David Morin

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 at 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 two 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)

How does this apply to you?

The next time you’re about to enter a social setting you feel self-conscious in, try analyzing the people around you instead of thinking of how you might come off. See what that makes you feel.

But what about in 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. What helped me overcome that fear was to share those insecurities with others. This method makes us stronger because we then feel less worried about hiding our weaknesses.

One of our community members, Mathilda, bravely shared this about one of her fears. I hope it can inspire you to open up like she did:

“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.”

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.

Write down below what you’re afraid of being judged for and see what others like you in the SocialPro community write.

Talk soon,

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Comments (70)

  1. Mohamed

    I get scared always from revealing any of my non important secrets from my important secrets list to avoid breaking up with for example my friends even when I feel that I am close enough to tell them these secrets some times these secrets are feelings towards them most probably +be but I gets scared from their reaction so I thinks of making one of my friends(boy) who is as close as i or more to that girl to give hints but i also get scared that he reveals what i asked him to do.

  2. James

    Im afraid of not knowing things i feel i would be expected to know in work situations. Saying i dont know doesnt feel like a valid answer sometimes with colleagues or customers.

  3. Anonymous

    I’ve been afraid of being rejected by others for being awkward or anxious in social situations ever since I started struggling with social anxiety.

  4. Katie-Jayne Boardman

    I’m afraid of people thinking I’m a loser. I’m afriad of sharing my true opinions in case I get judged for them.

  5. sanaullah

    whenever i get out of hostel room or home i feel like everyone i come across at my way has something bad about me on his mind and he or she is judging me for that and then i try to to act like to show them i am not like this and this makes me more anxious and panic because at that moment i think they caught my weakness and then i try to escape the situation and even dont get the things done for which i was out of home .

  6. Anonymous

    There are so many sore spots in communication between people now. Everything seems to have an agenda. I feel very incompetent and judged for things I may say without any intention to slight or offend. I commented that I liked the color of a guys shirt, and was rebuffed with a downward glance. I guess that you should not comment on appearance due to defensiveness? It can produce. Women have have a harder time if they are correct weight and attractive. I am forever stuck talking about the weather only.

    • Melly

      Dude this is somewhat me! I’m scared I might offend someone if I speak in acertaron way or if I don’t say “thank you” sincerely enough. Like yeah…..it sucks.

    • Anna

      I know, there seems to be a ton of unspoken rules. I am afraid to break them and be judged for that.

  7. Dennis

    I’m afraid that I’m a joke to everyone and I just dont know it.

  8. NT

    I can relate to so many of what people have posted here. Sometimes you think you’re the only one feeling this way. I think people are judging me as being slow and not that smart. I try to talk and make friends but soon feel excluded. I cant think of the right words and become intimidated by people that speak really well.

  9. CL

    I have tried sharing how I feel with people I work with. If I am nervous or anxious, I might make a joke to let them know how I feel. I try to help if someone else might be feeling nervous. I share my experience to set them at ease. I always praise them for their achievements so they feel empowered. However, I think this has made them judge me. Now, I get the impression that I am judged as weak or incompetent for admitting to my feelings. Maybe it would have been better to say nothing about my anxiety. It has made me angry that the people I trusted now treat me like a child. My hard work and achievements are not recognized. I am very good at my job, but I am still seen as less worthy because of my anxiety. I am not included in decisions which effect my work and I am never given a raise, even though my responsibilities are increased. When I try to talk about it, I am dismissed. It seems like I am a slave to those I work with. I am considering quitting my job and starting over. I won’t feel so confident about sharing my feelings or giving praise again. I thought I could relax and share more about myself at work as long as I performed well at my job, but it seems that it did not work for me. Now I am more anxious than ever.

  10. Ambar

    I’m scared of being persieved as the “quiet girl” when its not that I’m quiet its just that I’m so in my head and anxious i cant concentrate and i panic in conversations .when I’m not comfortable with a person I feel so helpless too ,like I’m trying o talk to them in my mind but my body will to physically let me speak.im not self conscious or not confident i am in fact the opposite but i cat express these to others

  11. Sally

    I am afraid people will think am not smart enough so I hold back to any thought that I may have,,I also get very nervous speaking in front of a people whether I know them or I don’t .I also think people despise me because I am small person

  12. Gill

    I fear people finding out the ugly truth about me. I can’t sustain friendships and often have no friends. My confidence is so low I avoid people now, and rarely attend social events. I’m sure I look aloof and unapproachable. I’ve spent years perfecting this.
    The sad truth is I’m lonely and afraid. So afraid I’m isolating myself so I don’t feel rejected.

  13. Mia

    I’m afraid of not having anything to say and making awkward silences which I always do and can’t get rid of it

  14. Kevin

    I’m afraid of like failing with something or just embarassing myself in front of an attractive girl, and if i’d do that i’d probably miss out on her.

  15. Paul

    I get caught in my own head with fears of not being smart enough if I engage in a conversation, at the same time I am overly concerned about what people think of me for how I like and how much money I make and when this is going on I cant find anything to say or think to say and it almost becomes a panic then I get scared that they think I am weird and introverted and it becomes a total melt down.

