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Five Baby Steps to Escape Your Comfort Zone

Five Baby Steps to Escape Your Comfort Zone

Turn on the news any night of the week and you will see a million reasons to be afraid. Your food is poisoned. There are chemicals in the tap water. Sunshine causes cancer. The terrorists are waiting at your front door. You will be molested at the airport if you dare to travel far. It has become common knowledge that everything down to the air you breathe is potentially harmful.

What they won’t tell you on TV is that your comfort zone is killing you faster than all of these things combined. Plenty of people are out there living life to its fullest, but you can’t see them from your living room. It’s never too late to get off the couch and start making up for lost time. Be careful, because the difference between life inside your personal bubble and out in the real world is going to be huge. It is best to start with baby steps if you want to make it all the way through without turning back. Here are a few little things you can do to get started on the most important journey of your life.

Take Inventory of Your Boundaries

Doing things differently often starts with thinking differently. Try to think about everything you have always wanted to do. Then, think about what is really stopping you. How many of your boundaries are serving you effectively? Are there things you won’t do? Think about why. Be totally honest when you are examining these things, and don’t be afraid to admit it when you find something completely irrational at the core of a dearly held belief.

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Irrational beliefs don’t make you wrong; they make you human. However, nothing is going to change if you cannot recognize your own inconsistencies. You must be willing to re-examine the boundaries you have drawn based on faulty beliefs if you want to move past irrationality. Upon digging deep enough, you will probably find that YOU are the biggest thing stopping you from having the life that you want. It is time to get out of your way, and you cannot do that if you continue to obey self-imposed boundaries that are based on unfounded or irrational beliefs.

Identify and Face Your Fears

Make a list of all your fears and phobias. Much like you did with your boundaries, think about where each is rooted. Some fears are based on trauma or experience, and some are based on lack of information. You may notice that some fears exist without any reason to speak of. If you have never thought about things this way before, you will probably find yourself with many fears that are quite irrational. Try to differentiate your well-founded fears from those which are based on feeble premises, like hearsay or lack of proper understanding. Then think about all the perfectly harmless things you have been avoiding because of these fears. Once you have done this, start facing them one by one. Start with the weakest justifications and move backwards from there. By the time you reach your biggest, realest fears you should have a few victories under your belt.

Let’s take spiders, for instance. When you ask the average arachnophobe why he is afraid of spiders, he will usually say something along the lines of “they are just creepy!” or “one crawled on my face when I was a child!” Very rarely do you find someone who is afraid of spiders and has been seriously harmed by one.

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Unless you live near a tropical rainforest or in Australia or something, there is literally no good reason to be afraid of spiders. Those who are should try doing a little research. You might learn that spiders feed on many other insects you don’t want in your home. You might also learn that there are only two or three fatally venomous species of spiders in the United States, and most others are no more harmful to humans than mosquitoes.Did you know that even tarantulas are about as venomous as wasps? You can learn all this and more without even having to touch a real spider. Upon reading about the most harmful species in your area, you will then be able to identify the completely harmless ones instead of living in fear of all spiders that might be poisonous. Best of all, this approach can be applied to any irrational fear. The more you know, the less you have to be afraid of.

Turn off the television and read

Even without the loads of broadcasted content that seems designed to inspire fear and insecurity, the very act of watching television is passive and voyeuristic. All your senses are being appealed to at once and very little is left to the imagination. When your life and habits revolve around this kind of stimuli, it is going to be harder for you to accept the little pains associated with growth. To stop growing is to start dying.

Try keeping your mind alive and thriving with literature. Instead of just watching short talk show interviews with people who have written books, try actually reading the memoirs and nonfiction they are out to promote. Read newspapers and websites instead of watching the news. Even podcasts and local radio can turn out to be better sources of news than American television. If reading is totally out of character for you, try spending a day at the library. Just go through the aisles and read random things until something feels right. The knowledge you gain from reading will inspire you towards doing greater things with your life.

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Seek New Information

Let’s go back to that list of things you have always wanted to do. How many of them haven’t happened because you lack the skills or knowledge? Believe it or not, the information you seek is there for the taking, and nobody is going to come drop it in your lap. You have to go out and find it. The motivation to constantly learn new things is very important to an ever-growing mind.

You don’t have to go all the way back to college in order to grease up the gears. Is it your dream to sail around the world? Take a sailing class. Do you want to start eating a healthier diet? Take organic cooking classes. Do you want to get active? Start with yoga or some sort of aerobics class. Even if your dream is to ride around the forest with a crossbow and hunt your own food, you will first need to learn to ride a horse, and then learn to use a crossbow. There are classes for all these things, and it is never too late to take them! If you can’t afford to pay a teacher, there are always books and internet tutorial videos.

Surround Yourself with Positive Examples

Very few things have more influential power over us than the people we interact with most. Make sure this fact is working in your favor instead of against you. When you surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do, you can let their progress inspire your own. You get to see all the little things that go into their accomplishments. You can study their habits and question your own in turn. This doesn’t work as well if you are not able to look critically at yourself. In fact, if you are used to being around people who are stagnant and petty, your first reaction to a real achiever might be intimidation, jealousy, or insecurity. If you can push past these things and admit everything you have to learn, a world of possibilities opens up before you.

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Start by choosing a mentor. This is can be any person with whom you enter into a relationship under the stated pretenses of learning about what they do. A good mentor will be patient and understanding of your learning process in a way that other random acquaintances are not. A good mentor will also question you, call you out, and point you in the right direction. It is up to you to respond accordingly to such criticism. This can turn out to be the first step towards many changes in what you look for in all future relationships.

Our culture is so focused on attachment to comfort and convenience that it might seem completely silly to suggest leaving these things behind.  The journey is not for everyone, but those who see it through to the end almost always have fewer regrets than those who stay inside. Stepping outside your comfort zone is an important decision not to be taken lightly. If you want to live your life to the fullest, you must let go of fear and be willing to change your beliefs. The sooner you start to change your habits the farther you will go.

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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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