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10 Ways To Be A Better Friend

10 Ways To Be A Better Friend

I was recently asked who I consider to be my best friend. After thinking about it for a while, I decided I could not choose just one. All of my friends are so dear to me, and I think part of the reason I have so many strong, long-standing relationships in my life is because I try to treat everyone with equal respect and understanding. I recently decided to try and pinpoint exactly what I think makes the relationships in my life work so well. Here is what I found:

Have Empathy

Everyone knows the golden rule: Treat others the way you wish to be treated. There is a fine line between projecting your own experiences on others and actually understanding what they are going through. This line can be referred to as empathy. Healthy relationships cannot exist without it, and it is the key to cooperation. Too many think only of themselves when making decisions, and then they wonder why they are alone. Others struggle to accept the fact that two people who have a similar experience might take completely different lessons away from it. Empathy is not something that can be faked. When it does not occur naturally, it usually comes after some degree of epiphany. If you want people to enjoy being in your presence you must be considerate and think about their feelings in conjunction with your own. You will find that many crucial components of healthy friendships come naturally after you have mastered empathy.

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Know Yourself

This concept is generally cited in reference to romantic relationships, but you will find that self-awareness is a very useful tool in all human interactions. Many go through their lives focusing only on what others do to impede them. Much social tension can be traced back to people who don’t take responsibility for their failures. Those who have accepted their strengths and weaknesses are going to be more reliable and less likely to take on responsibilities they cannot handle. When you have attempted to understand the impact of your behavior, you will not be surprised or affronted when your mistakes are the root of a problem. Self-awareness requires more than just the willingness to turn a critical eye inward. You must be prepared to accept what you see without resentment, and then subsequently work to improve it. Keep in mind that the one thing all your relationships have in common is YOU. When interacting with you does not result in others constantly having to take responsibility for everything you do wrong, people are going to want to spend a lot more of their time in your vicinity.

Show Yourself to People

The most important thing after knowing yourself is being yourself. Many are socialized to associate “fitting in” with making friends. They develop the habit at a young age of clinging to something outside of who they really are as a way of gaining acceptance. In reality, the best and strongest friendships are based on honesty. If you are constantly your real self and you show that to people regularly – flaws and all – others are going to be drawn to your honesty. So many people never bother to show the world who they are because they fear judgment or rejection. These are usually the people who have the most trouble making friends. The truth is we all struggle with failure and rejection. Struggling openly puts the people around you at ease. It inspires them to drop their own persona and opens up dialog about common hardships.

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Do Not Judge

A component of good friendship that comes from mastering self-awareness and empathy is a lack of judgment. After you have accepted your own flaws and learned to struggle openly, it becomes much easier to accept others no matter where they are on their journey. Look at how everything you experience changes you in some little way. Understand that the same thing is happening to every human. Stay focused on the reality that we are all moving at different speeds towards changes we can’t control, and you will find an abundance of patience within you that allows ready forgiveness of others. Holding a grudge is a form of judgment. By deciding that a person is not worthy of our friendship, we are assuming that they have no hope of ever growing or learning from their mistakes. This is often not the case. When we brand someone else as a failure we are denying their potential for growth. Instead of writing a person off forever, try taking some space and giving them time to grow. By changing this little bit of dialog in your head, you are replacing resentment with acceptance. You might be surprised at who you find in a couple of years when you run into this person again.

Don’t Posture

A major falsehood that is constantly reinforced in our youth is that posturing is a good way to make friends. Maybe this is somewhat true when we are immature and acting on our most primitive instincts. As we grow into adults though, we start to crave cooperation. We are socialized early to believe the leader of the pack must be superior because of what they have. They are surrounded by a big group of admirers all the time, but they often must publicly debase another in order to gain this status. One day they will be debased by someone even more dominant and lose their throne. These patterns are not conducive to long-term friendships or meaningful bonding, but they get a lot of us through school somehow. The more our posturing is rewarded with success as we grow, the harder it is for us to let go of it as adults. The leader of the pack may never understand that the admirers who left them behind were not their friends in the first place, so they struggle to regain this sense of social dominance well into adulthood. They keep expecting people to like them because they are better than them, when really most adults are looking for friends they can relate to as equals.

