When I was 10 my family moved to a little town that was filled with artists. One of our new neighbors approached my Mom and asked if my sister and I would model for one of his paintings. The family discussed it and we were all excited by the opportunity. So, my sister and I sat together while he sketched and took photos of us. I remember the day I saw the completed painting (which still hangs in my parents house today), I thought to myself “Is that what I look like?”, “Does he (the artist) think I’m pretty?” And thus, a notch in the belt of self-consciousness was formed.
Self-consciousness is a hyper sense of self-awareness that is formed by seeing yourself through external eyes and forming judgments about yourself based on how you imagine you’re being perceived by others.
While I do believe it is a natural stage of human development to start noticing what you look like and wondering how others perceive you. There is a difference between healthy self-awareness and unhealthy self-consciousness.
At 18, I had built up so many notches in my heavy-weight championship belt of self-consciousness that I was being weighed down by unhealthy perceptions and a very limited view of myself. I was losing my identity to the perceived opinions of others and drifting into a sea of self-criticism. At that point, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to find out if I could experience a healthy sense of my self and learn to love my body. In a flash of inspiration, I recalled that early artist modeling experience and wondered if I could practice being looked at as a way to become comfortable with myself. So, I decided to become an Artist Model. I went to the local art school and started working as a model for their portrait classes, oil painting classes, watercolor classes and yes, the traditional nude life-drawing class (oh my!).
As an Artist Model I learned a lot about self-consciousness. Initially my self-consciousness got worse, but then something shifted and I started to discover what healthy self-awareness actually feels like and I was able to practice it. Of course, I’m still learning more about this, because, as you know I do a lot of photos, and my life’s work is about being Living Art, so I’m endlessly facing more layers of this rich topic. At the same time, I’ve come a long way and truly enjoy my body and living in it. Now, it is very easy for me to say full uninhibited self-expression is one of my greatest pleasures!
I’ve put together a list of the great spiritual lessons I’ve learned from being self-conscious and how to develop healthy self-awareness that is fueled by love. I hope this inspires you to awaken your inner power and learn to be self-aware in a deeply nourishing way.
5 ways to get over being self-conscious
1. Flaws aren’t the end, they’re the beginning.
So you’ve got flaws. Everyone has flaws. Getting over being self-conscious isn’t about getting rid of your flaws; it is about learning from them. I had acne, I’ve got cellulite, I sweat when I feel people looking at me, I worry about having body odor, one of my eyes closes slightly when I’m tired, etc..
Flaws aren’t the end of your life, they are the beginning of your journey to get to know yourself. Flaws can draw your attention to look at something. Maybe you need to learn how to take better care of yourself and shift your diet, maybe you need to expose your belief systems so you have the opportunity to change them, maybe you need to redefine what beauty is and your flaws are challenging you to do so.
I’ve found my flaws to be great teachers. They uncover my beliefs about myself, they expose my fears, they challenge my courage and ultimately they reveal a path that is unique to me.
What can you learn from your flaws? What are your flaws trying to teach you about your true beauty?
2. Face the Dragon Eyes
Feeling someone looking at me used to feel like a torturous burn. I was petrified of the pending judgment that I assumed would be flung my way, so I cowered many times and hid behind others. In some extreme situations I hid so brilliantly I blended into the background. Although this strategy offered temporary relief it didn’t help me to realize my dreams and express my true calling as a creative spiritual being. My hiding was fueled by fear. Fear of being looked at, fear of being seen, fear of being judged, fear of being ugly, fear of not being enough, etc… The fears felt so powerful I started calling them the Dragon.
Developing a healthy sense of self-awareness starts by facing your fears. You must be willing to look at what scares you in order to see the truth beyond your fears. This is a process I call facing the Dragon Eyes.
The most fascinating thing happens when you face the Dragon Eyes and you let yourself really look at yourself. You discover you are the Dragon. You are the one perceiving, projecting, judging, comparing, and criticizing. Although it is not pleasant to see this, it is essential to begin the process of taking your power back. If you realize you are the Dragon, that means you are the one with the power. To uncover this power, you have to start looking.
Look at yourself. Face yourself in the mirror (nude is best). Let all your judgements and criticisms be exposed. You’ll discover you are the one who is judging. Although it doesn’t feel good in the moment to realize you are judging yourself, it is a powerful step towards building healthy self-awareness.
Face the Dragon Eyes and really look at yourself.
3. Own your thoughts like money in the bank
Once you face your Dragon Eyes you gain access to all the thoughts, beliefs, judgements, perceptions and criticism you’ve been burying yourself in. Seeing it, hearing it, noticing it is like getting a bank card. You suddenly have the opportunity to deposit or withdraw energy into the bank. Each thought you think that is fueled by fear withdraws money from the bank and eventually creates a debt of unhealthy self-consciousness. Each time you think a thought fueled by love, you deposit money into the bank of self-awareness and build your wealthy, healthy sense of self.
Empower your thoughts by challenging yourself to nurture thoughts that grow inner wealth. Each time you catch yourself thinking something about yourself and your body ask yourself “Is this thought putting money in the bank or is it creating a debt to my psyche?”
4. Be your own authority
As an Artist Model I would walk around the classroom during breaks to see how all the artists saw me. It was enlightening! Some artists painted me blue, some painted me all distorted with eyes coming out of my forehead, some painted me to look like a man, some painted me looking like a child, some tried to do a photo-realism rendition of what they thought I looked like. Every single creation was completely unique. They were all interesting with their own unique voice. But, It wasn’t my voice. After seeing so many versions and variations of other people’s interpretations of me, I realized that I am the only one who can truly see who I am. As a result, I am the only one who can know the truth about me. This puts me in a position of authority over my own life. Everyone else, will see me through the unique filter of their life experience, but that doesn’t mean that is who I am. I decide who I am.
Getting over being self-conscious is about owning your own experience and being the authority on your opinion of yourself. Be mindful of what is true for you and let that determine your perspective.
What do you know to be true about yourself?
5. Be willing to fall in love
Learning how to cherish yourself, and care for your body in a loving way, will bring forth a special glow that trumps any flaws and imperfections.
When we see ourselves from the outside in, we’re perceiving through an ungrounded lens of fear. When we let ourselves see ourselves through the eyes of love, we are empowering ourselves from the inside out.
Learning how to see yourself from love’s vantage point is about being willing to fall in love with yourself. When you’re in love with yourself you will naturally listen to what is best for you and care for yourself in the best possible way. A great place to start is getting really good at spotting all the things you love about yourself. Go on a self-love binge and saturate every cell with love.
How can you practice loving yourself today?
Getting over an unhealthy sense of self-consciousness starts by developing a healthy sense of self-awareness. I’d love to hear about your journey from self-consciousness to self-awareness. Which self-awareness practice will you practice today? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Share the ‘5 ways to get over being self-conscious’ with your friends. Help our world become more empowered and self-loving!