How do I learn to enjoy talking about myself more?
November 15, 2013 11:16 AM   Subscribe

A while ago, I joined Meta specifically to ask this question. Well, I am happy to announce I am another AskMeta success story! Following a large amount of advice I received, I was more specific about my wants and needs and to cut a very long story short, my boyfriend proposed on my birthday a couple of weeks ago! I'm thrilled! The boy did good. He agreed he needed a kick up the bum and I really owe that to you guys! This brings me to my question, I am extraordinarily uncomfortable talking about myself for extended periods of time and being the centre of attention.

I much prefer it when someone else has good news to share, I could talk about other people and their lives all day, but when it comes to me I'm super shy and find myself getting annoyed with all the attention that has come along with getting engaged.

I'm not trying to be a diva or anything, I just hate people focusing on me for too long and I think the more I tell people how much I dislike all the attention, the more ungrateful I sound. I don't know if I can tell the "proposal story" one more time, and when I do tell it, I realise that I'm saying it in such a negative tone that the person I'm talking to thinks there's something wrong!

How do I learn to enjoy talking about myself more? I'm already really nervous about the wedding which will mean a day with all eyes on me. I wonder if it's because I'm English and was brought up in a traditionally stiff upper lip type way. I'm a self-deprecating kind of person and feel almost wrong for even thinking about enjoying some of the attention for a while. Help me if you can - how can I get better at enjoying the limelight when I need to? I dislike self-promotion and the people who are constantly "me, me, me - Look at ME, Look at ME!!!!" and maybe in a subconscious way, this is a mechanism to prevent me from becoming the kind of person I despise... but there must be a middle ground? And if so, how do I get there? Are there any coping skills I can use?
posted by JenThePro to Human Relations (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
How do I learn to enjoy talking about myself more?

Don't bother. Most people only ask questions because they want to hear themselves talk. So let them:
Them: "How are the wedding plans coming?"
You: "Really busy. You know how it is. I mean, geez, trying to pick a place is... whoa. Where did you guys get married?"
Them: "BLAH BLAH BLAH Wow, you're a really great conversationalist."

In the case of the proposal story, work on it to make an anecdote you can tell relatively quickly, and then make the same transition:
Them: "I hear you got engaged. How did he propose?"
You: "Oh, it was great. [INSERT ANECDOTE HERE] How did your husband propose?"
Them: "BLAH BLAH BLAH Wow, you're a really great conversationalist."
posted by Etrigan at 11:23 AM on November 15, 2013 [12 favorites]

I'm the biggest ham in the world, but the whole engagement thing just seemed to be overblown and silly. Also, kind of private.

People assume that you want to tell the story and flash the ring. I'd come up with something short and accurate. Mine would be, "It wasn't special to anyone but us, he asked me at the Russian Tea Room, it's where we had our first date."


As for the wedding, I was 39 and the subject bored me to tears. I couldn't work up two shits to give about it. I was all about being a wife, but the stupid party was a hassle. But, I was the first in my family to marry and Husbunny is an only child, so I sucked it up.

If I hadn't belonged to a UU church, with people who pretty much INSISTED that I actually cobble something together, given my druthers, we'd have eaten pizza in my living room.

My first choice was Las Vegas, because you pay, and you do. My inlaws put the kibosh on that though, so I had a typical UU wedding, with a rabbi and a reverend. Total ceremony time, 30 minutes.

As it turns out, it worked out fine.

Have a bridesmaid whose job it is to get you out of those situations. My sister did a brilliant job.

My two friends planned a small shower, it was basically a co-ed party at our house and we all just hung out. It was lovely.

Remember, it's not about you being the center of attention, it's about your friends and family welcoming a new couple into the group.

I do recommend having only one attendant if you can swing it, and make the actual wedding small and intimate. That way it won't seem like a coronation.

Other than that, keep telling yourself, "They don't mean anything by it, they're just happy for me."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:25 AM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Gah. Hit Post too soon.

Also, ask a follow-up question that shows you were really listening.

