Dear Charlene: “I’m Self-Conscious”
Every month, comic and writer Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.
Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at email@example.com. Your identity will remain anonymous.
Last month my friend’s band was looking for a new drummer, so they asked me to try out, along with a few other women. I had a lot of fun playing with them and my friend kinda made it seem like I was gonna get the gig; she texted me that night and was so stoked on me.
Anyway, I didn’t get it. I was totally bummed out. She was really sorry and said it was a hard decision and the band had to vote. I know it’s not a big deal, but ever since, I’ve been in my head about one of the guys in the band because I’ve always had a feeling that he doesn’t like me. Which is stupid. Who cares, I know. But now I think he’s the reason why I’m not in the band and I always act weird around him when I see him and I can’t control it. All I’ve done is obsess over why he doesn’t like me. I can’t see him without being completely self-conscious. It’s so stupid. How do I stop?!
It’s not stupid at all, and I see you’re being really hard on yourself. (So many of the people that write to me beat themselves up in their e-mails! We are all so devastatingly hard on ourselves!) You’re a human being with all kinds of feelings and no matter what they are, even if they seem stupid to you, they are valid, and they don’t go away until we acknowledge and feel them.
As someone who has probably tried out for hundreds of things and been rejected from most of them, I know how easy it is to take things personally. And I know how easy it is to obsess over someone not liking you. We want everyone to like us, right?
It can feel so awful when someone doesn’t like us. But the truth is, from what you’ve told me, it seems like this may not be a confirmed fact. Has he told you that he doesn’t like you? It also seems like it is not a confirmed fact that he is the reason that you’re not in the band.
So these seem to be stories that you’re telling yourself, because right now you are unable to confirm that they are actually true.
Most of the time we tell ourselves stories. Stories that aren’t based on facts, but probably based on projections, assumptions, and judgments. What if he actually does like you? Or what if he’s just indifferent? What if he’s so wrapped up in his own stuff (like we all are) that he doesn’t think of you at all? What if he’s shy? What if you look like one of his cousins that used to bully him? You have no idea. Unless you ask him, you can’t possibly know what he thinks of you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been wrong about what someone was thinking. Probably the majority of the time.
And unfortunately, it’s none of your business. It’s really just none of our business what other people think of us. You don’t like some people sometimes, right? For reasons that you are completely entitled to have. And most of the time it’s not even that serious. We like who we like and we don’t like who we don’t like; it’s not a decision, it’s just what it is, and it’s OK.
In times like this, I like to remind myself of one of the most important things you’ll ever learn in order to truly succeed and be happy:
It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. All that matters is what you think of yourself.
Easier said than done, I know. Hear me out—this is going to sound crazy, but whatever someone thinks of you actually has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them.
A person’s opinion on anyone, or anything, is solely based on their preferences, their tastes, their opinions, and their judgments, which are based on things like their life experiences, their upbringing, their parents, their pain, their shame, what they think of themselves, and so much more.
Just like how all of your opinions are all based on your stuff, too.
The tapes that play in your head are all yours. You create them.
There are so many different people out there in the world with different opinions—about 7.5 billion, actually—so it’s incredibly exhausting, pointless, and, not to mention, painful to devote any energy into anybody’s thoughts besides your own. Not even your family’s, best friends’, husband’s, wife’s, children’s, or teachers’—nobody’s. Just yours.
The tapes that play in your head are all yours. You create them. Even though they have been affected throughout your life by your experiences and society, no one has ultimate control over these tapes except for you. What do you want to listen to? Stuff that makes you feel bad, or stuff that makes you feel good?
What kinds of stories do your tapes play? Practice awareness of what these stories are, how they make you feel, and where these stories originally came from. Notice how the bad stories don’t serve you, how they don’t fulfill you or improve your life in any way. Rewrite those stories into better ones. Be your own best friend.
Give all of your time and energy to yourself, and those who love you. You don’t need to waste any more time on anyone else. Let them go and wish them well, and enjoy your newfound freedom. FL