  16. Adam

    I am afraid people will reject or judge me harshly. I am worried think I am ugly and have a big nose. I am afraid people think worse things about me. I am afraid I will be ridiculed.

  17. Kk

    My worry is when I come into room that I will be judged for my awarkd body language.if someone there ask me who’s this how to respond without coming off backwards or unsure how to respond back to them any help from the group would be great

  18. Kashif

    Being judged for my speech. I’m not the greatest speaker in the world & when I get around people I tend to stutter alittle bit. My mind goes blank often and I often force words out which makes it worse.

    • Anonymous

      I feel the exact same way my head is always blank when it comes to people and talking to them

  19. Zhanique wilson

    I’m afraid of being rejected, left out. Judged. Being boring to people because I’m always trying to think what else to say since I always go blank while talking to others.

    • anonymous

      I Have the same feeling. I fear that ppl will think that I am too clingy

  20. Swati

    Worried about how to act if someone makes fun of you.you don’t feel good but how to respond..n thanks a lot for ur mail…it means a lot..thnks n keep sending pls

  21. danial

    i am always afraid that the next is not judging me it really made me angry thinking about it i know people dont give a damn but still my mind working like this

  22. Nick

    As of lately, I’m afraid of looking like an aloof, stuck-up, and seedy asshole because I can’t look people in the eyes, don’t really say much, or don’t acknowledge certain people that I find intimidating.

    I’m also afraid I’ll run out of gas in the middle of the social highway because my energy for it is just so finite.

  23. Anonymous

    I am afraid of people noticing how awkward I am and also being laughed at for the boring, weird life I have because I was teased a lot in most of high school and college.

    • Anonymous

      I also faced the problem sometimes but you have to do follow the mantra..
      You are what you think of yourself..
      Not others

  24. Linda

    I’m afraid of sounding awkward or weird so I am very closed off and then get worried that I’m a boring person I get so worried about how I’m going to be received instead of just being myself

  25. Samuel Mcburney

    My biggest fear is coming across as boring, whenever someone asks me ( well what’s the crac am like in my head wtf I’ve nothing happing in my life since the last time we spoke. It’s like i cant think of anything humorous to say. This is a major problem for me I feel brain dead

  26. h.

    I’m afraid of being judged for speaking bad English. ;_;

  27. Sandy

    I worry about someone judging me for something I like. So I sometimes pretend I like something else. I now realize people aren’t friends with the real me. They are friends with the fake me. So I’m now trying to let everyone know the real me and not worry about being judged. It’s hard. But in the end I end up having friends that are similar to me.
    I use to worry about people thinking I’m weird then I realized that everyone is kind of weird in their own way. I like to find people who are as weird as me to talk to.

  28. Akumaru

    I am afraid of HOW do I look, did I attractive or not, and I can’t seem to make eyes contact with others. I always hesitate when try to make conversation and I can’t even say ‘Hello’ to the person i find interesting.

  29. Anonymous

    I am afraid of being judged as a dumb and uncivilised and ugly person.

  30. Ian

    Im afraid of going into a conversation. I never know what to say and I hate to always jave to use small talk I want to get on more of a personal level with people

  31. M

    I’m afraid of blanking In the middle of the conversation and not knowing what to say next. I’m also afraid people will think I’m dumb/weird.

  32. Conor

    I’m afraid of people thinking I’m a weirdo and a freak, of not accepting me for who I am.

    • Anonymous

      Please start loving yourself the way you are..and if you don’t like something about yourself then try changing that..focus on your weaknesses and improve

  33. Melanie

    I’m afraid of lot knowing what to say. Of having this deep blank, where anyone would think ‘what’s the matter with her?’

    I’m also scared of ruining my appearance of perfection throughout words, even if I know that perfection is impossible.

  34. B

    I’m afraid I look or sound weird, that other people would look at me or talk to me and be thinking “why is she wearing/doing/talking like that”. I’m afraid my outfits are ugly or mismatched or unflattering. I’m afraid of trying to be funny and just saying awkward things.

  35. Christina

    Saying something dumb.

  36. Conor

    I’m afraid I come across very boring and maybe even sometimes rude. I feel like I never have anything to say that’s interesting, funny or intriguing. When I am trying to be funny or sarcastic I don’t think people really get me. I really want to make connections with people outside of my family and close friend but struggle. I constatnhly feel like iv some sort of wall up protecting me but I don’t know what from. I do have days were I’m in a great mood and really get along with people but it’s up and down. I also feel like sometimes I come across as stupid when I’m not. I struggle to remember conversations I had with people as sometimes my brain just wonders of mid conversation. I’m afraid I pf coming accross as boring and that people don’t like being around me I sometimes feel like I’m being ignored by others.

    • Ian

      Wow you summed up my life everyday perfectly.

    • Anonymous

      I swear to God,same!

  37. anon

    i’m scared that i come across as a boring, unfunny person with no personality who can’t even hold a conversation properly.

  38. Anonymous

    I am always nervous people will judge me as being ditsy and stupid. I hate feeling incompetent and having no confidence.

