Help me be more relaxed and comfortable in my own skin.
January 19, 2010 4:14 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for practices or teachings that will help me be more relaxed and comfortable in my own skin.

I used to be a social and relaxed person, chilled, comfortable and carefree. But recently I just can’t relax with myself in public. I have developed major insecurities about my personality and profession, which causes great anxiousness that is manifest in conversations with everyone I meet.

I have moved to a new city so I am making an extra effort to socialise with new people. However I am always very anxious, fidgety, and everything I say, despite my efforts to the contrary, tends to bragging , approval seeking, overfamiliarity, or emotional venting.

I am really insecure about the social value of my profession, and my lack of friends, and always pepper my conversation with “my friend Mr x is so cool”, “my job is so well paid...” etc - It's not subtle, I often exagerate or outright lie to beef up my story. It's so transparent, I am a rubbish lier. And people DO notice. I just can’t help myself. Its getting worse over time.

I know the best thing to do would be just be myself, relax, chill out, don’t seek validation, be honest, but despite my best efforts it's getting worse and worse. I find it painful to listen to myself. How is this even possible? It's like I am listening to a stranger [who I dislike] speak.

So I am looking for techniques, books, meditation perhaps, to help me just be one with myself, and engage with others on a meaningful level.
posted by choppyes to Human Relations (11 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
7 Habits!

I would find some kind of system, ie 7 habits, and then stick to it. I know some will disagree. But if you follow a system for a while, you will see what is helpful for you in your life and what isn't. But having is a system is a great way to start life change.
posted by lakerk at 4:26 PM on January 19, 2010

The way to do this is to allow yourself to feel less comfortable in your skin.

In otherwords, when you start to feel bad about things, let yourself feel bad about it. Don't try to rationalize how things can get better and avoid relief. Don't drink, smoke, have sex, or call a friend. Let the bad feelings pass through you. Train yourself to stay with the bad feelings.

The problem isn't the bad feelings, we all have them. Its avoiding the inevitable that makes it worse. Those feelings will chase you around. Accept them and your mind will move on after a short period.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:40 PM on January 19, 2010 [11 favorites]

I should add that I really like my job, and other than this and really very happy with my life and wouldn't change much. I am not sad. I am one of the luckiest guys alive, my any metric.

Friends tell me that one of my most endearing traits was how I didn't care what strangers thought of me. Now I REALLY care, and it is destroying my personality, and turning me into a liar and a braggart creep, especially when meeting new people. (friends and family have observed this too)
posted by choppyes at 4:46 PM on January 19, 2010

Sorry, I need to clarify that last post.

"I should add that I really like my (unfashionable) job, and other than these irrational anxieties ,I am really very happy with my life and wouldn't change anything. I am not sad a. I am one of the luckiest guys alive, by any metric. Which makes the behaviour all the strange.

Friends tell me that one of my most endearing traits was how I didn't care what strangers thought of me. My problem is that now I REALLY care, and this ansxiousness is destroying my personality, and turning me into a liar and a braggart creep, especially when meeting new people. (friends and family have observed this too)

I need reccomendations to regain my cool, rather than how to alter my life.
posted by choppyes at 4:53 PM on January 19, 2010

No matter what system you employ, it won't shout louder than the voice in your head. And if it does, you are the guy shouting some "system" that clearly eclipses the rest of you. You don't need to trade yourself in for somebody else. You know how you want to be different, and you know it won't happen until you feel that way from the inside out.

So just be quiet. Take comfort that you are the new guy in your new city. Odds are that you care about you WAY more than other people are caring about you at any given moment, especially in casual conversation. Relax. You aren't that bad. And if you replace you with your system, people probably won't care about that either. This is a good thing. It gives you reason to be calm. To worry less.

Here's a practical tip:

If you are quiet, if you say little compared to those around you, people generally assume you are at least equal to their most generous impression of you. Don't take this away from them.

Use this tip to engage strategically, when you feel good about what your contribution will be. You will get better over time. The voice in your head won't be nearly as intrusive.
posted by nickjadlowe at 4:58 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I recommend the 'wisdom meditation' at the bottom of this page. Actually, I recommend them all, but that one is particularly suited to your problem.
posted by embrangled at 5:08 PM on January 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Did this begin before you moved, or after? Is the move to a new city the only difference in your life, or has anything else happened that might explain your sudden insecurity?
posted by prefpara at 6:35 PM on January 19, 2010

nthing what embrangled said and

I have found the meditation practice Tonglen to be very helpful with social issues and anxiety.
posted by ljesse at 10:23 PM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thanks - I will try meditation as recommended.

It wasn't a sudden onset. It has crept up on my over the years. I used to be a heavy cannabis user and quit to paranoid attacks. Also a recent heavy breakup (the cracks were caused by my anxiety, I think) and relocation has recently compounded the problem.
posted by choppyes at 8:14 AM on January 20, 2010

Have you ever tried yoga? Even the less hippie-dippy, more athletic forms help you to concentrate on how your body is feeling and moving. I find it very powerful. It could help with both the fidgeting and the general sense of discomfort.
posted by decathecting at 12:46 PM on January 20, 2010

I don't know any particular practices or teachings--but I'd try a few things. First, when you're in a conversation, just try to concentrate on what the other person is saying, not what you think you want to say next. Try to respond to their comments rather than necessarily feel like you have to put everything about yourself out there. Focus on the conversation as being significant because you are meeting someone/ learning something new, not as a mechanism for you to do a personal infomercial, so to speak.

Second, while I agree that you have to confront negative feelings, you can't spend all your time brooding on your anxiety, because that can just make the problem seem more significant than it really is. You need to spend time engaged in activities where anxiety is not such a factor. Can you visit friends from your old town, chat online with them, whatever?

Do you have a support group of family and close friends who you can talk to about your anxiety, or life in the new city, or the bad relationship? It helps to verbalize these things to people who know you, if only for their sympathy.

I say this because it seems like your anxiety comes from overthinking the significance of everything you do, and not having a venue for dealing with legitimate emotional responses to stressful situations. Get your mind away from yourself (from scrutinizing your own words and actions so heavily), and get whatever is toxic to your peace of mind out where other people can help you with it.

You say that you're a pretty lucky guy who has no reason to be dissatisfied with life, and that you've gone through some upheavals recently. So the last thing that I'd say is that you need to be patient and forgive yourself for not being happy and perfect all of the time. Personally, I get angry and frustrated when I feel like I've failed in my expectations for myself, but a moment (or a couple of years, in my case) of less than stellar behavior is really not worth getting worked up over, and only needs to influence your future as much as you allow it to.
posted by _cave at 7:33 PM on January 20, 2010

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