What to do when friends only talk about themselves and their problems

Do you have any friends who talk too much and don’t ask you any questions? Then, you know what it’s like to be stuck in The Listener’s Trap.

But how do you break out of that trap? And how do you know if your relationship is worth saving?

Here are my 10 best tips on what to do when people only talk about themselves and don’t ask you any questions.

1. Ask their opinion about a problem you have to switch the focus over to you

I like this trick because you can use it in almost any conversation and it’s also interesting for the other person.

Here’s how you use the “opinion trick” in 3 quick and easy steps:

  1. Think of a problem you have in your life that you don’t know the solution to.
  2. Ask your friend about their opinion.
  3. Keep talking a bit more about the problem before you change the subject.

Done! You have now switched the focus of the conversation to you.

Here is an example of how to use the “opinion trick”:

Problem: Should I join a dance course or not?

“I have this problem I want to hear your opinion on. I’m thinking if I should join the new dance course or not. It sounds really fun, but it costs $300 for 10 lessons, and I’m not sure if I’ll fit in. What do you think?”

If your friend isn’t too self-absorbed, he or she will give you some advice and then you can keep talking about it for a bit if you want.

You’ll notice how the conversation feels much better once you’ve got to talk a bit about yourself and your life.

If they don’t really give you any advice or just turn the conversation back to them. Try the “sharing principle” instead.

2. Make sure to share as much as the other person shares

This principle is great if you are talking with someone who doesn’t ask you any questions.

The sharing principle goes like this:

Share as much about yourself as the other person shares about themselves. (Do this EVEN IF they don’t ask you about it.)

Why does this work?

When you start sharing more about yourself, you break the pattern of the listener’s trap. The other person will no longer see you as just the listener so they won’t talk as much.

Also, when you share personal details about yourself, the other person will start becoming more interested and invested in you as a person.

You know, if someone says they bought a lottery ticket – you get curious to know if they won or not. It’s the same thing here, but you need to share something to create that curiosity.

This principle can be challenging if you’re not used to sharing that much about yourself. If you’re like me, you might have to push yourself a bit to start talking more.

Here are some tips on how you can start sharing more:

  1. At the start of the conversation, after the other person told you about their day. Share a bit about your day. (Try to include one small negative thing and finish it off with something positive.)
  2. Talk about tricky problems or dilemmas you have where the other person could have an interesting opinion.

If they still don’t seem to care about you or if they turn the conversation back to them again, there’s something else you can try. I call it the “preparation method”.

3. Tell your friend in a constructive way that you need to talk about you, too

Don’t write off a friendship until you have had a conversation with your friend about the problem. Often, people don’t realize that they are monopolizing the conversation. By making them aware of it, you can change the entire dynamics of your friendship.

Ask yourself these questions to prepare before talking about it with your friend:

  1. What is actually happening in the conversation that is preventing you from talking? (Does my friend interrupt me, or do they simply never pause long enough for me to get a word in? Or do they turn the conversation back to them when you say something? )
  2. How does it make me feel when this happens?
  3. How does this affect your relationship with each other?
  4. What can you do to help improve the issue?
  5. What can you ask your friend to do to help improve the issue?

Here is an example of a conversation addressing the “listener’s trap”:

“Hey Paul, I wanted to talk to you for a minute. I enjoy hanging out with you, but sometimes I have a hard time getting a chance to talk during our conversations. I care about you as my friend and enjoy hearing about your life, but I need more space to talk about my life as well.”

It can help to acknowledge the positive parts of your friendship. That way your friend doesn’t believe you’re implying that the relationship is all bad. It also reminds you both why the relationship is worth saving.

Another guideline for having a conversation about a problem is to avoid accusations such as, “You always do all the talking”, or “You never listen to me”. Always and never are bad ways to describe something, and it’s more likely to make your friend defensive.

If your friend becomes defensive, they might begin firing back with a list of things they think you do and don’t do, and this paves the way for a full-blown fight.

