“What are they thinking of me? Do I have something in my teeth? Am I too short for this skirt, too Jewish for this school?”
Self-consciousness isn’t just painful, it prevents us from doing a good job. The more self-conscious we are, the worse we perform because we aren’t connected to our authentic selves. We aren’t in flow because we’re focused on other people and what they think, not what we’re doing.
The more anxiously self-focused we are, the less present we are. And the less present we are, the less of our true selves we bring to the table. This stops us from enjoying the moment, which stops us from truly finding joy and peace in our lives.
The truth about what people think about you
“The reality is that people just aren’t thinking about you as much as you think they are – even when you are actually the center of attention,” writes Amy Cuddy in Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. “And if they are, there is nothing you can do about it anyway. All you can do is hit the ball.”
She used the example of a professional baseball player. The guy who pitches in a major league game is the center of attention, isn’t he? All eyes are on him, right?
Wrong. A lot of people are checking Facebook or sipping their beers or taking selfies with their friends – and they miss more pitches than they realize. “Oh, I missed that!” they say. “What just happened?”
Sure, many fans are watching the pitcher and even making unhelpful remarks about his throws…but the reality is that people aren’t paying that much attention.
Even when we’re literally in the spotlight, many people aren’t even paying attention! Audience members fall asleep during plays, students daydream during lectures, writers mentally rewrite blog posts during phone conversations.
Can you picture yourself on the Jumbotron?
“When you’re up to bat, you walk out and see the Jumbotron,” says a ball player in Presence. “It shows a huge picture of your face, your name, your batting average, and other stats.”
Wow! Talk about pressure. That ballplayer described it as feeling like a heavy weight – like everyone in the stands is looking at his stats and evaluating him. He said it’s not just a bad feeling, it’s also very distracting.
How would you feel about that? I can’t even imagine, to be honest. I thought playing the flute in a duet at a recital was hard (which I shared in Blossoming on Stage When You’re Terrified) – I can’t fathom my stats on a Jumbotron.
If a pitcher can Blossom on the field, so can you! Ball players feel the pressure even though they love the game. They are just as vulnerable to self-consciousness as you are…and yet they perform.
Sometimes they even hit home runs. And then not only is everyone watching, they are jumping up and down and cheering.
A tip for Blossoming despite self-consciousness
You are at the center of your universe.
Because you are at the center of your universe, you think you are at the center of other people’s universes. But you’re not.
Guess who is at the center of other people’s universes? They are.
The next time you feel self-conscious, take a deep breath. Thank God your photo and stats aren’t displayed on a Jumbotron in an stadium filled with thousands of people. And know that even when you are in the spotlight, people are paying far less attention to you than you think.
And allow yourself to Blossom.
Travel in Faith
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