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You don’t have to be naked to feel self-conscious. It can happy anytime, anywhere — whether you’re taking your bikini body to the beach or speaking your mind in a room full of strangers. How you look, what you say, and what you do all make you… YOU! But, often times, appearing or even thinking differently from either what is going on around you, or what you have envisioned internally, can have a big impact on your ability to feel confident.

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Self-consciousness makes way for embellishments. You could be in a room full of people who don’t even notice you, and yet somehow feel as though every single set of eyes is focused right on you.

Being self-conscious can limit our ability to enjoy each beautiful moment of life by taking us out of our personal experiences and into what we believe others are thinking. It is during this time that we become an object, which can lead to shame and embarrassment, despite anyone ever showing their judgements verbally or physically.

It doesn’t make you any less of a person for feeling this way, but it can hinder you from being true to yourself. So what can you do?

There are many strategies available to help you feel less self-conscious. For instance, you can remind yourself that people aren’t thinking of you as much as you think they are. (They’re just as worried about themselves as you are about yourself, in fact.) Once you acknowledge that, you have the opportunity to shut down negative thoughts. You can do this by refusing to agree with them.

“If someone said ‘You’re a purple elephant,’ you wouldn’t argue about how you really aren’t and how even purple elephants have feelings. You would just shrug and say ‘OK, whatever,’ ” says Carmen Cool, MA, LPC, a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colorado. He calls this the “mental shrug,” and suggests doing it with your brain by saying, “OK, that’s what my mind is doing, whatever.”

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Lastly, work on accepting yourself. 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,” says Cool.

“Self-respecting people do not evaluate themselves on the basis of external appearances. Our homework would be to allow others to believe whatever they want and see if anyone faints.”

Sometimes it helps just knowing you’re not alone, too. Writer Willie Muse and illustrator Paul Westover teamed up reveal what the world looks like when you feel self-conscious. Take a look at the very relatable comics, created for College Humor, below:

 


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