Social Anxiety Disorder Coping How to Be Less Self-Conscious in Social Situations By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 21, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Amy Morin, LCSW Medically reviewed by Amy Morin, LCSW Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Self-Conscious Meaning Signs Causes Ways to Feel Less Self-Conscious Feeling self-conscious can lead to feelings of anxiety and discomfort. While people with certain conditions such as social anxiety disorder (SAD) are often more likely to feel self-conscious, it is something that many people experience at least occasionally. It tends to be particularly common in situations where you are the focus of attention or are being evaluated by others. Fortunately, some strategies can help you become more outward-focused and less self-conscious. This article discusses what it means to be self-conscious, situations that can trigger this feeling, and what you can do to cope. What Does It Mean to Be Self-Conscious? Self-consciousness refers to a tendency to be preoccupied with your own appearance or actions, particularly about how you think others might perceive you. This heightened awareness of the self can contribute to distress, discomfort, and anxiety. Being self-conscious can make your anxiety symptoms worse. Such feelings also make it harder to be aware of what is happening around you. This can cause you to think that other people are judging you negatively; in reality, they likely aren't paying attention at all. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as the "spotlight" effect. Although it feels like all eyes are on you, people probably only notice about 50% of what you think they are. So, you are over-imagining everything by about half. Signs of Being Self-Conscious Feeling self-conscious can lead to a range of behaviors and emotions. Some signs that you might be feeling self-conscious include: Constantly apologizing for mistakesFeeling as if everyone is watching youFeeling embarrassed, guilty, or ashamedFeeling responsible for everything that happensHaving low self-esteemStruggling to deal with criticism Self-consciousness isn't always a negative thing, however. Healthy self-conscious feelings can contribute to feelings of pride and accomplishment. The primary self-conscious emotions include pride, empathy, shame, guilt, and embarrassment. What Causes People to Feel Self-Conscious? Emotions related to self-consciousness begin to emerge during early childhood. As children develop a sense of self, they become more aware of social expectations and how others perceive them as they mature. There are many reasons why people might feel self-conscious. Some factors that can play a role include: Anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorderDepressionDifficult childhood experiencesPoor self-esteemOther mental health conditions, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)Traumatic events While most people experience some degree of self-consciousness from time to time, unhealthy levels can lead to significant problems in a person's life. High levels of self-consciousness can contribute to social anxiety, isolation, loneliness, poor self-esteem, and depression. Ways to Feel Less Self-Conscious There are steps you can take to deal with self-conscious emotions and reduce your focus on the self. It may take some time, but using these techniques can reduce your self-consciousness. Identify Triggers Consider some of the situations or factors that might contribute to feelings of self-consciousness: Perhaps there are some roadblocks holding you back from making the change. Maybe you think that it is too scary to focus on the outside world. Maybe it is mentally exhausting for you to keep up with conversations. As an alternative, consider what benefits there could be from being more confident. Being self-conscious is only making your anxiety worse, and focusing on the opinions of others can limit your quality of life. It is easier to be yourself and be spontaneous if you are not focused on editing yourself. You need to learn to lose yourself to become who you really are. Understand the emotions or situations that make you feel self-conscious is the first step to feeling more assured and self-confident. Press Play for Advice On Being Yourself Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring TV personality Craig Conover, shares how to find the courage to truly be yourself. Click below to listen now. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts Consider the Drawbacks of Being Self-Conscious One of the most significant issues with self-consciousness is trouble accurately reading situations. You may remember fewer details about situations where you did well and instead focus on your slight mistakes or faux pas. Self-consciousness can also lead you to judge other people as being exceptionally good conversationalists when that is an exaggeration. That can cause you to analyze everything happening around you, inhibiting you from relaxing and having a good time. Feeling self-conscious makes it difficult to see social situations clearly. Being aware of these drawbacks can help you better spot problems with your interpretations. Develop an Outward Focus Self-consciousness stems from being too inwardly focused, so shifting to a more outward perspective can help lessen these feelings. It won't be easy at first to develop an outward focus, particularly if