Using “I” statements (like “I feel” and, “I think”) helps you to make statements only about how you are feeling and what you are thinking. This is different from accusing your friend about what they think and feel (which will make them defensive and upset).

Instead of saying “You do this”, and “You do that”, say instead, “I feel ____________ when __________ happens.”

This makes the same point without making your friend defensive.

And remember, this single conversation can improve your whole friendship.

Click here to read more about how to have a difficult talk like that with a friend.

4. Distance yourself if your friend is toxic

Unfortunately, some people are a lost cause, you can’t change someone who isn’t willing to change.

One-sided relationships are not true friendships. It’s easy to see that it’s not worth it to spend your time and energy on a person like that. But it’s not always easy to break up, especially if you’re a nice person who doesn’t like conflict.

In these cases, I recommend starting to spend less time with that person and focusing more on others. Because why would you invest in a relationship with someone if they don’t give anything back?

When you become more distant, there’s even a chance they will try to “win you back”. If they start to ask you how you are that’s a good sign.

Let them know how serious of a problem their unwillingness to share the conversation is. Hopefully, this will motivate them to make a change.

To be clear, I’m not recommending that you play “hard to get” with your friend. But the act of distancing yourself from the friendship doesn’t have to mean it’s a permanent break.

Some ways to distance yourself include:

  • Stop taking phone calls/responding to messages from that person
  • Say “no” to invitations to hang out
  • Spend more time with other friends instead
  • Don’t put yourself in situations where you are likely to meet the toxic friend

Sometimes it can be easier to tell the person that you don’t want to spend time with them anymore. This is difficult and uncomfortable, but it may be necessary to cut away the toxicity from your life.

Your conversation could sound something like this:

“Ashley, I really care about you as a person, but this friendship isn’t healthy for me and I need to spend more time with my other friends instead.”

If you want to go into more detail, you can say:

“We had a conversation before about how I don’t get much space to talk in our conversations, and that hasn’t improved since we discussed it. Our friendship feels one-sided and it’s doing me more harm than good.”

There is no need to be rude or disrespectful, but it’s also unnecessary to mince words or try and sugar-coat the issue. It’s better if they get it sooner rather than later.

5. Look for signs if your friend is toxic or using you

Ask yourself this: Do they really care about you and your feelings? Or, do they only care about themselves and use you to vent about their problems?

If they actually care about you, they might be unaware they talk too much and act so self-centered. In that case, your friendship may be worth saving.

True friendship is built on mutual respect and care for each other. If your friend isn’t interested in your life, you might be their friend, but they are not really your friend.

Here are 10 warning signs to help tell if someone is a bad or toxic friend:

  1. You don’t look forward to seeing them
  2. They make you feel bad about yourself
  3. You don’t get the support or help you need from them
  4. They often lie to you or others
  5. They don’t listen when you talk about how you feel
  6. Do they brush you off and turn the discussion back to themselves when you try to share?
  7. They get annoyed or talk louder when you try to say something
  8. It drains your energy to be with them
  9. They only talk to you when they need something from you
  10. They don’t ask you any questions about how you are and don’t show they care about you

If a lot of these signs match your relationship, it might not be worth trying to save this relationship.

Click here to read more about how to tell fake friends from real friends.

I have quite a bit of my own experience in this area. Many times I’ve invested in a friendship and tried to be a good friend, but I never got anything in return. To nobody’s surprise, those friendships didn’t last.

In hindsight, I can now see what was happening more clearly…

The majority of the people in those one-sided relationships were using me for something: a ride, money, free therapy, or a place to stay.

If you are always pouring into other people and never being poured into yourself, eventually your cup will run dry. In other words, you only have so much to give if you never get anything back. A healthy friendship is supposed to give you more energy, not less.

This doesn’t mean that everyone who’s a bad listener is using you. Next, we’ll look at the signs of a good friend (who might just be a bad listener).

