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What Happened to Me When I Let Go of My Fear of Being Alone

What Happened to Me When I Let Go of My Fear of Being Alone

Having a fear of being alone isn’t fun. What will you do when you have to make decisions all by yourself? How will you occupy yourself without somebody to talk to? These questions and concerns run though your head while your heart pounds. The thought of going to a movie without a friend is enough to make some people tremble. I used to be one of them. Now I know it isn’t so bad. When I let go of my fear of being alone, these four things happened.

1. I learned interesting things about myself

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” –J.K. Rowling

This might sound crazy, but you don’t have as much free will as you think you do. Almost half of your decisions are directly influenced by subconscious programing—stuff you don’t even realize you’re doing.

According to Duke University, 40% of your daily actions are not based on logic or reason. Instead, they are habits that you perform without thought-process. Knowing that, how do you propose to understand yourself if you never take the time to pause and reflect?

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Most people stagger through life like mindless automatons, because they never stop to consider what causes their behavior. As a result, they can’t change their behavior for the better. Practicing meditation and keeping a private journal helped me dig deep enough to locate the roots that were responsible for my habits. I learned how to be more compassionate with myself, cope with self-defeating beliefs, and leverage my personal strengths for more success.

2. I became more confident in my personality

“If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone.” —Maxwell Maltz

Don’t you think weekends might be more enjoyable if you weren’t 100% dependent on other people? It’s amazing how so many folks feel like they can’t do something fun unless a friend tags along.

I remember when I used to feel that way in college. Ironically, due of my fear of being alone, I spent a lot of Saturday nights locked in my dorm room feeling sad, because I really wanted to go see a movie or a play or a concert, but no one else was available to go. I didn’t want to go out all by myself, because I thought I would look like a loser.

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Eventually, I realized my dependence on other people was completely unhealthy, so I decided it was time to get over it. I began my healing process by going to a coffee shop on my own. I took a book, which was a crutch (I was convinced people would stare at me, so it was nice to have a place to avert my gaze). But it helped me ease into it. It took me a while to get comfortable enough to interact with strangers, but now I can, and I became more confident in the process.

3. I realized conformity is nothing to be proud of

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” —John F. Kennedy

Have you ever thought you were in a room by yourself, and decided to burst out in song or do a silly dance? Then you realized you actually weren’t alone (OMG someone saw the whole thing!), and you felt so embarrassed that you wished you could disappear?

If so, then you should know how tempting it is to conform due to a fear of judgment. People cannot be trusted to share their true selves when they are being watched. You want people to like you and you sure as hell don’t want to be criticized, so you’ll subconsciously censor yourself in a misguided effort to fit in.

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Apply this thinking to the Internet. If your public behavior is influenced by the presence of others, don’t you think your online behavior might be influenced by the prospect of an All Seeing Eye monitoring your email and social media activity? You better believe it is. Try to catch yourself in the act of self-censorship if you don’t believe me. This is why I roll my eyes when people say online privacy doesn’t matter. Be yourself. If a person can’t accept you, they don’t deserve you.

4. I changed into a happier, more productive person

“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.” —Audrey Hepburn

You know what’s funny? I’m an introvert, but I didn’t even know it until I was over 20 years old. My past desire to conform made me think I was “supposed to” hang out with other people after school or work, but spending time alone taught me that I didn’t really enjoy that at all.

Don’t misread me. I believe friendship is very important. We all need at least one like-minded friend who is worthy of our trust. It’s hard to deal with life’s down moments without a person to talk to. But that doesn’t mean you need to hang out with your friends at a bar or restaurant every single evening. That sounds exhausting (not to mention expensive)!

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Being alone rejuvenates me in a way that is hard to explain. I call the apartment I live in my “fortress of solitude.” I have grown to love living alone so much that I’m not sure I would trade it for anything. I can wake up, turn on some classical music, work without interruption, and get so lost in writing that I lose track of time. I can grab a good book, snuggle up with my dog, and read in silence. It’s nice to have company sometimes, but I am a lot happier when that is the exception, not the norm.

Being alone is nothing to fear.

Remember: this is all coming from a guy who used to have a fear of being alone. Give it a chance if you doubt me. It might change your life. If you have any friends who might share that fear, go ahead and send them here for some inspiration!

Featured photo credit: Girl Looking at Landscape Nature/Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.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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