Them: "I hear you got engaged. How did he propose?"
You: "Oh, it was great. [INSERT ANECDOTE HERE] How did your husband propose?"
You: "Really. A trained pigeon? How did he find that?"
Them: "BLAH BLAH BLAH Wow, you're a really great conversationalist."
posted by Etrigan at 11:25 AM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

1. Congrats!
2. I'm a newlywed, I totally get what you're saying. I didn't want to be all "MEEEEE! LOOK AT ME!" during my wedding stuff either. (look at my question history) I managed it by, well, not being that way. Seriously, it isn't hard. Just don't be a diva. I sought ways to make our wedding be as little of a hassle for others as I could manage. I didn't talk about it constantly. If someone brought it up I would talk about it happily and with enthusiasm, but I wouldn't talk about it for long. Just change the subject after a bit. I also let people help however/how much/how little they wanted. Everyone's involvement was optional, and if they did choose to get involved, they decided how much they wanted to be involved. I had one sister who basically stood totally on the sidelines (she hates weddings), and my other sister declared herself my wedding planner/coordinator. My mom went totally crazy with planning details and including elements. My dad basically only got involved by buying the liquor and mowing the lawn. Some of my mom's friends got really really involved too. All of this was outside my control, I had to just go with it. So let people decide how involved they want to be, and try not to get hung up on small details that don't really matter much. For example, my mother decided she wanted to make mexican wedding cookies to serve during the champagne toast... um, what? We're from atlantic canada! But whatever, having mexican wedding cookies was important to her, so no big deal. I decided to just let people do what they wanted. Unless something was totally against what my husband and I wanted for our wedding we just let people do what they wanted. All we really cared about was ending the day married to each other. The rest is just details.

My suggestion is to basically accept that for the next little while you're going to have to play a bit of a role. People are happy for you, people want to make it special for you. Getting married is pretty much a guaranteed attention maker, I don't think you can get around it. Basically, just be gracious. Try to be excited for the different things people are doing for you. Don't let the wedding become something you and your husband to be will hate, but don't get all crazy over the small details.

Remember, through all of this, through all the discomfort of being the centre of attention and having everyone ask you about it, the end game is to be married to the man you love. Remember that all of this comes down to that. You're marrying him. YAY! Keeping that in mind will help you enjoy this more.

And seriously - Be very conscious that other people have things going on in their lives, and keep being interested in that.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:26 AM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

I agree with Etrigen - Answer questions with short (but friendly!) answers & follow up with a question. You don't need to give most people very many specifics.

Coworker: Tell me everything about the proposal!
You: It was so lovely, he proposed on my birthday! We're so happy. Hey, did your daughter end up getting that job you were talking about last week?
posted by insectosaurus at 11:35 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Consider attending a Toastmasters meeting (you can find a club near you here). They specialize in teaching just the sort of skills you describe. You can speak about yourself there (and are expected to) and get honest feed back on being the "center of attention."
posted by mattbucher at 11:39 AM on November 15, 2013

I do recommend having only one attendant if you can swing it, and make the actual wedding small and intimate. That way it won't seem like a coronation.

Oh my god, yes. This is so true. We had just a best man and a maid of honour, that kept things MUCH easier to organize and coordinate. The bigger the wedding party, the more complicated and stressful things get. Plus, we only had ~60 guests. Not as small as we had wanted, but it was as small as we could manage. Keeping it smaller and limited to only the people we had solid relationships with and cared about really helped to make the day feel even more special. It also helped the day feel like less of a fuss.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:41 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

How do I learn to enjoy talking about myself more?

In this instance, you really don't have to. People are asking out of politeness or convention (at best) and 99% of them will LOVE YOU FOREVER for not being the girl who tells the detailed, 25 minute long proposal story. Just keep your answers short and positive (as you did quite nicely above the fold here!) for all but the friends/family who are extremely close to you. People will move on. If they don't, and you don't feel like talking about yourself, you can shift the conversation to weddings in general ("Do you like big poufy dresses? Did/would you wear one?") etc.

