Carly Lane
July 01, 2015 11:25 am

Even though it’s hard to put a finger on why you get self-conscious in certain situations, everybody does. You know what I’m talking about. They’re the strange things that you find yourself mildly obsessing over on a daily basis—to the point where you wonder if anyone else is as fixated on these singular details, those “isms,” the things that are so obvious they must be easy to spot from a mile away!

The irony in all of this is that nine times out of ten, the person you’re concerned about is very likely worrying about their own unique “isms.” But I’m going to get real today and talk about some the things that make me weirdly self-conscious just so you know you’re not alone in this. Some of them don’t make any sense whatsoever, but, well, they wouldn’t be called irrational if they made sense!

Using a public bathroom when someone else is there

I have never been so aware of my bathroom habits when there is another person in the bathroom with me—or worse yet, in the stall next to mine. Has it always sounded like that when I pee? I’ve been drinking a lot of water lately, so maybe this is just a byproduct of good hydration. I wonder if they think I’m using too much toilet paper. I try to be environmentally conservative! Honestly, I just came in here to check my phone and play Two Dots for a little while; I need that mental break. But now I’ve been in here for a while and it would be weird if we came out at the same time… It’s practically a mental running commentary. Public bathrooms are a deeply uncomfortable situation for me.

Watching someone else read something I’ve written

Most of the time I don’t have to witness someone reading over my words. There’s a dim awareness that there are people out there reading this right now, but it’s much more removed than when, say, I’m asking someone to proofread over something for me. It becomes the kind of awkwardness where I can’t even look at them directly. I fidget and pick at my nails and try to distract myself by scrolling through Twitter on my phone. Most of the time I make a bigger deal out of it than it actually winds up being, but no one ever said I had to be reasonable about this.

The way my hair looks in the back

I have a low-maintenance haircut. I don’t have the patience to deal with a long amount of styling in the morning, and my hair is such that it typically only needs a minimum of a blowdry to make it presentable for human consumption. But every now and then, I forget that just because my hair looks great from the front doesn’t mean it’s not a disaster area in the back. I’ll catch a glimpse of it in the mirror or on a security camera at my local bodega and cringe inwardly, attempting to brush it down with my fingers. Hair in rearview is much, much worse than it appears.

Listening to the sound of my voice on a recording 

There’s a saying that your voice actually sounds higher in your own head than it does in reality. I know this to be true. I have a somewhat deeper voice and I have never liked the sound of it on something like a voicemail message or an answering machine recording (remember those?). I’m getting ready to start my own podcast shortly and I’m trying to desensitize myself to the sound of my own voice. (On the plus side, every time I get sick I sound like that episode of Friends where Phoebe has sexy phlegm, so. You take the good with the bad.)

Accidentally telling a server “you too” at a restaurant when they tell me to enjoy my meal

I’ve worked as a server before. I’ve been on the receiving end of all kinds of interesting interactions. But when I respond without thinking to someone, only to realize that I answered with the wrong acknowledgment? Awkward. I’ll be convinced that someone just told me to enjoy my day and then realize what they actually said was something closer to “enjoy your latte,” but the damage is done. I’m left with nothing else to do besides slink out of that Starbucks and make a mental note to avoid that location for at least six months until the embarrassment factor dies down.

Trying to figure out if I know someone by staring at them and then realizing I really, really don’t

You know what I’m talking about. You stare at someone for the longest time, trying to remember where you recognize them from – and then you get closer and you realize that it’s no one you have ever known in your entire life. You’re still staring. You try to recover by mustering up a polite, thin-lipped smile and a half-hearted wave. Or you’ve already waved at them and you have to slowly bring your arm down while attempting to figure out an escape route. There’s just no coming back from it. It’s over. The best you can hope for is that this person will understand your confusion—and maybe in the process you’ll wind up with a new awkwardly-wedded friend.

And they say writing isn’t cathartic. In all seriousness, though, acknowledging your own little isms is the first step towards embracing them. They’re part of what makes you you,and the world is all the more diverse for it. Just remind yourself that everyone has been there at one point in their lives. We’re only human, after all.

Related Stories:

Things you should never be self-conscious about in a relationship
12 situations all awkward people totally understand

[Image courtesy NBC]

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