14 Tips to Be Less Self-Conscious (If Your Mind Goes Blank)

Scientifically reviewed by Ilene Strauss Cohen Ph.D.

When I was younger, I often felt self-conscious and socially awkward. In fact, one of the reasons I wanted to become a Behavioral Scientist was to be better socially.

If you often feel anxious and embarrassed, this guide is for you. It will give you the tools you need to be more relaxed in social settings, get out of your head and into the conversation.

This guide is for anyone who’s feeling overly self-aware, but examples are geared toward adults in work or at college.

Note: Sometimes, the underlying reason for self-consciousness is social anxiety. If this is the case for you, here’s our list of the best books on social anxiety.

Let’s get started!

1. Focus on someone or something

Self-consciousness comes from being overly concerned with how people see us. We worry that we won’t be seen as smart, attractive, or that others are judging us.

It can be exhausting, and with too little evidence to support the argument in either direction, we go straight to the most negative conclusion.

To get out of this pessimistic mindset, try shifting your attention to the people around you and your environment.

Article continues below.

A recommendation

If you want to improve your social skills, self-confidence, and ability to connect with someone, you can take our 1-minute quiz.

You’ll get a 100% free custom report with the areas you need to improve.

Start the quiz

Focus not on what others think of you but on learning about the people you’re with. Make it a point to find out one thing about every person you meet. It could be their job, their major, or what they did on the weekend.

The objective is to get out of your head. Put that energy into the people around you rather than into feeding an inner dialogue that’s holding you back.

2. Question your inner critical voice

It’s easy to believe the negative voice inside our head is always right. But have you tried questioning it? You might find out that it has little to do with what’s real.

Check the evidence from your life:

Can you recall a time you did something that proves your inner critic wrong? For example, if your voice says, “I always mess up around people,” remind yourself of a time when you did just fine.

Ask yourself if what you are feeling is reasonable. Or, are you letting a perception you think others have of you, run the story in your head?

3. Know that people notice you less than you think

In an experiment, students were asked to wear an embarrassing t-shirt.

By the end of the day, the students who wore the shirts estimated that 46% of the class had noticed. When polled, only 23% of their mates actually had.[1] In other words, their embarrassing t-shirt was only half as noticeable as they had thought.

What feels mortifying to us is usually having little to no impact on others. People are caught up in their own thoughts and struggles, too busy to worry about ours. The best thing we can do is remind ourselves that no one cares as much as we do, and even our own filter is not a perfect lens.

Article continues below.

Take this quiz and see how you can become more confident

Take this quiz and get a custom report based on your unique personality and goals. Start improving your confidence, your conversation skills, or your ability to bond - in less than an hour.

Start the quiz.

4. Know that it’s OK to say some stupid things

I remember talking to a girl I was crushing on when I was in high school. She was talking about how her brother liked a band, and like a crazy person, I said, “Ya, I know.” Like somehow, I knew what group her brother liked. My crush looked at me strangely but kept going.

Did it make any difference to my crush? Not really. At this point, I can laugh about it, but at the time it felt humiliating.

Try turning the tables on the situation. Would you care if someone blurted out something silly? Or would it just pass you by without giving it extra thought? It’s better to talk freely even if you say something stupid every once in a while. The alternative is to always guard yourself, and that can make you come off as stiff and aloof.

5. Don’t try to fight your feelings

Emotions tend to cling harder when we fight them and weaken when we accept them.[2]

When you are anxious, and feeling uncomfortable in a social setting, what are you thinking about? How does thinking about that make you feel? Happy, sad, nervous, jealous? What’s your body doing when you’re in your head and feeling awkward at a party? Are you sweating, jumpy, yawning a lot (a reaction to nerves)?

Simply accept how you feel rather than trying to change it.

Now focus outward. Talk to someone. Ask them how they’re doing. What brings them to this party/event? Do they know anyone? Then check your head. How do you feel when you’re talking to someone? Do you get any less nervous as the conversation goes on? If you were blushing, has it subsided yet?

Practice going back and forth between your inner thoughts and how you feel when you are talking to others. See if you feel better when you’re in your head, listening to your internal dialogue, or when you’re spending your energy on others.