6. Look for signs if your friend cares about you (even if they only talk about themselves)

Here are 10 good signs to help tell if someone cares about you:

  1. You look forward to seeing them
  2. They make you feel good about yourself
  3. They support and help you when you need it
  4. They are honest with you
  5. They care about how you feel
  6. They ask you questions that show they care
  7. They are interested in what you have to say and what you think
  8. You feel inspired and energized after meeting them
  9. They want to hang out with you without any hidden reasons (like asking for favors)
  10. You know that they’ll be there for you if you need them

If you can see that more than 1 of these signs match your friendship, it may be worth saving.

So, let’s talk about what you can do with your friend who only talks about herself/himself and doesn’t show interest in you.

7. Break the pattern where you are the listener

Here’s a quote from a reader of ours that I think is a great example of the listener’s trap:

“After about 6 months of “friendship”, these people turn to me as someone to talk to, as I always seem interested in their daily affairs.

The difficulty is that my friends just want to talk about themselves. I am afraid that if I start talking about myself, these friends would find me whiny and stop being friends with me!

I personally think that I may be not interesting enough to people, and thus people don’t seem to take interest in what I say or do – they just like me for being someone they can vent to or talk to or seek advice from.

At first, I enjoyed the attention but right now I’m getting a little tired of this as it never seems to be my turn to speak – the conversation always turns back to them.”

This is a common trap when you start becoming a better listener: Most people love to talk about themselves and their problems to a good listener.

In the beginning, when you develop your listening ability, it feels great.

People will want to talk to you for hours, about themselves… And you probably keep it going by asking good follow-up questions, reflecting on what they said, and making them feel heard.

But in the heat of the moment, you might ignore what you think is interesting and focus on what you notice that they like talking about.

The problem here is that you’ve created a pattern in your relationship where you’re the listener, and they’re the talker.

It’s natural for them to assume you like to listen because that’s what you’ve shown with your behavior. So that’s how the pattern is created. And then you start feeling trapped always being the listener.

What we really want is a balanced relationship where we can talk about things we BOTH find interesting, not what just one of us finds interesting.

8. Talk about commonalities to teach people that you aren’t just going to be the listener

When it comes to new relationships, make sure to establish a more balanced relationship from the start. It’s a lot easier than trying to get out of the listener’s trap.

To do this, first focus on finding commonalities. By talking about mutual interests, you both get to talk about topics you enjoy.

Click here to learn how to determine another person’s interests.

Not only will you enjoy the conversation more, but the other person should have less of a problem letting you speak when you’re talking about something they are also interested in.

(Disclaimer: Some people believe they are the experts on every topic and interest and continue to monopolize the discussion anyway. We’ll discuss how to deal with that a little later).

When a relationship is in its early stages, make an effort to bond with the other person by sharing about your own life in addition to listening to them talk about theirs. While you want to show that you are a good listener, it’s important to understand the balance involved in making good conversation.

If you set yourself up to only be a listener, they may come to believe you don’t want to talk and feel that they have to carry the conversation to avoid awkward silences.

9. “I’m afraid that if I start talking about myself, they would find me whiny and stop being friends with me.”

As I mentioned, this is why it’s so important to find mutual interests in your friendship and use these as the bulk of your conversation topics.

However, true friendships will provide you with the time and safe space you need to share the details of your life.

Genuine friends will care enough about you to listen to things about your life that aren’t particularly interesting to them; to put it differently, some things may only be interesting to your friends because they’re interesting to you and they care about you.

As a good friend, you will do the same for your friends by listening to details about their hobbies and interests that may not also be your hobbies and interests.

This is true for any type of relationship, and I have an example:

I am really passionate about plants (especially anything edible, and also orchids), but my girlfriend doesn’t really care for it that much. Still, she’ll entertain me and let me talk about all the latest happenings with my plants from time to time. I think she at least enjoys my passion and seeing how happy I am about it.

And on the other side, she’s really interested in cute animal videos, while I’m not. But I’ll still indulge her from time to time and watch something with her. I still like seeing what she likes and I love seeing her happy.

