I was extremely self-conscious growing up. As a kid, I’d look in the mirror and wonder if my ears looked strange or ask my mom if my voice sounded really weird.
I was overly concerned with what others thought of me and trying to achieve some ideal of appearance or “coolness” which I believed existed.
“Self-consciousness is being preoccupied with oneself, especially with how others may perceive one’s appearance or actions.”
Imagine my shock after years and years to discover that the coolest thing of all is to be confident about who you are and be true to yourself.
Yet I admit that many of these phrases are ones I’ve used in my time, and fellow self-conscious folks can likely relate as well.
Let’s dive in.
There’s nothing wrong with saying sorry.
But saying sorry too often can become a compulsion and a way to undermine yourself.
Those who say sorry all the time come across as having low self-esteem and being overly polite in a way that can sometimes feel insincere.
Don’t say sorry for small things!
2) “Sorry to bother you”
This along the same lines as saying sorry too much:
It’s just not necessary and is one of those verbal habits that weakens your position and makes you seem overly apologetic.
Unless you’re asking a lot of someone while they’re extremely busy, try to minimize how much you use this phrase.
3) “I keep messing up”
This is something highly self-conscious people often say, because their attention is turned on themselves at high focus.
If this is you, then you notice the times when you fall short very keenly.
In reality, you likely don’t mess up more than most other people, which is why saying this too much only reinforces an unrealistically negative self-perception.
4) “I just can’t do anything right”
This is along the same lines as the previous phrase.
It’s a very discouraging sentiment to think about yourself, and while it may feel like this from time to time, it’s a phrase that’s best to get rid of.
Your inner critic is more than annoying enough without giving voice to it.
5) “Would you mind if I…?”
This is a very polite thing to say, but it’s also quite self-conscious in a disempowering way.
It immediately gives all the power to the person you’re talking to, giving them any possible excuse to turn you down.
It’s a good practice to try being more direct.
6) “Do you think it would be possible for…”
This is another version of “would you mind” and it puts you on the back foot right from the start.
It indicates a lack of real belief and confidence in what you’re asking.
“This gives a clear direction to the recipient that you don’t honestly believe in what you are saying and gives them complete control of what happens next,” notes Ryan Luke.
7) Do I look OK?”
Asking if you look good is something we all do from time to time.
But folks who ask others about their appearance a lot tend to be highly self-conscious in a way which can become a burden.
It not only makes others feel like they have to provide constant validation, but can make you feel worse and worse if you don’t believe that you really do look good.
8) “Do they look better than me?”
When you’re quite self-conscious, asking if other people look “cooler” or better than you can happen quite a bit.
Let’s be honest:
There will always be people of many different appearances and styles around.
Comparing ourselves to a nebulous and ever-changing group of “others,” for better or worse, is a losing game and distracts focus and wellbeing from our own life.
9) “Do you know what I mean?”
This can be a fair thing to ask, especially if somebody looks quite confused about what you’re saying.
But when you’re very self-conscious this can be a reflexive and instinctive question.
I used to tack it on the end of almost everything I said.
The key is to trust that if somebody doesn’t know what you mean they will ask you.
10) “Sorry I’m so emotional about this”
Don’t apologize for your emotions.
Highly self-conscious people tend to feel bad for feeling bad.
Don’t be this hard on yourself and let yourself off the hook a little bit. You’re not a bad or weak person for feeling strongly about something.
11) “Sorry I’m talking so much”
Don’t apologize for talking a lot.
Self-conscious people often do this, and the problem is that if you really are talking a lot, there’s no sense in talking more by apologizing for it.
Just talk a bit less in that instance…
As award-winning behavioral strategist and Harvard-trained leadership coach Shadé Zahrai says:
“Apologizing for talking detracts from your message. If you start to feel like you’re taking up a lot of stage time, simply pause and let the audience digest the information.”
12) “I’m not an expert, but…”
This statement is something that a person with quite self-conscious tendencies will often preface their thoughts with…
But here’s the thing:
You don’t need to be an expert for your opinion and thoughts to be worth something.
Even being an expert doesn’t necessarily make somebody correct, even if it does add more weight to their words.
13) “I guess what I mean is…”
The word “guess” is quite a slippery word.
If you’re quite self-conscious you may find it creeping into your lexicon in many ways.
The truth is that it just dilutes whatever is said and usually adds a peppering of self-doubt and hesitancy to anything that’s said.
14) “It’s just my opinion”
This is a phrase that adds a hint of doubt to whatever has just been said.
When you’re highly self-conscious it’s the kind of thing you say in order to not feel so much pressure.
You said something brilliant, interesting, random, odd, who knows:
But you make sure to add that it’s only an “opinion,” in order not to feel quite as pressured to stand behind your words if they turn out to be unpopular or cause a backlash.
15) “It might be a bit weird to say, but…”
It might be weird, it might not.
But this phrase is very typical of a self-conscious individual who worries about how their words will be received.
The fact is that even if you are worried your comments will be seen as weird, there’s no need to reinforce it by adding this or putting the thought in people’s heads.
16) “You probably know a lot more than me about it, but…”
This is not necessarily an accurate assumption.
If you’re quite self-conscious, you may say this as a way to be gracious or to not overestimate yourself.
But whether or not somebody else knows more than you on a certain subject, it’s best to just find out instead of weakening your position right off the bat.
Finding the good side of being self-conscious
There is a redeeming quality to being self-conscious:
The fact that it means you are highly self-aware. The key is simply to turn that self-awareness into empowering and useful action, rather than self-criticism and self-doubt.
The high level of consciousness is there, now it’s just a matter of realizing that you’re much better than you realize and there’s nothing wrong with you.
“Try to remind yourself that people aren’t thinking and talking about you like you think they are…
“Challenge the way you think about yourself. Let yourself know that the world around you is not better than you.”
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