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Communicate Acceptance

A common response to meeting someone we like is to try and impress them. Sometimes the object of our interest gets a kick out of this and wants to drag it out by pretending to be oblivious. Others actually are oblivious and opportunities for connections pass them by. Certain personalities may experience very defensive reactions to the feelings they have for others. Whatever the case, one person can only be expected to keep trying to impress you for so long before giving up. All of this can be avoided if people would just express approval in the early stages of connection. It doesn’t have to be anything profound. A very simple, “Hey, I really like you, and I enjoy your company a great deal. We should spend more time together,” will do just nicely. It even presents an opportunity for the other person to reciprocate their approval when they might not have otherwise. This is one of my favorite ways to combat the initial posturing that sometimes occurs when I am trying to establish friendship with alpha personalities. Along the same lines, do not be stingy with compliments. People like knowing exactly where they stand.

Show Gratitude

When a person goes out of their way for you, be sure to show appropriate and immediate acknowledgment. Instead of getting all wrapped up in a sense of obligation to return the favor, just find some genuine way to verbalize your appreciation as soon as possible. Think about how it makes you feel to help someone who shows appreciation versus someone who does nothing. If a person does nothing in response to a favor, it could mean they are waiting for a more tangible way to return the sentiment than a simple set of words. However, this silence can easily be mistaken for disregard. Even if you will make it a point to return the favor at your earliest opportunity, it never hurts to also drop a few words of appreciation on the spot. You will find most people don’t expect anything for what they give to you, and are happy to contribute to anyone they know will pay it forward in some way. Always give what you can, including thanks, and you will be sure to find karma in your favor.

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Let Go of Expectations

Our unrealistic expectations of each other might be the biggest cause of imbalance in relationships. If you expect things from people you love that you cannot or don’t want to do for yourself, you are actively creating imbalances in your relationships. You are setting yourself up for disappointment, and you are setting the people you love up for failures they never agreed to. Wouldn’t it be better to just channel those expectations inward? Yes, it would. This way, you are participating only in that which you can control (your own growth, actions, and behaviors), and the people around you can come and go as they please. You are taking responsibility for what you want by making it happen yourself instead of expecting it to come from others. When you expect nothing from others and everything from yourself, you are creating a social climate in which you can give without expecting anything in return, and truly appreciate what others do for you. People are more likely to gravitate towards such a climate than one filled with impossible expectations.

Always Pick Up As Though No Time Has Passed

Apparently it is not particularly normal for folks to be okay with picking up a friendship after a long period of silence or absence. Many think fondly of each other from across time and space, but are afraid they won’t be welcome since it has been so long. Some might perceive a long period of absence as a form of rejection, when it is really the natural forces of the universe pulling us in opposite directions and back together again. Demanding any other explanation for this is only going to push your friends away. You want to know the truth? Everybody is just as busy as you are. We all have goals we are working towards that do not involve our friends, and friendships will last longer when this is a mutually respected and unspoken understanding. In the grand scheme of things, time spent apart is irrelevant and time spent harping on the past is wasted. Mutual realization of this eliminates the necessity for feelings of guilt and obligation in your friendships, allowing common ground to prevail instantly upon every reconnection.

Maintain a Balanced Dialog

Many people reach out for friends when they are struggling with other relationships in their lives. We all need someone to vent to. However, keep in mind that each friendship is a two-way street. If you have to unload on someone, make it a point to stop yourself and provide some channel for response. Maybe even start by asking how their life is going first, before you say anything about your problems. Whatever you do, don’t let the conversation get away from you without expressing an interest in the perspective of whoever is listening. This can make all the difference between an exchange of dialog and a verbal assault. Venting is a selfish activity, but we all need to do it sometimes. It is hardest for us to be empathetic when we are hurting, so we need to be careful not to alienate ourselves or the people around us. It is easy to yell about our problems for an hour and then hang up the phone without letting the other person get a single word in edgewise. However, this could lead to your friend not picking up the next time you call. It is very important to balance things out by being considerate of the person on the other end of the line. By the same token, when someone is venting to you, listen patiently and do not try to hijack the conversation. Be sympathetic, offer your insight, but don’t make everything about you.

These things may seem like basics to some, but they might not be as obvious to people who have yet to master mindfulness and empathy. All relationships have their own unique balances. Everyone you meet holds a unique perspective you never could have imagined before, and it is impossible to predict exactly how one person will impact another. The most important thing all of my relationships have in common is an established focus on what we have to learn from each other. Even if everything on this list comes as brand new information to you, it is never too late to start treating yourself and others a little bit differently.

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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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