Are You Too Self-Conscious?

I have described my youngest daughter as the most confident person I know. Even as a baby, she would smile as she entered a room as if she could comprehend that everyone already loved her.

Then, around age 5, something changed. Molly started refusing to wear certain clothes. Anything “cute” was out of the question; it had to be “cool.” When I would ask her about the reasons for her clothing choices, she would actually refer to other kids’ thoughts, opinions, comments. This did make me sad. It’s one thing to wear what you really love, another to dress worried about what others will think.

My husband and I wonder if Molly’s self-consciousness has to do with getting so much attention and so many “You’re so cute comments” early on. She seems to want to avoid such attention now and may be too smart to be blissfully unaware. Maybe it’s just part of growing up. But sometimes, it gets in the way.

What does it mean to be self-conscious?

Wikipedia defines self-consciousness as a heightened sense of self-awareness. It seems to be an intense focus on oneself, either on inner thoughts and feelings or as one is viewed by others.

We focus on what other people think of us.

We know ourselves better than anyone else and we know exactly where we fall short of ideal. Combine this with egocentrism - our tendency to view the world from our own perspective - and no wonder we think everyone else is focused on our flaws.

This is normal but not helpful if it keeps us from doing what is important.

Self-consciousness can keep us from speaking, engaging with others or our environment (because focus is inward not outward), participating in activities that are challenging, unfamiliar, or require wearing a swimsuit.

Have you ever noticed the difference between posed photos and candids? Subjects are less self-conscious in candids. :)

Self-consciousness can make us think twice about running into the grocery store on a bad hair day (or is that just me?).

What to do about it?

  1. Remind yourself of a phenomenon called the “spotlight effect.”  Thomas Gilovich, PhD, and colleagues coined this term after conducting studies including one in which college students were asked to wear an “embarrassing” t-shirt (of Barry Manilow) and enter a room where others participants were sitting. The students wearing the embarrassing t-shirts were asked to estimate the number of people who noticed the t-shirt. The students wearing the t-shirts overestimated the number of others who noticed (they guessed about 50 percent would notice, but only about 25 percent noticed!). So remind yourself that the spotlight effect leads you to overestimate the amount of attention you’re actually getting.

  2. Watch your mind as it assumes knowledge of what everyone else is thinking of you. Notice your mind when it tells you what’s wrong with you, where you fall short, that you can’t dance, sing, write, speak and that everyone is going to see this if you dare do such things. Just notice the words going through your head. When you’re watching your mind, you’re not in it. Most people do not do this.

  3. Work on accepting everything about yourself and your life. Fully. Sounds like a lot to ask, right? It’s from a place of acceptance that we do great things. So, in full knowledge of your weaknesses and awareness of your thoughts and feelings, stand tall with shoulders back and do what you need to do to make your life workable and meaningful.

 

Want to explore this a little more? Let’s talk.

 

My Favorite Podcasts

Podcasts.png

In the past few months, I have a become a big fan of podcasts. I would venture to add podcasts to my "What's Saving My Life" list (more on that list this summer after my "What's Saving My Life" party).

This past week in particular, I listened to MANY podcasts. My husband took our three daughters camping for a few days and podcasts provided company, entertainment and education while I cleaned and organized (but not while I worked of course). Podcasts are my go-to audio for workouts and solo drives. 

I would love to hear about your favorite podcasts (e-mail me or comment below). Here are a few of mine in no particular order. 

Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Author Gretchen Rubin discusses happiness and good habits with her sister Liz Craft.

Happier in Hollywood - Liz Craft (Gretchen Rubin's sister), a TV writer and producer and her writing partner Sarah Fain talk about how to be happier and healthier in a crazy, chaotic, superficial world.  It's light and funny and fascinating to hear about working in Hollywood. 

Selfie - Bloggers Sarah James and Kristen Howerton talk about self care and all sorts of random (often hilarious) topics. 