6. Focus on your positive traits

This isn’t “think happy thoughts, and you’ll be fine.” Instead, you want to base your self-worth on your real, positive qualities rather than cynical and questionable self-talk. This is what we know is true:

  • You have talents and abilities that give you fundamental value.
  • This combination of characteristics makes you unique and memorable.
  • You are worth spending time with and knowing.

Try to list your concrete skills like your mathematical ability, you’re a good writer, you’re multilingual, you’re a great cook. Then there are your personality traits. You’re kind, honest, genuine, funny, enthusiastic, etc.

Even if you can’t make a full list today, write one positive quality down every day and then review the list every week. When you have a comprehensive list, read it every day. You’re training your mind to focus on what you do well and to be able to access it quickly.

7. Make sure you’re reading the situation right

Negative experiences can teach us to be on guard and defend ourselves from criticism and hurt. This can affect how we perceive the world and the people we encounter.

Article continues below.

What type of social overthinker are you?

Take this quiz and get a custom report based on your unique personality and goals. Start improving your confidence, your conversation skills, or your ability to bond - in less than an hour.

Start the quiz.

Those of us who are overly self-conscious might believe the world will judge us harshly because that is what we’ve experienced. However, as I’ve pointed out, people don’t care that much about how we act or what we say. Every new person you meet thinks of you as a blank slate.

When you’re in a scary social situation, ask yourself, “Is there a chance my past experience is affecting how I’m seeing this interaction? Is there another, more realistic way I can approach his conversation?”

Believe people will be friendly, and most of the time, they will be. If not, it says more about them than you.

8. See yourself as a social observer

People watching is fascinating, and it shows us how our basic humanity makes us all messy, foolish, and funny. Go to the mall, grab a coffee/tea, and watch people walk with their friends. Listen in as they sit beside you and talk, or as they chase their kids down the hall.

Now notice their body language, their tone of voice, and eavesdrop on what they’re saying. What we’re doing is training you to switch your focus from yourself to others and to think objectively about what you’re witnessing.

Are people relaxed or stilted? Is their posture good, or are they slouching? When they talk, are they quiet, or does the volume go up and down with excitement? The more we see others being their imperfect selves, the more we’ll realize this is what ‘normal’ looks like.

Go into this observer mode when you walk into a room of strangers. It can help you be less self-conscious.

9. Assume that people will like you

This one is about the mechanics of being seen as confident rather than inhibited or self-conscious. When we feel uncomfortable, it can make us talk softer, hug our bodies with our arms, and speak faster to get the words out and move the focus off us as soon as possible. It can make us seem aloof, and even if we don’t intend to, it makes us less approachable.

Be confident and friendly right off the bat. Walk up to people with a warm smile and present yourself. If you’re uncertain about the details, look at how likable, confident people do it and learn from them. Assuming people will like you is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assuming they won’t is, too.

10. Ask about others to take the focus off you

It’s easier to focus on someone else other than ourselves. When you meet someone for the first time, ask them what they do for fun. What are their hobbies, or do they have any pets? Listen carefully, nod, and give them signs that you are enjoying their story. Then add anything relevant that applies from your life. Things like your pets – what kind are they, their name, breed…or your hobbies. At the end of the day, you want to have a balance between learning about them and sharing about yourself.

Article continues below.

A recommendation

If you want to improve your social skills, self-confidence, and ability to connect with someone, you can take our 1-minute quiz.

You’ll get a 100% free custom report with the areas you need to improve. 

Start the quiz

The goal is to learn about someone else because it’s hard to be self-conscious when you’re focused on getting to know another’s interests and stories.

11. Make internal progress checks, not comparisons

Jealousy is a miserable emotion. It makes you feel small and worthless and sucks the joy out of everything. It’s like anger directed at someone else, but you are the one who feels crappy.

Avoid both overexaggerating someone else’s talents or trying to find flaws in them to make yourself feel better. No one is perfect, and tearing them down when you feel envious just retains the focus on you because you are still comparing yourself to someone else.