More generally, you'd be surprised how little people actually care about/react to these big life events if you don't make a big deal about them. I mean obviously if you walk down the aisle of a massive church in a white dress people will stare:) But to a large extent this, like everything, is as self-focused as you make it.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:41 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Think of it this way: when most people say, "Tell me all about the proposal!" or "What do you have planned for the wedding?" they are not really displaying an intense interest in your wedding plans. Instead, they are telling you: "I care about you and want to show enthusiasm for your good news!" So whatever you say back should convey, "I appreciate that you care." Rather than saying how uncomfortable you are or telling the story in a negative tone, keep it brief but friendly and warm. Same for followup questions.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:08 PM on November 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

Most people only ask questions because they want to hear themselves talk.

With all due respect, this is depressingly unfair. Some people ask questions because they want to know more about the person they're talking to, and if that person only responds in two-word replies or instantly tries to change the subject or bounce a question back, that means more questions forthcoming from a person who is truly interested.

OP has a lot of vague terms that make it hard to give decent advice here, "too long," "extended" periods, but I doubt there's a risk of you ever being someone you think of as "Me ME ME," and at any rate, brides don't really have to say anything and can get through the day with like five things repeated over and over.
posted by rhizome at 12:17 PM on November 15, 2013

I'm already really nervous about the wedding which will mean a day with all eyes on me.
You don't have to have a wedding with tons of invited guests in order to get married. Mr. Saurus and I went to city hall with immediate family only (4 parents, 4 siblings+spouses, 1 niece) and it was amazing.* We were the center of attention for all of....5 minutes? Wouldn't change a thing.

*We also didn't have an "engagement" at all -- just decided to get married, picked a day a few weeks after that, told the invited family (sworn to secrecy), a trip to the NYC marriage bureau, a quick facebook update later that evening and voila! we were married for all the world to see! We were able to celebrate with our friends in small groups - lots of drinks and dinners out in the weeks after the wedding. This, for us, was more meaningful, less stressful, and soooo much cheaper.
posted by melissasaurus at 1:04 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agree with the shifting technique. When people ask about the proposal, you could talk about your boyfriend (how great he is, how he planned it, how he xyz) and not so much about yourself or how you experienced it. Then kind of pick one thing/theme you just mentioned or that is somehow related to the conversation, ask or say something about it and things should snowball from there.
Keep it brief if you want but try to stay friendly.

If the issue is bigger, so that you really have problems with public speaking or introducing yourself to new people or groups, I agree that Toastmasters or meetups could be helpful.

Generally, what helps in such situations, is to have a standard (brief) description prepared: "Hi, I'm JenThePro. I work in BLA, doing BLABLA. I love going to Vegas and my tuxedo cat."
And then shift the convo away from yourself, like: "Don't tuxedo cats just always look so fancy?"

Haha, you get my drift. Congrats on the engagement!
posted by travelwithcats at 1:15 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Most people have covered it, but anyone asking about engagement, wedding etc -- they don't care about the accurate answer. (In fact, it's kind of awful when people talk for 20 minutes about their wedding planning.) They are conveying to you that they are happy for you and want you to feel heard. So all you need to do is acknowledge this. Two sentences. "he asked me last week, and I'm just so happy. Thank you for your good wishes! How are things with you?"
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:27 PM on November 15, 2013

Gather your closest friends and/or the chatty ones. Tell them in a group setting with all the embellishments.

And then with your blessings, let them tell and carry the story.
posted by cendawanita at 1:33 AM on November 16, 2013

Congratulations! I"m so happy for you! I also haaate being the center of attention and having people all looking at me. It definitely got easier as we went along, especially once I developed some brief, stock answers to frequently asked questions, like, "We got our engagement rings on Etsy and proposed to each other! It was great," "We're getting in married in San Francisco in October," things like that. As it got closer, I enjoyed talking about it more because I was excited. So, yeah, I agree above that people asking you aren't necessarily looking for a long story. They just want to let you know they are interested and happy for you.

Consider keeping your wedding SMALL. VERY SMALL. Our was teeny (just 10 guests) and I still kind of hated it because I was the center of attention, everyone stared at me, I had to pose for eleventy hundred pictures, everyone kept turning to me (as the BRIDE) to know what we should do and where we should go next. It was a lovely day, but I was VERY uncomfortable for most of it.
posted by Aquifer at 9:58 AM on November 16, 2013

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