HOW TO CONQUER SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS

The centipede was happy, quite until the toad in fun said, "Pray, which foot comes after which?" This worked his mind to such a pitch; he lay distracted in a ditch, considering how to run. 
 
 A self-conscious centipede is funny-- a self-conscious human being is in pain. Self-consciousness can make friendships stilted, jobs less satisfying, and turn social occasions into obstacle courses. You can cope with this problem; learn to be more spontaneous and less intimidated. It only takes a little practice.
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 First, identify the things that make you feel most self- conscious. Some people die the proverbial death if their clothes are wrong for an occasion. Some are insecure with people who are better educated or who make more money. Others feel they lack the skills necessary to engage people in conversation on the job or in social contexts.
 
 Then there are people who are uncomfortable simply being around members of the opposite sex, for any reason. Locate your tender spots. Change the ones you can. For example, learn what clothes are appropriate for a given occasion; or how to approach a woman at a social gathering and begin a conversation. Learn to live with those things you cannot change. Living with the unchange-able situation is a matter of perception. In the various contexts of your life, you will undoubtedly encounter those people who will always make more money than you or have been better educated. If you observe yourself constantly, evaluating every move you make from your appearance and that of your home, to the things you say, of course you will feel self-conscious.
 
If you can learn to relax, focusing outward without "watching" yourself all the time, you will feel happier and be more productive. A brief story illustrates the point.
 
Last spring, Tom and George, who were next door neighbors in identical houses, decided to grow vegetable gardens. They each identified similar parcels of land, tilled and then fertilized the soil and shopped together for seed. They planted, watered and generally nurtured their gardens the same time each day. After two months, while George's garden began generating healthy plants, the fruits of his labor, Tom's contained only remnants-- small dead twigs. Bewildered, Tom approached George to review their procedures, hoping to discover what went wrong.
 
 "We tilled and fertilized our soil, right, George?"
 "Yes."
 "Then we bought seed, planted together and watered the same time every day, right?"
 "True, Tom."
 "Oh, of course, then at day's end we pulled up each plant to check that the roots were still growing...right, George?"
 
 Next time you enter a situation in which you ordinarily feel self-conscious, try these three steps.
·        1- Prepare in advance. If your appearance often bothers you, make sure you attend carefully to your grooming. If talking to a stranger at work or at play is your nemesis, imagine yourself conversing with people who are warm and interesting. Whatever your concern, deal with the situation in fact or imagination. Rehearse or prepare for a designated period of time and then stop and do something else!
·        2. In order to forget about your self on the "inside", focus your attention on the people and events occurring around you. If you drift into "down-time" self-evaluation, take a deep breath; tell yourself, "Stop!" Then pay immediate and exclusive attention to any object of outward focus. You cannot forget about yourself by thinking about forgetting. That is like telling yourself, "Don’t pay attention to your rate of breathing." You can only forget by training your attention elsewhere.
·        3. Do not allow post-mortems. No Monday morning quarterback ever won a game. When a job is finished or a social occasion has passed, resist the temptation to analyze every move you made (otherwise you'll just have to settle for canned vegetables!). Whatever the outcome, it's over. Should you find yourself having intrusive thoughts about passed "mistakes", again distract yourself by immediately diverting your attention to visions, sounds and feelings on the outside.
 
Use these suggestions in their appropriate contexts. They may free you from inner preoccupations, and better help you enjoy life