Overcoming morbid self-consciousness around others

Question: For as long as I can remember, I have been extremely shy and self-conscious. I constantly worry about what others think about me. I don’t feel worth much and have a very hard time asserting myself. I know this isn’t good but I don’t know how to change. Any suggestions? Elaine in CA.

Answer: Being aware of your problems and wanting to change is a very good first step. God has an answer for you, but first you must understand what your problem is.

Most of us tend to see a person who thinks too highly of themselves and is self-absorbed with their talents, abilities, beauty, or success as being self-centered and full of pride. On the other hand those who tend to be more self depreciating and self-conscious, we may view as more humble and meek.

However, the truth is, both individuals have the same problem, just experienced in opposite ways. They are both self-absorbed. One person thinks too much of themselves in a positive way, the other person thinks too much of themselves in a negative way. It is good that you have begun to realize the bondage of such thinking. There is no freedom to love. You are too worried about you, and how you will do or be received, to use your gifts, abilities or talents to reach out to another person in love.

These words may seem hard, but if you try to solve your problem the traditional way, by focusing more on your good qualities, or trying to think more highly of yourself, you aren’t really addressing the inherent self-centered focus of your life. We are to be God-centered, not other-centered or self-centered people. When we take our eyes off ourselves, and put them on Christ, then we begin to see ourselves as he sees us. What does that mean practically?

1. We are created in his image and for relationship with God. We are special to God and he made us with dignity, value, and purpose (Psalm 8:5-8). No one is worthless, and each of us is designed to fulfill a special purpose that only we can do.

2. Although we have sinned, and made some terrible mistakes, God has still put goodness in us. (1 Corinthians 4:7). These gifts, talents, and abilities are to be used to benefit and serve others (1 Peter 4:10). When we are caught up in morbid self-consciousness, our fears (of failure and rejection mostly), keep us from discovering and using who we are, and the good qualities we have, to serve others and glorify God.

Now, the next step is to put into practice what God says. You probably know these things already, but knowing these truths is not the same as believing them. How would your life be different if you believed that God put good qualities in you? What might you do differently in your relationships with others if you believed that God has a purpose for your life and that you were created with dignity and value?

I encourage you to ponder those truths and then live like you believe them. Watch what happens in you and in your relationships. You may be in for a big surprise.

For more help on this topic, see my book, How to Find Selfless Joy in a Me-First World.

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2 Comments

  1. Aleea on November 14, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Elaine in CA,

    For ALL of us our value comes simply in the fact that we live, period. Life is a gift only God could ever give. We are valuable and special simply because we are here, period. . . . —Christ loves us. We have the greatest value. He gave His life for all we are worth. . . . Or as Leslie said in the post “I Hate Me And I Love Him – What’s Wrong?” June 17, 2015 by Leslie Vernick — “. . . . . What if I told you that I know for sure that although you are not perfect, you are beautiful, precious, valuable, worthwhile, important, and special? How do I know that? —Because God says it. He’s the final authority on who you are and who you were meant to be, not your husband, not your mother, not your father, not even you. Therefore what God calls good we must value and take good care of. You have vast value and worth to God. You are deeply and fully loved by Him. God desires to give you a clean slate by forgiving you and bringing you into a close relationship with Him. You belong to Him, he adopts you into His family. Your life has meaning and purpose. You are not an accident. . . . . If you want to heal, make me a promise. From today forward the words you choose to use with yourself and the words you choose to listen to and believe are going to be life giving words of God’s truth.” —I absolutely love that!!!

    —Also, this is a great book that I am currently reading: What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?: Answers to the Big Questions of Life by Edward T. Welch . . . . carefully, surgically, exposes people-pleasing for what it is: Sin! Great book!!!!!

    Further, Defeating Depression by Leslie Vernick is great p. 200 “. . . . The remedy for unbelief is trust. He tells us, “Trust me with your whole heart. Don’t depend upon your own way of looking at things. In every way look for me and I will direct your steps” . . . .Jesus told his disciples,“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” . . . . Trust Jesus. This sounds too simple, yet Jesus tells us that when we trust him, we don’t get so rattled by life . . . . The opposite of trust is unbelief.”

    Defeating Depression by Leslie Vernick p. 87 “. . . . Lasting change happens when we experience God in a new way. We see him differently. We start to see God as for us and not against us, and that reality brings hope to the hopeless heart. ‘We believe him to be good and only desiring our good, and that truth brings peace to the heart that is full of fear. Our thoughts and feelings toward God motivate our will to surrender and obey, not because we have to, but because we want to. He tells us to trust him with all of our heart (our emotions, our mind, and our will), and not to lean on our own understanding.”

    Aleea in CA

  2. Betty on November 29, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Aleea,
    Thank you for this thoughtful response. I struggle with self-consciousness. Calling it self-centeredness rings true. I have some growing to do, and your comments give me guidance. I appreciate you taking time to share your resources.

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