Good Life Project - Jonathan Fields has conversations with some of my favorite authors, writers and speakers about "living a fully-engaged, fiercely-connected and purpose-drenched life."  Who doesn't want that? 

The Simple Show - Tsh Oxenreider has conversations with co-hosts about breaking down big ideas and saying "yes" to the right things. 

Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations - If you haven't watched or listened to these shows, they are life changing. 

Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield - For online entrepreneurs, Amy provides a wealth of helpful information on extending your reach and growing your business. 

 

Hit the Reset Button

Here is a simple way to get present when you are caught up in your thoughts & feelings (i.e  worried, overwhelmed, distracted, frustrated...).

It's also a way to develop genuine confidence. Confident people are engaged people. They are present & focused on the task at hand, whether it’s having a conversation, taking photos, or running a meeting.

This mindfulness exercise is found in The Reality Slap by Russ Harris, MD. Try it five times a day when you need to pause or "hit the reset button."  Kids love this one too!

Drop The Anchor

Take five to ten seconds to do the following:

Push your feet hard onto the floor and straighten your spine.

As you do this, take a slow deep breath.

Look around and notice five things you can see.

Listen carefully and notice five things you can hear.

Notice where you are and what you are doing.

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Enough of "Enough"

If you could eliminate one word from your mental vocabulary, what would it be? For me, it would be "enough."

I wake up already behind without enough sleep. I don't have enough time to do everything.  I'm certainly not good enough to do it all. And then I go to sleep having not accomplished, you guessed it, enough.

Whatever your word (failure, fat, loser, broke, "bad mother," mess...), here is a little coaching tool (from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) to take the sting and power out of the word:

First, take a benign noun like "lemon" or "apple."

Now repeat "lemon" or "apple" over and over again out loud as fast as you can for about 30 seconds.

Then, take your word and repeat it aloud for 30 seconds.

Notice what happens. Does the word become a meaningless combination of sounds?

Good. Because that is all it is.

Who would you be without that word?

You can start filling out your free Blueprint for 2013 planner anytime of year. It's here.

 

 

Don't Treat People The Way They Treat You

How often do we let other people's actions determine how we act?

I don't know how many times I have heard a client say,

"Well, if she's not going to respect me, then I'm not going to respect her."

How other people act is their business.  When you hinge your behavior on that of another person, you are handing over your power. You are not being the person you want to be. You are not acting in line with your values. You are missing out on an opportunity to add meaning to your life.

If being kind is important to you, then you can practice kindness toward others who are unsupportive and even mean.

If you feel judged, you can still be accepting.

Even if you have been hurt, you can act loving.

And when others are hiding and perfecting and presenting, you can still be authentic.

You can be the person you want to be no matter what others do.

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Do You Get Irritated with People?

We all become irritated with others. Some of us walk around in a general state of irritation. I was thinking about what causes this irritation.

It's the words in our heads.

He should...She shouldn't...

The baby shouldn't scream. The kids should clean up.  The teenager shouldn't talk back. My hair should be straight. My husband should appreciate me. Katie should put down her phone.  Larry shouldn't say anything. They should know better. Johnny should agree with me. Old Sally shouldn't write checks at the busy grocery store checkout.

To life coaches, the word "should"is a red flag. It is the root of so much mental angst.

What can help?

Just noticing the reason (the stream of words in your mind) for your irritation can help. Find the words interesting. Recognize, as Byron Katie famously notes, that getting caught up in  the "shoulds" is "arguing with reality."

All the stress that we feel is caused by arguing with what is. -Byron Katie

Stepping outside of and observing your mind allows you to handle challenging situations as your best, calm, non-irritated self.

Want more on this? Click here for one of my most popular posts.

Happiness = Plants + Pets + Photographs

Something that distinguishes happy families from less happy ones? Happy homes often have many plants, pets, and photographs in common areas.  Plants and pets give us opportunities to extend care beyond ourselves. Photos can prompt us to savor happy memories, a research-tested happiness booster.

