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An Open Letter to My Teenage Self

An Open Letter to My Teenage Self

Dear Teenage Self,

Oh, how I wish you could see what I see now. I’m older, and life has made me wiser. Nothing is the way I thought it would be. It’s so much better.

When I look back, I see you as one person but I know there were two of you: one that the world saw and the private one that only you knew. I remember the nights and days filled with worry, sadness, and confusion. I remember being both of you. I remember the smile I would show to my friends and then I remember the tears no one knew that I cried behind my closed bedroom door.

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Oh, how I wish I knew that everything would be okay someday. But, I probably wouldn’t have believed it at the time.

Oh, how I remember those teenage years as the most painful years of my life. Living under a microscope. Everything was magnified. I know it’s hard to believe, but your teenage feelings, friendships, family, and appearance are way out of proportion. You think that whatever happens will stay that way forever. Nothing is farther from the truth. Nothing stays the same.

Steve Carrell said it best in Little Miss Sunshine after Paul Dano told him that he just wants to go to sleep and wake up when he’s 18.  Steve Carrell answered, ““What? High school—those are your prime suffering years. They don’t get better suffering than that.“ “Do you know Marcel Proust? He had a miserable life. He gets to the end of his life and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, those were the best years of his life because they made him who he was. All those years when he was happy, you know… a total waste. He didn’t learn a thing. Sleep until you’re 18? Think of the suffering you’ll miss.”

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It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Your teenage years were the best suffering of your life. Those painful breakups, lonely nights, and tears cried are the times that make you stronger, smarter and sculpt you to become the rock-solid adult that you will become.

Peer pressure helps you define yourself.

If it weren’t for your friends testing your limits, how would you know what you believe in? How would you know what you like and who you want to be?  Peer pressure is a mirror that’s held up to your face every day that says, “is that really who you want to be? Which group of people do you want to be with?” Peer pressure is the fork in the road that helps you define your life goals. Even though it doesn’t seem like it at the time, you have a chance to know what doesn’t feel right to you. That’s how you know what does feel right. That’s how you know who you are, what you stand for and what you believe in. It’s when your morals and values become sealed in your soul.

Dramatic moments teach you to manage your emotions.

Your emotional moments feel like your world is ending. Every time your heart breaks from a boy who doesn’t love you (even though you thought he did), or when you feel people whisper as you walk through the hallways at school—these are the times when you learn how to manage your emotions. Through the tears, you discover your backbone. That bone becomes your core, your solid foundation that will carry you through all the losses, sadness, and even the joy of the years to come. Your drama helps you to regulate your feelings and stabilize your emotions.  

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The bedroom is your private place to discover your true self.

Those tearful nights that you spent feeling misunderstood were the nights when you discovered your creative visions. Those were the nights when my pen was my best friend, always there for me to help me work through my pain. Those tearful nights in your bedroom will bring out your creative self. Let it all out. Let your creative juices flow. One day you will look back on those nights and thank them for introducing you to your passions and creative future self.

There is no love like a parent’s love.

As much as you feel like your parents are out to make your life miserable, when you look back, you will see the love in your parent’s hearts. They were just afraid you would make the wrong choices and wanted to protect you, not control you. As my mother said, “You will only understand how I feel when you become a parent.” She was right. Thank you, Mom. I understand now. A mother wants to breathe her child’s air before he does to make sure it’s okay for him. Her heart yearns deeply for your success and happiness. Your father does too, but he probably doesn’t know how to express it. Your parent’s love teaches you how to become a parent.

Your first love was not true love.

You couldn’t eat, and you couldn’t sleep; love was all you thought about it. Nothing mattered but you and him. You thought you would never love like that again. Even though you were sure it was perfect, that was not true love. It was fun; it felt great and looking back, it still makes me smile, but teenage love does not compare to adult love. Love gets even better than that.

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Break-ups are not the end of the world.

Friendships broke up and boyfriends dumped you, and you were sure the world was coming to an end, when in reality, you were just growing resilient for the future challenges. Life is full of disappointments, break-ups, losses, and broken dreams. Those teenage losses taught you to deal with the ups and downs of life.

True friends are there for you no matter what, when, or wherever you need them.

Teenage years all about friendships. Some of those friendships will remain throughout the years. Sometimes you won’t speak to each other for years but whenever you need each other, you will show up and pick up where you left off, as if nothing changed. These friendships taught me the value of a true friend and how to be one.

Thank you dear teenage self, for the best suffering of life. Thank you for teaching me the lessons from those broken-hearted moments, breakups, and tear-stained pillows.

I learned that I became stronger than I ever thought I could be. I learned how to stand up for what I believe in. I learned that I am an artist, a poet, and a writer. I learned how to show my children love and teach them how to love themselves. I learned how to pick myself up, brush myself off, and continue to move forward through the difficult times. I learned the meaning of friendship and love. I learned that true love is real. Happily ever after does exist, but it’s hard work that’s worth the effort.

Thank you for the pain, mistakes, and heartache that will become the best teachers. Embrace those painful moments. Those are the years that will teach you how to laugh, love and live a meaningful life.

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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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