Here’s a thought: What if we were OK with the fact that someone is more accomplished than us? When we accept this, it helps us see ourselves differently.

Our value then has nothing to do with how successful we are or how good we are at something. We want to go from “I like myself because I’m good at…” to “I like myself.” (Period.) This makes our self-acceptance unconditional.

How do we accept that others are more accomplished than us and be OK with that? First, let that fact sink in, and allow all your emotions of envy and sadness to come to you. Accept those emotions rather than fight them. Now, you no longer need to fear them. Afterward, you will be less prone to comparisons.

Here’s another way to do it:

Instead of thinking, “Well, at least I’m better than them when it comes to X.” Say, “I’m not good at everything, which is OK because my value isn’t based on my achievements. I have value because I am 100% myself”.

Let’s talk more about how to be more self-accepting…

12. Practice accepting yourself

Self-acceptance is one of the biggest steps we take towards achieving self-confidence.

According to Aaron Karmin, MA, LCPC, a psychotherapist in Chicago, Ill, a person “who accepts [themselves] unconditionally as a worthwhile human in spite of [their] faults and imperfections does not experience the stress of self-consciousness.”.[3]

Here are some things you can do to accept yourself:

  • Decide how you are going to live your life. Will you let others define your personal image, your strengths, and your weaknesses? Try to move from blame, doubt, and shame to tolerance, acceptance, and trust.
  • Make a list of all your good points.
    • What do you do well?
    • What are you proud of accomplishing?
    • Whose lives have you made better?
    • Connections you’ve made with others.
    • Hardships you have overcome.

Review the list often, so you see your progress and acknowledge your gifts.

  • Take an inventory of the people close to you.
    • Are they good for you?
    • Do they reinforce negative self-talk?
    • Do they criticize or demean you?

Consider eliminating all the negative influences in your life.

  • Surround yourself with a positive support group of people who celebrate you.
  • Forgive yourself. If you made a mistake, realize you did your best with the information you had at the time, or you simply made a bad choice. But now you chose to move on and forgive yourself.
  • Silence your inner critic. Just because it’s hard to hear doesn’t mean it’s right or 100% true. If you wouldn’t talk to someone else like you speak to yourself, why is it OK to do it to you? You’re human like everyone else. Treat yourself as well as you treat anyone else, if not better.
  • Move on from your unrealized dreams. You can’t change the past. All you can do is move forward and continue to pursue your current goals.
  • Help yourself see how you make others’ lives better. It’s harder to see yourself in a harsh light when you acknowledge all the good you do.
  • Let it go – You can’t control everything. It’s not resignation. It’s a realization that your energy is better spent elsewhere instead of railing against the things you can’t change.
  • Try to solve your problems one at a time. First, step outside your head where all the worry and self-doubt resides. Take a dispassionate look at what you need to do to move past each issue. You could even try imagining that the problems you’re facing are someone else’s (if that helps you get away from your internal thoughts). Ask yourself what advice you’d give them (yourself) to help?
  • Practice Self-compassion – accept your flaws and love yourself anyway. Simple words, but for most of us, it takes years, if not a lifetime to master this step. The more you do it, the better you’ll get in every respect.
    • Even though you may not have much experience being kind and compassionate with yourself, you will start to believe these good things you’re telling yourself. Especially if you keep this positive internal monologue up. In many instances, it took years to get to this place of insecurity. It will likely take weeks and months to see progress and make permanent changes to your mental habits.

13. Practice thinking about other’s needs

Try doing thoughtful things for others. Consider their struggles, worries, dreams or regrets. When you do, you take the focus off yourself and you’ll connect with them. This will help you be less self-conscious.[4] It will also show others that you are caring, and you value them. Done selflessly, it will bring good things back to you.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Smiling at someone after you meet them. It could be a friend, family member, or acquaintance. Let the smile happen as you talk to them, so they know you are smiling just for them because it grows after you say, ‘Hi.’
  • Hold a door for someone.
  • Give a spontaneous compliment.
  • Bring a friend or co-worker cookies or a pre-made dinner if they are sick or need a pick-me-up.
  • Pay it forward. Pay for the coffee or drive-thru meal of the people behind you.
  • Keep your area tidy and organized if you work in an open-concept office.
  • Send cards for different occasions or for no occasion at all.
  • Give someone 100% of your attention and note what they say so you can follow up later. (Ask them how ‘it’ went. Make sure they are OK afterward.)
  • Consciously spend a few minutes every day thinking of the things you are grateful for.