But on the whole, I’d say 90% of our topics are mutual interests.

Part of any healthy friendship or another type of relationship is learning how to balance your conversations between those that are mutually interesting and those that are specific to only one of you. It is this balance that will help you avoid sounding “whiny” when you talk about yourself.

In addition, when talking about yourself do it once per conversation and then be done talking about it (unless they ask you more about it).

Next time you see them, it’s fine to catch them up on anything else that’s happened related to the situation, but again, don’t turn it into something that you harp on the entire time.

David told me about a mindset that simplifies the idea of mutual interests. He said: “I have the ambition to talk about what the other person also finds interesting.”

It’s not about NEVER being allowed to talk about anything else, it’s simply about making mutual interests your primary focus.

For example, I have one friend I rarely talk psychology with (even if it’s a big part of my life), because I know he’s not interested in that. But I also know he’s very interested in nutrition and health, so I might bring that up in a conversation with him. We can talk about it for hours sometimes.

Then I have another friend who’s not really interested in nutrition, but he loves discussing philosophy and also deeper personal issues. So I talk more about that with him.

With another friend, I talk more about politics, traveling, and gaming.

And so it goes. The point is that I rarely talk about something that ONLY interests me, like my daily affairs or a special interest. Instead, I find something that interests the BOTH of us. That way I can keep a balanced and rewarding conversation where we both talk about as much.

Also, keep the 50/50-rule in mind: Talk about as much as you listen.

The 50/50-rule helps remind me to keep my conversations balanced, especially when I find myself beginning to ramble.

Learning to have balanced conversations can help you avoid sounding whiny whenever you talk about yourself to your friends.

10. How to judge if your relationship is worth saving

According to one study on modern friendships, the characteristics of true friendship are an important part of our mental and emotional support system as we develop throughout our lives. These qualities “include self-disclosure and liking, help and support, shared interests and activities, and expressions of closeness.” (1)

The study also discovered that the participants’ valued friendships the most when they BOTH had fun together. They described those friendships as “inclusive. (1)

If you’re unable to share your life (“self-disclosure”) and your interests/activities with someone, then you can ask yourself if it is a friendship at all. Also, if the person you’re spending time with never lets you talk, it’s not an inclusive friendship.

Here’s what I’m getting at: According to research-based definitions of friendship, a person who never lets you talk may not really be your friend at all. This realization can change the way you go about things as you attempt to break out of the listener’s trap.

In a real friendship, abruptly changing the things you do or the way you act can be awkward. But if the relationship isn’t a real friendship, it probably won’t make much of a difference when you make changes. If your “friend” spends all your time together talking about himself or herself, they may not even notice.

The “listener’s trap” isn’t a fun place to be; it’s harmful to your friendships and harmful to you by causing you to miss out in your relationships. Breaking free of this trap isn’t easy, but it is possible and you can do it one small step at a time.

Are you stuck in the “listener’s trap” with any of your friends? Describe your situation in the comments below and I’ll give you my best advice!

References:

  1. Niland, P., Lyons, A. C., Goodwin, I., & Hutton, F. 2015. Friendship work on facebook: Young adults’ understanding and practice of friendship. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 25. 123-137. DOI: 10.1002/casp.2201.

Why some people are so popular DESPITE their looks

When you're warm toward people, they like you back

Today I’m going to talk about why some people are so incredibly popular socially DESPITE their looks (and without having anything else in life going for them at all).

You see, once I was at a computer LAN (Dreamhack, here in Sweden). There, I came across a woman who was both obese and short. There was nothing about her looks that was in her favor. Her cheeks and shoulders connected seamlessly. She resembled a squish ball.

Let’s be honest. People who are unattractive often have a harder time in social life.

Still, this person was by far the most popular person in the room.

People, guys and girls alike, wanted to talk to her. You could see how people physically gravitated towards her like nails to a magnet.

