My name is Alex, and I’m a self-conscious wreck.
At least, I used to be most of the time.
Self-consciousness stops us enjoying the beauty of interacting with others and delivering our truth.
We can end up in a spiral of doubt, poor performance and further doubt.
It can be crippling. I’ve been there many times, and it has held me back.
We’re human, and it’s ok to feel a little self-conscious. In fact, it is helpful. It keeps us from heading out of the house with no trousers on.
I get it up to that point.
But for it to consume you, and for it to ruin otherwise enriching interactions, it is a waste.
Life is too short to worry like this.
The first step is in understanding that it’s all your fault.
It’s not the fault of others that you are self-conscious right now.
It’s your fault.
You take yourself too seriously.
You take your thoughts seriously. Those mythical thoughts that make you unnecessarily fearful.
I certainly did, and still do too often.
But there is power in accepting this.
Only you can take your attention away from negative thought.
Which is what you need to do.
Redirecting your attention from negative thoughts.
It is not easy, but it is vital.
This is what will break that cycle of rumination, anxiety, sweating, and depression.
And this needs to become a habit. I’d argue that this is the most vital one of them all.
“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
How do you do this?
People tell you to ‘be present.’
But that’s bloody hard because if you’re trying to be present, you’re still trying, and you’re still self-conscious. So scrap that.
Eckhart Tolle was right, but only in theory.
We can’t simply ‘be present’ when we’re shit scared.
We can train to be present behind the scenes. To get out of our minds and into our bodies.
That’s good. That can be developed through walking, play, exercise, observation and concentration meditation.
But what you want is a way of chilling out when you’re with people.
And trying to be present will get you out of your head for about two seconds. Then you’re back.
You’re thinking about you again.
What we need is to be engaged in the moment.
Not trying to be present, but really engaged with something other than your thoughts.
“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” – Ray Bradbury
You must get into the habit of focusing on something specific.
Oh no, you made it this far, and now Alex is hitting you with the woo woo stuff.
Take a hike, Mathers!
Hold it. This is important.
Stop for a moment and find that sensation in you that is the source of life and joy. It might take some uncovering. But you can uncover that spark.
Your spirit, soul, life force — whatever you want to call it.
It is a very real energy.
It is a sensation that runs through all of us and has done since before we were knocking stones together to make fire.
It is truth, as opposed to the myth of thought.
You’ll find it. It is there.
Being aware of your spirit is essential for feeling more joy; knowing what to focus on; what matters in your life, and knowing with whom it is worth spending your time.
Now, finding your spirit is one thing. But here is where your life can really change:
Find that spirit in other people too.
The people that matter to you.
By searching for it in others, you will step out of your head.
Observe; encourage; listen; smile.
Help them become more calm, more present, more alive.
That’s your focus.
You are now a leader. No longer the victim.
When you were self-conscious, your thinking was: “What will they think of me?”
Now, it’s: “What’s interesting about them?”
And: “How can I bring them to life?”
What makes this easier? To know what your own spirit feels like in the first place.
And so you are on a mission to spread that fever.
Find what makes you come alive. Then find what makes others come alive.
When you do this, you will find yourself slowing down to notice details.
“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
You’re looking for — and uncovering — the truth and the passion in others.
There is joy to this seeking.
People become fascinating.
Relationships become fruitful and win-win.
You become present without even trying.
Colour returns to your interactions.
You are yourself again.
So move your focus from:
…to spirit — both in you and others.
This is a small shift, but will take strength because we are so used to trying to fix ourselves by thinking.
Thoughts feel secure.
But thought is not truth. They are invention.
So let go.
The rest will work itself out.
This is a habit. It is a muscle to be strengthened. It can take work to undo the years of self-obsessed thought, so stay with it.
You will get better at it. It will become automatic.
It is hard to leave your old self behind, but like Steven Hayes says: “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
Move your focus, and you will be free.
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Originally published at alexmathers.net