A word of caution: Do not do these things to gain others’ approval. That puts the focus back on you. Do it out of sincere consideration for others. The purpose of the exercise is to focus on others and their well-being. When you do, you’ll become more compassionate and less self-conscious.

14. Consider talking to a Therapist

If your self-consciousness is inhibiting you or is a result of social anxiety, a therapist can be helpful. Having social anxiety is more common than we think, and deciding to understand and address the effect it has on your life is brave. A Psychologist or a Therapist will help you talk through your feelings, find out where they originate from, and give you the tools to unpack them and move forward.

Contact your insurance company or doctor for recommendations.

Show references +

Free training: Be confident around anyone

Join our free training and learn:

  1. How to be more confident around anyone.
  2. How to stop feeling self-conscious using the "OFC-method".
  3. Why you don't need out-of-your-comfort-zone exercises to be confident.
  4. Why some are so confident despite not having the looks, money, or a "cool job".

Start my free training.

Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

Go to Comments (668)

Comments

Add a Comment
  1. ( Note : my English is not too good 😅 but I will try to make you understand what I want to say )
    Age :: 16
    My problem is that I am too thin and my height is long too . That’s why it’s quite hard to find cloth of my fitting so I only have one pair of dress in which I can go outside ( my other dress are not good . And I afraid to go to a shop to buy new dress cuz usually when I go to shop
    Shopkeepers laugh at me seeing my thin body and say to my mom it’s hard to find dress of his fitting .
    🙁☹️😓😵
    And my dressing sense is also not good
    So I only have one pair of dress and I feel awkward to go school in only one dress
    I don’t have school uniform yet
    Cuz this is my new school and it’s corono time
    So I usually afraid from any comments on my dress and my body
    So I am at home and taking holidays and holidays
    But I think I have to go school tomorrow cuz I already take seven days leave continuously
    I really miss my old school

    Reply
  2. I’ve had a head injury when I was 13. I was sent to regular school less than 2 months after it happened. I had just moved so I didn’t know anybody there and I closed myself off because whatever I said sounded stupid. That’s the way my life has been. Am I anxious? I think so.

    Reply
  3. i’m a transboy meaning i was born female but identifies myself as male. i don’t have money for any transition surgery. i’m afraid of getting judged by that. being a transboy. i feel like everyone sees each lgbt member as those crazy people who glues a dick to their forehead making lots of noice on the streets and i’m just not like those people at all. i know my sexuality i know what i am by heart and i don’t have the desire to yell it out loud looking like an idiot. i’m just afraid of getting judged. as we all are. i’ve been asked “so are you a boy or girl” almost my whole life cause i’ve always dressed boy-ish. it’s the most hurtful question ever to someone who wanna say “i’m a male” but looks female by body.

    Reply
  4. Ever since Covid came last year. It only made my social interactions even more awkward. Even before Covid. I struggled to start conversations with people. What would happen is that I’d over think about what I was going to say so much that I’d drive myself crazy. Then I got upset because I also thought to myself it should be easy just start by saying hello. But now it’s obviously harder to figure out how to apporch someone to start a conversation. It also doesn’t help that I drive a cop car. I bought it because it was a good price for the amount of km’s it had on it. Now everyone stares at me and it just increases my self consciousness. So I keep thinking to myself should I have not bought this car? It’s not good for my son and wife everytime I complain about what other people are doing around me. I shouldn’t give a damm. Unless someone is trying to harm us. Otherwise I am not sure what to do.

    Reply
  5. I currently feel sick in the mornings driving to work, wondering what will happen at work today, what will I do that will upset my boss. I’m getting use to the concept that that is out of my control and worrying about it doesn’t help me.