In our home, we have an extra large pet (see above) and plenty of photographs (this is why), but only one little plant!  As much as I would love a couple tall plants in the living room, our toddler (the subject of many happy photos) & plants do not  mix.

Despite our lack of greenery, the Captain house will be featured in a future home tour on Design Mom. I will be sure to let you know when!

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You Might Be Good Enough

You know that pesky "I'm not good enough" story we all have? Maybe your mind says you are not good enough to have a successful business, pursue a dream, put yourself out there, take on a project, accept yourself, help others, offer your ideas, accomplish a goal, or try something new.  Perhaps your body, your job, your home, your partner, your income, your life  is not good enough. If you are a parent, you are not good enough many times a day.

Maybe it's too much for your mind to believe that you are good enough right now. If so, say these thoughts to yourself, let them marinate in your mind, and notice if you feel differently:

  • I may be good enough.
  • I just might be good enough.
  • What if I am good enough?

Does that change anything for you? More possibility? Hope? Lightness? That Not Good Enough story is not helping any of us be and do our best.  Let's do what we can to get some space from it.

Ask Your 80-Year-Old Self

Making a decision?  Feeling stuck? Burdened by financial pressure or the overwhelming demands of daily life?

Tap into the wisdom of your 80-year-old self.

What would she say? What comforting words would you hear? According to her, what really matters?

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Quick Relationship Tip

What if, by some magical wave of a wand, your partner  started behaving exactly as you wish? What if your husband or boyfriend was your ideal mate with no annoying habits? What if your wife or girlfriend was always supportive of you, never critical?

If that was true, how would you behave?

How would you describe the sort of partner you would be? Think of three adjectives (ideas: supportive, engaged, grateful, compassionate, loving, forgiving, authentic, kind).

What thoughts would you have about your partner?

Be that person now.

Apply this to your relationships with kids, family members, or co-workers and notice if it's helpful. I am going to try this with my kids (because lots of time together during the summer is not always easy!).

Image via Geoff Captain Studios.

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When You Feel Like Giving Up

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I get to work with teenagers who are struggling - academically, emotionally (usually both). Recently, I was ready to give up on one of them.

I had been meeting with Sean weekly for 6 months to work on what was getting in the way of passing  his classes. But he continued to fail. He didn't even seem to care. That's what irked me the most.

At our last session, Sean was failing two out of six classes and barely passing two others.  With only a few weeks of school left, I knew it was not likely that that he could pass. He would have to repeat  Algebra & Biology, extending  his high school career (unless he chose to drop out).  So, of course, he was giving up. And I completely understood. My mind was trying to come up with reasons to try.

Chances of  Sean climbing out of this hole were slim.

Perhaps you feel like giving up.

You may be in a relationship that seems beyond repair. In so much debt that you don't know how to climb out.  About to break under the weight of caring for so many people.  Buried under clutter or responsibilities or an endless list of tasks. So far behind, you don't know how to catch up. Your ideal weight, job or life may be too far out of sight.

Perhaps you are tired and overwhelmed (I am no stranger to these feelings).

Here's how to dig out:

First, offer yourself compassion. This topic deserves its own post, but for now, give yourself warmth, encouragement  and unconditional acceptance in your internal dialogue. This means being kind to yourself in your thinking.

Next, remind yourself that challenges, failures, and pain are simply part of being human. We are all the same and we are all in this together.

Finally, step outside of yourself and observe your thoughts, emotions and sensations without judgement or resistance. This mindfulness makes new behaviors possible.

Then, connect with what is important to you and take one small step in the valued direction. 

It turns out that Sean did care and when he let himself, he cried about it. Much of Sean's pain came from the fear of disappointing his mom, who works hard at two jobs.  Sean felt that he was letting his mom down. So I tried to help him connect with his values. Sure, he wants to pass his classes, but that's not the only point. Right now, Sean can work hard (a family value) and learn.  He can feel good knowing he is doing what is important and making his life meaningful.  This also increases his chances of passing.  And if he does not pass a class, working hard and learning now can only help him  next time around.  His next step was asking teachers if he could make up assignments.