  39. T

    I fear that when I start a conversation with someone, and after a while, I would suddenly go blank on what to say, that leaves the conversation dry and boring. Because I’m an introvert, I tend to overanalyze my words before I speak, and therefore I’m also afraid that there will be awkward silence, or difficulty in maintaining the connection with others.

  40. Tanu

    I fear public speaking so much , as soon as I walk towards that deadly stage , my heart starts beating so fast as if it wants to come out of my body. I could never frame my words , they come out like broken sentences.I am always afraid what the people in the audience must be thinking , they must be framing a view of me while I am talking and that view would be the truth that I am not at all confident, though I know everyone must be feeling the same as me.

    • Angelo

      That is my exact fear.

  41. Chanuth

    I am afraid of taking to more than one person and making a conversation interesting or even enjoyable

  42. Brad

    I am afraid of being judged as boring and not worth knowing.

    • anon

      me too, brad. me too.

  43. Oliver

    I’m afraid of being judged as awkward so that people won’t want to talk or be around me.

  44. Anne

    I can relate to Teresa’s comment below, however for a different reason. Most of my life I’ve been sensitive to prejudism, either directed at others or sometimes at me. I am Hispanic, but with European features so my heritage isn’t obvious to most people. Because of this, I become acquainted with people, that are ultimately prejudiced, but because they don’t know I am a minority, befriend me. Once they find out, the relationship changes and I am left wondering if it is prejudism or something about me that has nothing to do with where I am from. So I am doubly anxious and find it is easier to keep people at a distance. I know I can move on and choose to avoid those people, but sometimes you can’t, such as the workplace or neighborhood. My mind constantly wonders and it is so exhausting.

  45. Salem

    I am afraid sometimes that when I have a nice talk with someone that it might be the last one .

  46. Alyssa

    I’m afraid of being awkward I feel like I can never come up with an interesting topic or anything to talk about.

  47. Celia

    I am afraid I will get into a conversation that will go too long. If it goes long, then I get fatigued and have a hard time remembering my train of thought or words. Then I look stupid or weird.

    • Marguerite

      I am actually afraid of a lot of things. Sometimes I am afraid to socialize with other people, because I would not know how to start up conversation. I am very insecure about myself, and because of that it only encourages me to be more afraid of how I look, and what people think of me. I am afraid to talk to someone about the anxiety I always have, because I feel they would not understand, or they simply can’t help me.

      • You

        This is exactly me, we share the same thing bruv

  48. Anubhav

    When I’m going to attend any party or any marriage I feel that every one see me …if I make any mistake they laugh at me thy thing anything about me. And I feel that anybody try to abuse me like they are ignore me don’t want to talk with me . I feel like I’m a bore person. Anybody don’t want to talk to me .Im go to bathroom n just strt crying. Wht I do. Please help me otherwise i think always I live single …

    • David Morin

      Do you mean that people are actually abusive toward you or is it your fear that they will be (but never are)?

      If they are abusive, is there any way for you to find a new social circle or spend less time with the abusive people?

  49. M

    I’m afraid of almost every social situation, mostly what people Will Think of my personality. The consequences of my anxiety is that I Think I come of as rude, wich I probably do.. Really want to talk, be polite and answer questions without overanylizing Every single word. But when i answer I feel stupid because of my short or maybe arrogant answer and the feeling of being a rude person grows. My head just gets blank in social situations, every word is forced and it dose’nt reflect the real me. Sucks.(A messy comment but this is what I feel right now.)

    • Viktor Sander

      Thank you for sharing M. It’s ok to feel conflicted.

      I just wanted to add that I doubt I’d experience you as rude if your answers were short. At least as long as you make an effort to be polite. Then I’d understand you’re just anxious about it.

  50. Anonymous

    Being myself and confident in my ability to talk

  51. Teresa

    When I enter a room, my first concern is how many people are judging my looks, my clothing, my size. Once that anxiety sets in, I’m afraid to speak to anyone, whether I know them or not. When I do speak to someone, I pay more attention to their body language than what they actually say because I’m trying to be sure I’m not annoying them. It’s exhausting.

    • Viktor Sander

      Thank you for sharing Teresa. I think you are brave for sharing and being honest both with yourself and with us. You are definitely not alone feeling like this.

  52. Anonymous

    For one I’m already viewed as a person being dishonest or just making things up so when I’m around my work surrounding I question myself how these people view me??? I don’t explain myself because when I’m talking to someone the words won’t come out but If I write it I can bring my point across that way. People find me to be fussy.. truth is I can be annoyed but I rather not speak my mind but instead keep it in…however having that feeling that everything I say can be read or heard makes me quite uncomfortable because then I am being judged for things I say….

  53. Pelle Åkerström

    Spot on! its facanating how easy mindyricks can change ones persona. Im from sweden apology my english. Also, guess in the same kategori; it makes it easyer to remember others name if ur not reflecting on how “god” ur handshake was.. im bad with names.

    • Viktor Sander

      Nice Pelle! Both me and David are Swedish too, so that’s ok 🙂

      Hope you will start seeing improvements on your upcoming introductions.