Naturally, this caught my interest and I had to understand: WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON HERE?

As I eavesdropped to get a feel for what she said, I realized that she had a different way of communicating than most others.

She acted as if she assumed people would like her – so they did.

With that, she broke out of what we can call…

“The self-fulfilling prophecy of unattractiveness”

unpopular person

People aren’t disliked because they’re unattractive. They’re disliked because they behave as if they are unlikable. For example, they often wait for others to show liking to them before they show liking to others. This makes them come off as distant, aloof or arrogant. Because of that, people don’t show them liking, and this confirms their worldview that their unattractiveness makes them unlikable.

Read more: How to become likable.

Here’s a fact almost only skilled sales-people know about:

YOU create the reality with each person you meet.

When a great salesperson begins an interaction, and he acts as if he is certain that the customer will sign the contract, he’s more likely to get a signature. If the salesperson flinches, widens their eyes and looks expectantly at the paper, they are less likely to get the signature than if he would send over the paper and casually start talking about what’ll happen next.

This means that they’ve altered the customer’s reality. They created a reality where it was natural for the other person to sign the contract.

Another example: Who do people follow at parties and events? Those who say “Let’s go”, and walk confidently towards their destination, or those who say “You really need to follow me, don’t stay here” and then wait for others to start moving before they start walking.

Likewise, we create the reality of whether people will like us or not.

popular people

The girl at the LAN broke the self-fulfilling prophecy of unattractiveness by ASSUMING that people would like her.

Instead of waiting for people to be nice towards her first she was warm towards them right off the bat

  • Instead of being OVERLY nice to force people to like her she was authentic and natural
  • Instead of looking for others approval she assumed that people liked her
  • Instead of trying to make people like her she showed great interest in others
  • Instead of trying to stand out by impressing others she only told stories about herself when they added entertaining value to the situation

Lesson learned: When every fiber in her body assumed that people should like her, everyone else assumed that too. The results? Everyone in the room, including me, loved her.

Have you come across someone who assumed people liked them? What happened?

I’m excited to hear your thoughts in the comments!

How to Get Core Confidence From Within

How to get core confidence

This is my guide for how to be confident from within. Meaning, not just being confident in a certain area of life, but core confidence – a belief in yourself, always there, no matter what.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

[toc]

Let’s get to it!

1. Get core confidence by changing how you see your flaws and nervosity

Ever tried pushing away a bad feeling or thought just for it to come back stronger than ever?

What you resist will persist – Carl Jung

Let’s say that you have a voice inside of your head telling you that you’re worthless. The intuitive response is to try to silence or fight the thought.

In reality, this makes the thought stronger.

That’s a quirk in human psychology: When we try to fight feelings and thoughts, they grow stronger.

Behavioral scientists and therapists know this. They teach their clients a whole different way to deal with these thoughts: By turning them into our friends and accepting them.

“Oh, here’s the thought that I’m worthless again. I’m going to let it fly around for a while until it dissolves by itself”.

This is the moment where we develop core confidence: Instead of running from bad thoughts and feelings, we accept them.

But David, are you telling me that I should accept that things are bad and just give up!?

Thanks for asking! Accepting is not giving up. In fact, it’s the opposite: Only when we truly accept our situation can we see it for what it is.

When I accept that I’m afraid to go to a party can I see the situation for what it is, and decide to act anyway. (If I didn’t accept that I was scared, my mind would make up an excuse like “The party seems lame”.)

(This is the core of ACT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It’s one of the most widely used therapy methods in the world).

First, you accept your situation, your thoughts, and your feelings. Then, you commit to doing changes for the better.

2. Rather than affirmations, use what scientists call self-compassion to get core confidence

Did you know that affirmations (Like, telling yourself that you’re valuable 10 times each morning, etc) can actually make you LESS confident? It can make your mind go “No I’m not” so you feel LESS valuable than when you started.

Instead, what if you were to say “I feel worthless now, and that’s OK! It’s human to feel worthless at times.” Wouldn’t that be liberating and take much less energy?

