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10 Questions That Will Unlock Your Potential

10 Questions That Will Unlock Your Potential

Do you ever feel like you have the potential to do great things with your life, but just aren’t sure how to start? I know that feeling very well, as it’s taken me years of reflection to figure out what activities make me feel happy and fulfilled. I hope this article will give you a gentle shove in the right direction. Simply answer these ten questions to unlock your potential.

1. If I could write a letter to the 2004 version of myself, what would it say?

Let’s pretend that you are living in the future and have been handed the opportunity to write a letter to the 2004 version of yourself. I’m not going to offer you any further direction as I feel this exercise will be more powerful if I don’t lead you one way or another, but just in case you’re curious, here’s what I would say to the 2004 (17 year-old) version of myself:

Dear Teenage Dan,

You’re feeling a bit nervous right now, but take a deep breath and do the scary thing, because it’ll be worth it. I know the idea of getting on a stage and performing a play in front of everybody in high school makes you feel like fainting, but you’re going to walk away more confident and comfortable in who you are.

Also, congrats on that 30 pounds you lost playing DDR (Dance, Dance, Revolution), but a word of warning: you’re going to go to college, where there is a buffet available 24/7, eat away your feelings, and gain every bit of that back. To save yourself a lot of trouble, I would recommend writing about what you’re dealing with so you can cope with things in a positive way. But hey, even if you don’t, it’s okay, because later you’re going to discover that lifting weights is awesome, and get super strong/built, so no big deal.

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Never stop dreaming big, no matter what other people say and think. Yes, listen to feedback from others, but don’t get caught up in any negative opinions that aren’t accompanied with positive input; because without that, it’s a waste of your time.

Oh, I almost forgot… In a couple years, someone is going to offer you your first shot of tequila at a college party. Just because you feel “okay” after that first shot does not mean you should immediately drink four more. I know you’re still young-and-innocent, but just trust me on this one, it’s a very bad idea.

<3

-Dan from the Future

If you’re feeling brave, tell us what your letter would say in the comments! 

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2. If I could only accomplish one thing before I die, what would that be?

Not two, three, or four things: what one thing do you want to achieve, accomplish, or experience more than anything else? Once you figure that out, pursue it with every ounce of hustle you’ve got, because life is too precious for regret.

3. What are the top three things that make me feel happy and fulfilled?

This could be training, coaching or teaching other people; writing books, blogs or articles; spending time with your children, partner or loved ones; enjoying nature activities like hiking, camping or rafting; or maybe you’re a wandering soul who wants to travel to all of the places. Figure out your top three things, and build your schedule around them for a happier existence.

4. What are the top three things that distract me from enjoying my life?

Being interrupted by buzzing, chirping and ringing every time you get a text or call? Turn your phone off unless your children are at school, or you’re expecting a very important call (otherwise it can wait, I promise, voicemail exists for a reason).

So stressed out by your job that you can’t find the energy to think about anything else? Find another one (or even better, start your own biz).

Constantly subjected to a chorus of negative thoughts that make you feel like a failure or loser? See below.

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5. Am I in control of my thoughts, or am I at the mercy of them?

If your thoughts are negative and nasty, then you can’t expect your life to be positive and pleasant. Reality is a funny thing, as there isn’t exactly a single one of them, but rather we all live in our own realities that are influenced by our beliefs, thoughts, and ideas. You can’t expect success in life if you keep telling yourself you will never amount to anything, aren’t “good enough”, or don’t deserve to be happy. If you’d like to defeat the Mental Monsters that limit you, this might help.

6. Am I in control of my eating decisions, or am I at the mercy of them?

Just like your thoughts influence your perception of reality, your eating decisions influence your mood and energy levels. Happy, healthy people consciously choose to eat foods that make them feel alert, focus, and energetic. Unhappy, unhealthy people unconsciously allow their mood and social surroundings to dictate their eating decisions. I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “good” or “bad” food, because every person has their own individual needs… but if it makes you feel bad, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. If you’d like to improve your relationship with food, this might be useful

7. What strengths did I use to achieve three major goals in my life?

Think about three of the biggest achievements of your life. That could be graduating college, getting a raise or promotion, landing your first “real job,” getting published for the first time, or (insert your thing here). Now, think about what personal strengths you used to achieve those things. See any trends? If so, the road that leads to success is right in front of you.

8. How can I use those strengths more often?

While it is sometimes important to correct a weakness if it causes a significantly negative effect to your performance, it is often much easier and less time-consuming to simply play to your strengths in a way that make your weaknesses completely irrelevant. Write down the strengths you came up with in the question above, put them somewhere you will see them daily, and keep asking yourself, “How can I use those strengths today?”

9. Why should I care what other people think about me?

If you spend all of your days consumed in concerns about what other people think about you, then you’re going to be too stressed out and depressed to take the action necessary for improving your life. It is better to have a small number of true friends you trust, than a large number of phony friends who don’t love and accept you as you are.

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10. Why do I exist?

I know that question is a lot to wrap your head around (that just so happens to be why I saved it for the end), but nonetheless, it is something you need to think about. Look at it this way: if a person was giving a speech about you at your funeral, what would you want them to say? Or, if someone was to write a biography about you after your death, what would you hope it would say?

I hope answering these questions helps you unlock your potential for more success in life. I’d love to know how this exercise worked for you, so please tell us in the comments.

 

Featured photo credit: Meditation/M. Dolly via flickr.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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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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