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 become 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 (36)

  1. 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.

  2. Anonymous

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

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. Conor

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Christina

    Saying something dumb.

  9. 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.

  10. anon

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

  11. Anonymous

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Chanuth

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

  15. Brad

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

    • anon

      me too, brad. me too.

  16. Oliver

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

  17. 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.

  18. Salem

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

  19. Alyssa

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

  20. 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

  21. 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?

  22. 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.

  23. Anonymous

    Being myself and confident in my ability to talk

  24. 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.

  25. 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….

  26. 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.