This is called self-compassion. I disliked this for a long time because the word self-compassion sounds so flower power-y. But in reality, it’s the most powerful way to build a core-confidence and people with naturally high self-esteem use it all the time.

Here it is in its essence:

Rather than trying to be great all the time, accept that you’re not always great. And that’s OK!

Here’s another way to word it:

“Be sympathetic toward yourself and for the fact that you’re only human. Treat yourself like you would treat a friend you like a lot”

The next time you talk down on yourself or feel bad about something, try instead talking to yourself like you would talk to a friend you like.

3. Use the SOAL-method to find your core confidence in everyday life

So, now I’ve talked about how to accept feelings rather than pushing them away.

But how do you do this on a day-to-day basis?

Here’s an exercise I do whenever I have a bad feeling. It’s called SOAL. (A behavioral scientist taught me this.)

  1. Stop what you’re doing and stop your thought loops.
  2. Observe how it feels in your body. If you feel anxious, where are you anxious? I, for example often feel a moving pressure in my lower chest. Don’t try to stop or change how it feels.
  3. Accept that this is the feeling you have.
  4. Let go of the feeling.

(This should take 1-2 minutes).

What now happens can feel almost magic. After a while, it’s like your body goes “Ok, I’ve signaled and David has finally heard me, so I don’t need to signal anymore!” and the feeling or thought weakens!

Whenever you feel nervous or anxious or have any feeling that stresses you out, remember SOAL. Stop – Observe – Accept – Let go

4. How truly confident people deal with nervosity

People with core confidence still feel nervous. It’s just that they see nervosity in a different way than others do.

I used to see nervosity as a sign that something bad was about to happen. I was like “uh oh! I have that nervosity pressure in my chest. This is BAD! Abort! Abort!”.

As you develop core confidence, you’ll learn that the feeling is just…. A feeling – no more than feeling tired in your legs after taking the stairs.

The next time you feel nervous, practice seeing it as a feeling without adding a negative emotion to it.

Instead of thinking “Oh no, this is bad, I’m nervous”, you can think “I’m feeling nervous because I’m about to do something I’m not used to.”

When I stopped seeing nervosity as something bad, I could feel confident being nervous.

Remember this the next time you feel nervous:

Nervosity is just a bodily sensation like feeling tired or thirsty. It doesn’t mean that you should stop whatever you want to do.

5. How to increase your self-esteem

Self-esteem is how we value ourselves. If we feel that we aren’t worth much, we have low self-esteem.

I’ve read the science behind how to get more self-esteem, and there are bad news and really good news.

The bad news: There are no good exercises you can do to boost your self-esteem. Affirmations, as I talked about before, can even lower your self-esteem. Out of your comfort zone-exercises just give a temporary boost.

The really good news: You CAN skyrocket your self-esteem by doing changes in your life. Research shows that by setting up goals and achieving those goals increases our self-esteem.

Why? Because they make us feel capable. When we feel capable, we feel worthy.

I, for example, had a goal to move to NYC one day. Now that I’m here, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I feel capable. That has increased my self-esteem.

What’s something you can learn and be really good at?

To start increasing your self-esteem, set up a goal and work toward achieving that goal.

6. Borrow the mindset of a confident person (How would a confident person react?)

When I did something embarrassing, I used to bash myself for weeks and months over it. A very socially savvy friend taught me a new mindset: How would a truly confident person react if they did what I just did?

Most often, I come to the conclusion that they wouldn’t care. If a confident person doesn’t care, why should I care? Asking myself what a confident person would do has over time helped me internalize core confidence.

Core confidence isn’t about never messing up. It’s about being OK with messing up.

7. There exists a specific type of meditation that will build your core confidence

I’ve never been much for meditation. I thought it was for hippies. Then, a couple of years ago, I got problems with stress and I had to learn ways to cope with that.