    I use to feel sick before having to do story time as I have a speech impediment and neurological issue with word finding, but I now realise that the children don’t care about that, they’re just happy to see me and hear the books regardless of how I read them… because spoiler alert … they can’t read! 😁

    Reply
  6. I feel shy because everyone watch me and they laugh at my talking or they ignore me no one notice me i kind felt lonely at that time but im getting better now

    Reply
  7. quotes that i live by
    “When we arrive at school, no one notices how others look because they’re too occupied with how THEY look”
    “failure is not an option”

    Reply
  8. I am afraid of being judged for having ADHD and severe anxiety.i am only 17 years old and all of the girl don’t want to be with me for having ADHD and anxiety. i just wish i had a girlfriend my age who cares about me for who i am as a person

    Reply
  9. I overthink EVERYTHING. I worry that I say too much, that I say too little, that I sound too stupid, that I’m not as funny as I’m trying to be.
    People would be shocked by my social anxiety and depression. because of my job, I think people think I’m calm, cool and collected and have my shit together. It’s all an act. I drink just to be in public. Inside im unraveling and just want to go back to bed. It affects every aspect of my life.

    Reply
  10. I’m afraid of being judged for how I look. I always get nervous when I talk with my classmates and especially when during oral recitation in my class. My self esteem and my confidence really below the zero I guess.

    P.S. English is not my first language 😪

    Reply
    • don’t feel bad that english isn’t your first language because my Opa witch is dutch for grandpa is from the netherlands and he speaks dutch sometimes but it’s ok because the language you speak is what makes you who you are so don’t think that it’s not ok for english to not be your first language i personally think that whatever your first language is makes you unique

      Reply
  11. When I started highschool people judged me before they ever talked to me then my so called friends gave me a silly nickname it got so bad that I skipped school several times the truncey officer came out and was gonna arrest my mom but he saw how much I was struggling and gave me a referral to get a hsed or a ged so that was a solution resolved…

    Reply
  12. I’m afraid of not knowing what to say. Either to start the conservation or keep it going. If I manage to say hello and maybe a question I feel I’ve used all my energy up and I need to move on.

    Reply
  13. am afraid of many things but mostly of my lack of words and how EVERYSINGLE time i try to talk, it feels like all the words just evaporate from my mind and i get so insecure of how stupid i might be sounding. am also so afraid of attachments that i have been avoiding every single person and now am left with no friends but just me. oh am also always insecure of my body, you see, i have these tiny small legs so every time i wear an outfit that shows them, i try to walk and look confident but my mind is always occupied with what people might be saying about them, well life is shitty and some people too but i can’t help feeling all the crappy feelings.

    Reply
    • You are not alone really. I struggle with a lack of words everytime i am around people too, especially girls, so as a solution i am exposing myself more to social situations and i am really confident that one day i will get over this.

      Reply
    • I totally understand. I constantly lose words and it makes you feel stupid… BUT YOU ARE NOT!!! Do you keep a journal? Write stories? You expressed yourself perfectly in your comment. Just keep writing.
      And please don’t think about your body. Work on your confidence and how you present yourself. Things will come together. Wishing you love and light.

      Reply
  14. I am afraid people would make fun of me, or I would run out of things to say. I tend to drift away in a social setting sometimes. I think that is why I only have a limited friend because I do not want to be judge or make fun of.

    Reply
  15. In my case you can say that I’m afraid for everything. I’m insecure in my hart and in tension all the time I am awake. I went to a psychologist and he asked me if I had been exposed to torture or something like that and finally diagnosed me with anxiety. He gave me some advices but still it doesn’t work. What shall I do to be off with my tension, fear, luck of self confidence and restlessness and this is to bear in mind that I’m and I was good att school and good ability to be social and convincing person.

    Reply
  16. I used to(still am a bit but I’m getting better) be very afraid that if i said something weird people would hate me and they wouldn’t want to be my friends anymore, and it was a very stupid fear cause i am lucky to have great friends, but even to this day I sometimes feel that i said something weird and now people are going to laugh about me and are going to find ways to avoid me.

    Reply

Leave a Comment