you have used self-attention as a safety strategy for a long time. In order to make the switch, try to become curious about other people as an objective outside observer. The goal is not to imitate behavior, but simply to become more aware of what exchanges really go on. Watch what others do. Listen to what they say; and think openly about the situation. Be objective as you observe the situation from an outside perspective. Instead of focusing on your own feelings, shift your attention to focus on others. If you have trouble, assign yourself a task of learning something about the person. Reframe Your Negative Thoughts Negative self-talk can cause you to feel more self-conscious. If your inner monologue is constantly berating yourself, you are less likely to feel confident and more likely to think that others are also viewing you negatively. Reframing how you think about yourself can help reduce these feelings of self-consciousness. When you think negative thoughts, make a conscious effort to change these thoughts to be more positive and realistic. Instead of thinking, ""I'm going to mess up," reframe your thought to something more positive like "I'm going to do well because I am prepared." Practice Switching Perspectives One way to develop control over your focus is to learn how to switch between an inward and outward focus and notice the differences between the two. The next time you are in an observational situation (such as riding on a bus), try focusing on yourself first. Do this for about five minutes and notice how you feel. Then, switch and try noticing everyone else and how they appear. Try talking to them if it seems appropriate. Afterward, notice how you felt and what you took in. This experiment aims to become more aware of where your attention is directed, how to control it, and how it makes you feel. As you gain practice, try switching perspectives while in conversation with someone and notice the differences. Remember Others Don't See What You See It is important to remember that other people don't have the same perspective or experience things in the same way you do. People are not thinking about you or your actions in the same way as you do. If you start to get down on yourself or feel as though directing your focus outward is too dangerous, remember that in the broader picture, making a mistake or coming off as awkward is not the end of the world. While it might feel like others notice what you are doing, the reality is that they are much more focused on themselves. Reminding yourself of this simple fact can help you feel less self-conscious in social situations. Change Your Perspective When you are self-conscious, you likely become tense and say very little. As you focus attention outward, try some behaviors that encourage you to break free from the negative cycle of self-attention. It is hard to think negative thoughts about yourself when you are positive, happy, and talking. When in doubt, asking people questions about themselves, such as about their passions or pets, is a great way to break the ice and make people feel valued. You'll be remembered as charming and flattering, not socially awkward. Practice Self-Acceptance You're more likely to feel self-conscious if you listen to your inner critic. Instead of focusing on what you think are flaws or mistakes, try to practice accepting yourself for who you are. Some strategies that can help you embrace who you are: Appreciate the things that make you uniqueFocus on your strengths instead of your weaknessesCelebrate your successesTreat yourself with kindnessLet go of things you cannot change When to Seek Help These suggestions can help you become less self-conscious, but if you are experiencing excessive anxiety that keeps you from enjoying activities or meeting friends, it may be time to talk to a therapist. Social anxiety is a treatable disorder, and a comprehensive treatment plan can help you enjoy a higher quality of life. A Word From Verywell Excessive self-consciousness can lead to feelings of social anxiety. If you are always worried about how you are being evaluated by others in social situations, you are more likely to experience anxiety when you are around other people. Taking steps to gain control of your feelings of self-conscious may help ease some of your feelings of social anxiety. An Overview of Social Skills Training 5 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. de Caso I, Poerio G, Jefferies E, Smallwood J. That's me in the spotlight: neural basis of individual differences in self-consciousness. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2017;12(9):1384–1393. doi:10.1093/scan/nsx076 Boehme S, Miltner WH, Straube T. Neural correlates of self-focused attention in social anxiety. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015;10(6):856–862. doi:10.1093/scan/nsu128 Higa-McMillan C.K., Takishima-Lacasa J.Y., Ramsey K. (2018) Self-Consciousness. In: Levesque R.J.R. (eds) Encyclopedia of Adolescence. Springer, Cham. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-33228-4 Dahl M. Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness. New York: Penguin; 2018. Stein DJ. Social anxiety disorder and the psychobiology of self-consciousness. Front Hum Neurosci. 2015;9:489. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00489 By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Social Anxiety Disorder Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.