I started doing a body scan meditation, which is basically that you focus on what your body feels like from your toes and all the way up to the top of your head and then back. You start by focusing only on feeling your toes, then feet, then move up slowly and feel your ankles, then your calves, and so on.

You just pay attention to how it feels without evaluating it or labeling it or having thoughts about it.

After a while, you’ve reached your chest and you probably feel anxiety and all kinds of things, but you just slowly continue past it until you’ve reached the top of your head. Then you go back again.

Over time, something happens.

You start accepting whatever you feel in your body without reacting to it. This creates a calm that’s hard to describe, but you can imagine that after you’ve done this scan a couple of hundreds of times, you’ve learned that all these sensations in your body are just an ongoing process – you don’t need to worry about it!

Doing this body scan meditation has helped me develop core confidence.

Here’s a good guide to body scan meditation.

8. Why out of your comfort zone-stunts won’t build core confidence & what to do instead

I have a friend, Nils, who started off as a rather self-conscious and shy person (like most of us do). He managed to evolve through the “loud, compensating self-confidence” to finally arrive at the grounded, authentic, core confidence.

I know that people who get to know him today are certain that he’s born with his confidence.

During one period in his life, Nils tried pushing as far out of his comfort zone as he possibly could

laying down in a busy street

Like laying down on a busy street

Speaking in front of a large crowd

Doing stand-up on the subway

talking to girl self-confidenceTalking to girls he felt attracted to.

It’s worth noting that he didn’t pull off all of these things because he felt confident. He did it because he didn’t want to feel nervous.

Here’s what most people will never know about extreme out-of-your-comfort-zone stunts you see on Youtube: They aren’t very effective at building permanent confidence.

Just after Nils had succeeded with a stunt, he obviously felt like he was on the top of the world. But after a few hours, the feeling had worn off. A few days after, he felt like he was back to square one.

He told me that during these years in his life, he didn’t feel secure in his confidence. It bothered him that he still had created this personality of being the one who could do anything but still felt nervous.

When you work hard towards eradicating nervousness, you might have some success. But then the following happens:

First, life throws you a situation where you WILL get nervous despite all your work to eradicate nervousness. As you’ve worked so hard to eradicate it, you feel like you’ve failed: “All this work to become truly confident and here I am still getting nervous”.

Obviously, you don’t want to end up in situations where you feel like a failure. So, your brain solves this by subconsciously avoiding situations that will make you feel nervous.

This is a truly ironic side effect of trying to live a confident life.

Nils made two huge realizations:

  • Acknowledging your weaknesses to yourself takes MORE strength than ignoring them
  • Acknowledging your weaknesses to others takes EVEN MORE strength than hiding them

So he decided to strive towards being open and acknowledge whatever he felt. He told me how people truly started to respect him when he stopped trying to hide his weaknesses. They respected him because they saw that he was authentic.

Because we are human, we are afraid at times. We can and should strive towards improving ourselves, but despite this, there will always be times in life when we are afraid.

Superficial confidence is about trying to not come off as afraid. TRUE confidence is to be comfortable with being afraid.

In order for Nils to truly accept who he was in any given situation, he first had to acknowledge and accept whatever feelings or thoughts that situation provoked in him.

It makes sense when you think about it:

Because Nils accepts whatever feelings or thoughts any given situation provokes in him, he can truly accept who he becomes. That gives him core confidence about himself that few people have. It’s the confidence of knowing that even if I become afraid, that’s OK. Even if I let others know that I’m afraid, that’s OK too.

When we stop being afraid of being afraid, core confidence starts replacing that fear.

I’m excited to hear your thoughts about this in the comments!

How to become less self-conscious when all eyes are on you


If there’s one thing I remember from school, it’s the terror of arriving in the mornings.

I remember clearly that walk over the school courtyard, feeling everyone’s eyes on me like lasers scanning my every move.

I used to become so self-conscious that it felt like I’d forgotten how to walk. I had to manually control every move my body made and was certain that now, people didn’t just look, they probably took notes and had discussions about what a strange breed I was.

