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10 Quotes From Jane Austen’s Emma That Can Teach Us About Life

10 Quotes From Jane Austen’s Emma That Can Teach Us About Life

For much of this year, bookworms worldwide have been celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Emma, first published in December 1815. Possibly one of the most beloved of Austen’s six novels next to Pride and Prejudice, Emma is a wonderfully witty comedy of manners in which the fun-loving, slightly spoiled, but ultimately kind-hearted Emma Woodhouse sets herself up as a matchmaker for her friends and acquaintances while, perhaps predictably, failing to listen to the yearnings of her own heart until it’s almost too late. The novel has spawned numerous retellings and adaptations, and its hero, Mr. Knightley, stands second only to Mr. Darcy in the eyes of Austenites. In honor of the novel’s bicentennial, here are 10 quotes from Emma that can teach us how to love, how to laugh, and how to live happily ever after.

1. “I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control.”- Emma Woodhouse

After discovering that Frank Churchill has been secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax while blatantly flirting with Emma, Emma smiles, brushes herself off, and maintains as much dignity and self-composure as she can. The takeaway here is simple: sometimes you’re going to have your heart broken and your emotions toyed with. It’s not unnatural to feel wounded, but be sensible about it and don’t wallow.

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2. “I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other.”- Emma Woodhouse

Again, our heroine puts it succinctly; never settle for anything less than the best you feel you deserve in life, whether in your friendships, your workplace relationships, or your romantic partnerships.

3. “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”- Mr. Knightley

Not altogether unlike Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley is a man of actions, not words, when it comes to expressing love. Anyone with eyes in their head—anyone except Emma, of course—can see how tenderly he loves her and holds her in high regard, even if he never says quite as much until the last possible moment. The kindest of words can sometimes be the most insincere if not accompanied by an action meant from the heart. (Frank Churchill, anyone?)

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4. “Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives.”- Mr. Knightley

Though Mr. Knightley offers these words to Emma as a caveat against puffing her friend Harriet Smith up above her station in life as the illegitimate daughter of, well, someone or other, his words here nonetheless encapsulate what we love most about Austen heroes: that they love and cherish women of good sense whom they can value as their equals rather than as playthings.

5. “I lay it down as a general rule, Harriet, that if a woman doubts as to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him.”- Emma Woodhouse

While Emma offers this advice to Harriet simply because she thinks the gentleman farmer Robert Martin beneath Harriet’s notice, Emma raises a fair point here; if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, and the truth is that if Harriet—young and impressionable as she is—can’t make up her own mind about her feelings without consulting Emma, she isn’t quite ready to commit herself yet. Removed from Emma’s influence, she eventually comes, on her own, to discover that she still loves Mr. Martin and takes her happiness into her own hands. The salient point here, then, is quite simply, to look before you leap. If anything gives you pause, trust your instinct.

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6. “If things are going untowardly one month, they are sure to mend the next.”- Mr. Weston

Ah, good old Mr. Weston, ever-cheerful, ever-hopeful, always sure that Frank will come to visit, even when he doesn’t. Nothing dampens his spirits, and however exhausting we might sometimes find his relentless good humor, it reminds us that however bad things seem, they do eventually get better.

7. “Never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man’s eyes as I am in my father’s.”- Emma Woodhouse

Emma might be spoiled; she might be her father’s pet, but, say what you will, she devotes herself to his care and is rewarded with the highest regard, and until she recognizes a deeper love in Mr. Knightley, she need be content with nothing else. Sometimes we would do well to remember that no one can love us as our parents do, with all of our flaws.

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8. “How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!”- Frank Churchill

Frank might be impetuous and a bit of a rake, but sometimes, we need to grab our pleasures where and when we find them and live in the moment because no one wants to live with the regret of having squandered an opportunity.

9. “A woman is not to marry a man merely because she is asked, or because he is attached to her, and can write a tolerable letter.”- Emma Woodhouse

This, like so much of Austen’s advice, is shot straight from the hip. The women of Austen’s world had perhaps fewer choices than women in the 21st century do, but she still recognized a key point in exercising agency in one’s own life; seizing an opportunity simply because someone places it in front of you isn’t choosing. It’s settling. Women in the 21st century do have choices, and marriage is just one of those choices. Societal pressure, or the fear of dying alone and being eaten by wild dogs or stray cats should never force your hand into something you don’t want.

10. “Miss Bates had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavor to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman, and a woman whom no one named without good will.”- The Narrator

This description of the good-natured, exhaustively chatty spinster Miss Bates at once amuses and inspires. Relentlessly cheerful despite her reduced circumstances, Miss Bates counts herself supremely blessed with the good fortune of kind friends and neighbors who love her and see to her comfort, and this, in truth, is what we ought to value most in life.

Featured photo credit: Emma by Jane Austen via amazon.com

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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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