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I Didn’t Know I Secretly Enjoyed My Unhappiness, I Thought I Was Just Unhappy

I Didn’t Know I Secretly Enjoyed My Unhappiness, I Thought I Was Just Unhappy

Everywhere we turn in modern society we are bombarded with advice on how to achieve the most elusive commodity in the world: Happiness.

Magazine articles scream out their top tips for happiness from glossy front pages. TV can easily lead us to believe happiness can either be bought or simply obtained through swallowing the latest and greatest anti-depressant pill. In short, there is a multi-million dollar industry built around the premise of living “Happily Ever After.”

So, where’s the advice on being unhappy?

I’ve yet to see a book on the Top 10 Tips To Misery hitting the New York Times Bestsellers list. Why isn’t the blogosphere trending with articles on Living Miserably Ever After? Put simply, it doesn’t sell. Most people already have enough unhappiness in their lives. The last thing they wish to seek is how to garner more of it in their lives. However, once we dig a little deeper it becomes clear that this isn’t always as clear cut as it seems.

Sometimes we choose to be unhappy

What about the friend who’s always getting involved with unavailable men, or that colleague who actively seeks out things to get annoyed by? Why are they seemingly edging ever closer to making themselves unhappy? Actually, when you really think about it, many of us spend much of life making ourselves miserable by choosing to stay in a bad marriage, or refusing to quit a soul-sucking job. Whether we initially began with the very best intentions and life’s complications got in the way, or whether we made these choices without much forethought, the point is that sometimes in life we simply get in our own way, sit our asses down, and refuse to budge.

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Which leads me to ask that pertinent question:

Do we secretly get a thrill out of being unhappy?

In my case, the answer to this intensely difficult question was a big “Heck Yes!” I spent close to five years being miserable. No, I wasn’t locked up in solitary confinement, nor was I living in a war zone. The source of my misery came simply as a result of my own choices. These choices were well-intentioned at the time. In the beginning, I brushed up against happiness enough times to feel some semblance of contentment. I was in a healthy relationship and had a great job that enabled me to live in Los Angeles. However, time passed, circumstances changed, and I suddenly found myself at the mercy of my own unhappiness.

I did nothing to change my circumstances.

The company I had spent many years working for in LA closed its doors and I was transferred over to the New York office, bringing my long-term boyfriend with me. At first, things were great… until they weren’t. New York City is a tough town and people generally love it or hate it. My boyfriend hated it. In fact, he made it known every single day. Meanwhile, I was dealing with a high-stress job that resembled nothing to what I had initially signed on for.

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Essentially, I was stuck in an unhappy relationship and an unhappy career. Yet for years and years, I did absolutely nothing about it. I would spend the working day stressed and unhappy only to come home to more stress and unhappiness. There was no escape, at least in my mind. These were my choices and I was sticking with them – happiness be damned.

I was ignoring my needs, allowing others to control me, and catering to others until I was exhausted. I began to resent my own self-imposed obligations. In hindsight, there must have been a part of me that was secretly getting a thrill out of my circumstances, like being a martyr, if you will.

Personal martyrdom involves a vicious cycle of self-sabotage. In my case, I was repressing my own needs, which ended up making me feel controlled by the demands of my job and relationship. There is no fulfillment in this. Believe me. However, I still stayed.

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I refused to ask for and receive help.

Another challenge of embracing martyrdom is to open up to asking for and receiving help. I was too proud and stubborn to admit that my picture-perfect life in NYC was turning into a nightmare. I refrained from reaching out and speaking the truth to my friends which simply isolated me further. I struggled to connect with people on a deeper level because I was too scared to admit that my life was unraveling.

On top of that, I was slowly falling in love with my own misery because it was all I’d known for such a long time.

My continual acts of unnecessary self-sacrifice were a way of making me feel good about myself whilst masking the actual act of self-sabotage. I was giving up on hopes, dreams, and passions that would make me truly happy.

Eventually, my misery got the best of me and started to manifest itself in physical illness which was the wake-up call that I was so desperately seeking. Time was quickly passing me by and I couldn’t afford to waste another decade putting my life on hold whilst working a job I hated and staying in a relationship that was well past its sell-by date.

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Choosing differently…

Finally, I summoned up the courage to quit both my job and relationship and chose to start all over again. Looking back at this time has taught me so many valuable lessons on the seductive power of embracing your own unhappiness. The most important lesson of all was that being stuck in a victim mindset does just that. It keeps you stuck. It gave me something to complain about and most importantly held me back from attempting to follow my dreams.

Whilst my current life resembles nothing of the misery I went through for so many years, I still look back at that time as a pivotal moment in my life. It taught me so much about my own personal shadow behavior, it showed me what I don’t want out of life, and that my self-sabotage was keeping me stagnant.

Most importantly, it gave me the wake-up call that I needed. It gave me the opportunity to finally get out of my own way and open myself up to the belief that I was worthy of happiness.

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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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