Being too self-conscious is a recog-nised problem, but what about being too other-conscious? Just as awkward, just as embarr-assing, and equally likely to stop you enjoying life.
Like the way women are hyper-sensitive to other people's comments about their appearance, which results in most women disliking or even hating how they look. Or the way men monitor comments about their lack of masculinity, terrified they might be seen as "gay" or "girlie" or "wimpy".
Then there's socialising. While we're busy chatting away, we're privately wondering how our conversation is going down. Am I creating a good impression or do I look like a complete plonker? Do people like me or do they think I'm a pain in the neck?
I'm quite prone to being too other-conscious myself. Of course we should all be aware of other people and how they see us. But I spend too much time wondering what people are thinking and not wanting them to be too scandalised or bemused or offended. Entirely pointless, since speaking one's mind has to mean stepping on someone's toes now and again.
At least I don't go a step further and imagine what they might be thinking. Unlike the rampantly paranoid, I don't convince myself someone's got it in for me and is secretly hoping for my downfall. I don't dream up all sorts of devious plots and manoeuvrings. That's because I basically see other people as well-disposed towards me.
And at least I'm not so paranoid about other people's hidden thoughts that I avoid socialising altogether and flee from unexpected conversations. I enjoy talking to people, it's just that I always secretly wonder if I'm crossing some unspoken boundary or committing some unknown social gaffe.
This wariness probably owes something to my father, who used to say exactly what he thought regardless of the fall-out. If anyone got angry or upset he simply accused them of over-sensitivity. So I've gone in the other direction and have a tendency to walk on eggshells.
That's a bit girlie, isn't it? A bit wimpy in fact. Goodness knows what people are saying about me....