It wasn’t until one of my last years in school that someone told me something that permanently changed how I viewed things.

He said, “When we arrive at school, no one notices how others look because they’re too concerned with how THEY look”.

That comment applied so specifically to my situation, that I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The following morning, I decided to try something I’d never done before.

I decided to study everyone else in that courtyard.

To my surprise, people did totally different things than looking at me.

People looked nervous, fixed their hair, tried to catch a glimpse of their reflection in the school windows (in the corner of their eyes, so that no one would notice).

At that moment, I made three realizations:

Realization 1: People are incredibly concerned about themselves, so concerned that they have a limited ability to take note of others

I later in life learned that when they DO notice someone else doing something weird, they’re often just relieved that they aren’t the only one who does weird stuff.

Realization 2: When I realized how uncomfortable most people are, I became more comfortable.

This is a weird psychological phenomenon: Imagine walking into a room of people who you know are the most confident, socially savvy people who’ve ever walked this earth. You probably feel intimidated.

Now – imagine walking into a room full of people who are anxious, who will wonder what you think of them, who wish they could become more confident. Now you feel more confident.

What happened at that courtyard was that I’d put the others down from the imaginary pedestal I’d assumed they all were up on. When I took them down to my level, they stopped intimidating me.

Realization 3: When I focused on others, I became less self-conscious.

When I forced my attention out of my own head and paid attention to those around me, I automatically became less self-conscious. There’s a simple reason for why this works: Our brain can only focus on one thing at the time.

Since then, study after study has confirmed this: When test participants are instructed to focus outwards they feel less self-conscious and more confident. (As a side-effect, they also become better at making conversation, because when they focus on others or focus on the conversation instead of their own performance, it’s easier to come up with questions that you can build the conversation on.)

Click here: Learn how to make interesting conversation with anyone.

The next time you feel like everyone’s looking at you, do this:

  1. Analyze the people around you.
  2. Think about how most of them are nervous and self-occupied beneath their confident surface.
  3. Notice how liberating it feels to move the spotlight over to them. They are humans, too!

But what about conversations? When I opened my mouth around strangers, I felt like they would judge my every word.

I later learned that I was overly afraid to make mistakes and show weaknesses.

I didn’t want anyone to know how anxious I felt around strangers or how my head came up with crazy thought loops about what to say or what people would think of me.

What helped me overcome this fear was daring to share those insecurities with others, starting with people I trusted.

It felt really scary and vulnerable in the beginning, but in the end it made me realize that I wasn’t alone, that people didn’t judge me and that I was OK even with the “crazy shit” going on in my head.

This kind of open sharing made me stronger because then, I worried less about hiding my weaknesses.

One of our community members, Mathilda, bravely shared this about one of her fears:

“I’m insecure about not sounding smart enough. Sometimes I forget the words I want to say because of my anxiety and overthinking.

I feel like I lose track of what I was going to say and sometimes find myself cutting it short because I get so nervous.”

Another one of our community members, John, shared this:

Every time I leave my house, I become extremely aware of myself. I keep worrying about how I’m being perceived by other people, especially by girls I find attractive.

I feel as if I’m in the spotlight and everyone is looking at me. I should probably worry about other things but you can’t argue with this brain of mine.”

I hope this story can inspire you to share a weakness, too.

So, write down in the comments: What are YOU afraid of being judged for?

Also, do you see someone else in the comment you share a fear with? Reply to them and let them know that they’re not alone feeling like this.

We’re all in this together.

References:

1. Ruscio, A. M.; Brown, T. A.; Chiu, W. T.; Sareen, J.; Stein, M. B.; Kessler, R. C. (2008-01-01). “Social fears and social phobia in the USA: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication”. Psychological Medicine. 38 (1): 15–28.
2. Zimbardo, P.G. (1977). Shyness: what it is, what to do about it. Reading (MA): Addison-Wesley.