What is your next step?

Is it writing a list? Making a twenty-dollar payment? Drinking a glass of water, touching your running shoes, saying a prayer, giving a hug, making a call, opening a book, asking for help, breathing deeply, prioritizing, apologizing, resting, signing up?

You don't have to do it all right now.  You don't even have to know all of the steps. Just take one small step in the right direction.

You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance. It took me a long time to accept that, but it’s true. -via light-between-the-leaves

Did you miss the April Blueprint Newsletter? Check it out here.

Image via Geoff Captain Studios

How To Save Mental Energy

President Obama has a habit you may want to adopt. Or at least adapt.

As he explained to Michael Lewis in this Vanity Fair profile, Obama wears only gray or blue suits. "I'm trying to pair down decisions," he says. "I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make."

The President described himself as "routinized" and referenced research finding that the act of making decisions impacts our ability to make further decisions. This explains why shopping can be so exhausting.

This prompted my own reflection on how much time & energy I spend deciding which tasks to complete and when, or (one that really drains me), deciding what's for dinner. For the dreaded dinner question, Christine Carter at Raising Happiness has a great idea: automate meal planning so that it becomes a habit and takes less time & energy. Take a look at Christine's weekly meal plan for her family here.

You can also enter meals into a Google calendar and have items repeat every so often (so you can have Aunt Betty's famous meatloaf every 3 weeks!).

My free Blueprint for 2013 planner includes the question, "What routines or systems will support my goal achievement?"

I see this idea of systems & routines working in at least two ways. Automating tasks can save mental energy you need for creative, cognitively demanding activities. Establishing routines or rituals for important tasks (writing in a gratitude journal, exercising, reading to your kids) can also make it more likely that you will make room in your schedule for what matters.

Brene Brown & Oprah

I want to let you all know that Brene Brown is talking with Oprah on this week’s edition of Super Soul Sunday (3/17). The show airs at 11am ET/PT. For those of you (like me) who don’t get OWN, there is a simulcast on oprah.com. I believe part two of their conversation airs the following Sunday. Enjoy!

 

How to Say "YES" to Life

When it comes to your life, are you all in?

I recently wrote a guest post for Purpose Fairy about saying "yes" to whatever life brings - even the messy, painful stuff.

While you are visiting Purpose Fairy, you will want to read "15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy." This post was shared over one million times on Facebook. It's how I discovered the site. I just shared this post with some friends, and they joked that if they gave up those 15 things, there would be nothing left to do! :)

“When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don't want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.” ― Mary Oliver

Did you miss your FREE Blueprint for 2013? Get it here.

Free Blueprint for 2013 Planner

Happy New Year!

Now that the holiday dust has settled, are you ready to think about what's important in the months ahead?

My Blueprint for 2013 workbook is here! It's full of questions and lists to inspire and guide your design of 2013.  The book is free to newsletter subscribers and was blasted last week.  If you did not receive it, that means you are not subscribed to my newsletter (the blog and newsletter are two different subscriptions). You can sign up HERE  and your Blueprint for 2013 will be e-mailed to you. Free!

You can download, print, and staple the book together and get on with your planning. Or, if you want something fancier to write on...

Blueprint for 2013 is also available for purchase as a printed book through Amazon. It's printed in color, bound, and includes bonus questions and pages beyond those in the digital version. The beautiful graphics are thanks to my husband, Geoff.  My first copy arrived yesterday (We have Amazon Prime, so it was here in 2 days). I ordered a bunch to give as gifts and others have let me know that  they have done the same.

I have been using the book to create meaningful goals for my business and family life and to keep track of my ideas for the year.  I hope you find it useful too!

Thank you for the space in your inbox!

With gratitude,

Maura