dinner they have to attend

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that not everyone has a close relationship with their family, or even a psychologically healthy relationship for that matter. However, no family is even close to being “normal” in the 50s Hollywood family sense, namely because only aliens or deeply troubled psychotics trying to blend in with these strange “Hu-mans” would look like that. Everyone’s got problems, but for most of us it’s all about little annoyances like your folks pestering you about work or your love life, a few serious rows from the past and a perhaps one or two skeletons in the closet.

So, when I hear someone mope about “having to” go see their family, I just want to punch them square in the jaw. I wish I could sit there and try to dodge questions about when I’ll get married or change that stupid haircut, because I know we’d eventually get to lighter topics and I’d be happy I saw those irritating and judging goofballs.

4. We are limited to sharing exciting parts of our lives through images and the odd video

Where I once tried to always keep my family in the loop, living through both tough and happy times with them, and sharing my experiences as they happened, they are now left with only a few pictures on Facebook, a short talk on Skype and the occasional postcard as an insight into my life. I, in turn, get to look at their trials and victories through a smartphone screen that fits neatly into my pocket.

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While a nicely made slideshow or goofy collage does put a smile on my face in those moments of nostalgia, I long for that real human connection at times. Bringing my sister along on camping trips and parties, spending a good part of the night having a long drunken talk with my dad about life or talking to mom about this cute girl I met, these are life’s quirky little scenarios that help set the tone and cement a conversation in my mind. Pictures and Skype pale in comparison.

5. We can never get our heads around the fact that people keep changing

Kids grow, rebellious teenagers cut their hair and get sucked into the academic lifestyle, strong and vibrant father figures weaken with age, quirky little sisters get married and baby-faced little brothers, who you wrestled around the yard with, outgrow you and get jobs. When you’re in the same town, even if you don’t get to see them that much, you tend to pick up on these changes sooner, and the transformation seems gradual. When you are halfway across the continent, however, these things just hit you like a hammer, leaving you confused and at a loss for words.

6. We can’t really choose what to do on holidays

With all this talk of missing my family, and wanting to punch people who see family get-togethers as obligations, you would think I’d look forward to seeing them every chance I get–and I do. However, at some point you lose the freedom to choose how to spend your free time from work, as you are expected to come see the family for Christmas, Easter and basically any time when you’ve got a week or two to spare. The worst part of it is that coming back home can be more depressing than leaving, at least for the first few days.

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You don’t want to look like a hypocrite or a heartless bastard, so you rearrange all other aspects of your life to make a family reunion fit your schedule, even though sometimes you just want to blow off some steam partying or take your girlfriend on that trip to Barcelona you’ve been talking about for the past few months.

7. We keep hearing about how we’ve changed and how weird we look and sound

Okay, so every culture has their own slightly different set of social rules, ideologies, and general ways of doing things. It’s a fairly simple concept to grasp, but for some reason as soon as you go even a little bit against the grain you are accused of (*drum roll*) changing! You forget a word in your native tongue and suddenly it’s “ooh la la, look at the stuck up Englishman” or “we’ve got a nobleman at the table, mind your manners kids.”

The clothes you wear, that slightest change in your accent, or the fact that you keep referencing places and people no one has seen, been to or heard of, turns you into a bit of a clown that everyone can poke fun at. We get so used to people seeing us an a bit of an outsider when we move away, so when our family start to react similarly we kind of feel like we are caught up between two worlds.

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These are just some personal musings, but I hope that all of those who had to leave home and spend a long time hundreds of miles apart from their family can relate to this, and that this article can at least help them get some of that load of their chest. It’s a tough situation, but finding the freedom to chase after your dreams and discovering who you truly are is never easy.

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Nemanja Manojlovic

Editor at MyCity Web

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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