When I was a kid I was always the last one picked for the team or the game and in part, this was because I struggled with basic physical skills. Embarrassingly, when I finally did hit a baseball in gym class I followed it by throwing the bat and hitting my gym teacher in the face. Not my finest moment.
As a kid I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I was awkward and it showed up anytime I had to be physically active in front of other people. Overtime, this grew into a series of memories in my mind that were so vivid that whenever someone even mentioned an activity that resembled one of my faux pas, I would shrink in avoidance.
The embarrassment was palpable and it was hard.
If you’re like me, being the “awkward” kid can have a deep and scarring effect on your life. And, it can show up in a lot of ways.
- Maybe you were always the kid who got sidelined at dodge ball…
- Or you were so insecure that when you had to do something in front of other people that your very presence made other people uncomfortable.
- Or you were the kid who tripped when you walked into a room
- Or you always talked too loudly or mumbled so quietly that people stopped asking you to participate
- Or you said things that were so cringy that the air felt like it was literally sucked out of the room when you spoke.
- And rather than moving our bodies with grace, we trip and fall and knock over someone’s lamp.
Unfortunately, social missteps from the past can often cause us to focus more on what makes us awkward instead of paying attention to our strengths and the characteristics that make us good, endearing friends.
Here’s the truth: everyone has awkward moments.
What they don’t have is a history of feeling socially awkward all the time or a past riddled with feeling anxiety that gets sparked every time a social event comes up. Knowing that you can be adept one moment and socially awkward the next is hard.
How can you ever become more comfortable in your own skin?
Feeling comfortable in your own skin is feeling confident and good about who you are. But, it’s easier said than done. And to say it’s simple is to ignore and invalidate every bit of anxiety that shows up when you’re faced with something new, or a repeat of something that was once awkward and uncomfortable.
Being comfortable in your own skin takes practice. It’s humbling and it means facing your anxiety more times than you may imagine.
Part of the truth here is that being neurodivergent can mean that you’re never really at ease with yourself. I know, I’ve been there too. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying to get there.
And really, what I hope is that you can think about this like I do which is not about “getting it right” but more about making it a little easier; a little simpler and perhaps even a little more approachable even if you never fully feel completely at ease. I know for me, this has been a practice, not an event and not an accomplishment.
The accomplishment is in making each day a little easier so I’m closer to feeling better about myself and comfortable with who I am.
These 6 Practices Are How I Have Learned How To Be More Comfortable In My Own Skin
#1 Find Ways To Feel Safe
Being comfortable with yourself always happens faster when you feel psychologically safe. Any risks you take in life are always easier when you have an emotional safety net around you. Trusted friends and loved ones who appreciate, respect and accept you for who you are act like a coat of armor when you want to try something new. The opposite is also true.
When you don’t feel psychologically safe, your body and mind are on high alert and it’s hard to try new things, reframe missteps or even be present and in the moment. This can be particularly challenging in social settings where your awkwardness can be read/seen by the people around you.
The advice here is to try new things slowly and with people you trust. Then, if you have a faux pas it is easier to laugh off or gain support if you need it. Once you trust yourself more, you will find it easier to branch out and try new social activities and take risks in less well-known spaces and with less well-known people.
#2 Pay Attention To The Story In Your Mind About Who You Are
Many people have a story or a “narrative” of who they are that seems fixed somehow based on their past. You may think of yourself as “too much” or a “bad friend” or “not good socially.” And while you may have had moments with these issues, it isn’t who you are.
When it comes to learning how to be comfortable in your own skin, you have to take stock of the stories you believe to be true and remember that you can change the story moving forward. Your character is not set in stone. And that is a wonderful thing.
How you think about yourself matters.
When you assume things like “no one will pick me for the team” you show up with that belief in your “beingness.” In other words, if you believe yourself to be any of the characteristics, you will show up as that person. And that is a trap that will keep you stuck in old thinking and stop you from taking new risks in life.
#3 Listen To Your Self Talk
Along with the story in your head is the voice in your head. Your “inner narrator” is likely quite critical, mean and lacking in compassion. Negative self-talk can bombard you and encase you in a hurtful prison of your own making. To feel comfortable in your own skin, you have to change your internal soundtrack.
Listen for when you are self-critical or say things like “your bad”, “you’re wrong” “no one wants you/likes you/needs you”… all of these messages tear down your self-esteem and make it harder for you to move into a practice of loving yourself and accepting yourself, flaws and all.
#4 Replace your negative thoughts with more positive ones
Often when you have intrusive, even obsessive thoughts running around in our minds, it’s easy to create an entire story about a person or situation.
When you find yourself worried or holding on to negative thoughts, take a deep breath and ask yourself:
- What evidence do you have that this story is true?
- What facts are out there that support the story in your mind?
- Could there be another reason or set of reasons for the situation you’re in?
- What else could it be?
After answering those questions, write a new story, one that has more of a realistic, neutral tone. Instead of thinking, “they didn’t return my text because I was too outspoken at that meeting” replace that with the possibility that “they might be busy, it is a hectic time.”
#5 Reframe Your Missteps
When you make mistakes or say things you wish you could take back, that’s the time when your inner critic comes out loudly. Instead of making a misstep a fact or certainty, put them in context. Something happened but it doesn’t define who you are. It’s very hard to feel comfortable in your own skin if you think of yourself as “good” or “bad” or “always” or “never”.
Instead, with self-compassion, try to let some of the pressure off and remember that what happened was an event not a statement about your character or a fact about your personality. Reframing your missteps goes a long way to quiet your inner critic and change the story loop playing in your head.
#6 Embrace Your Strengths
To feel comfortable in your body and experience self-acceptance, you also need to feel some self-compassion and some self-love. Spend a few minutes reminding yourself of what you do well and how you bring value to the friends and loved ones in your life.
Do something that reminds you of your strengths every day. This is the real key to starting to build the mental muscle that will give you the courage to try new things and take risks in your life.
And ultimately, feeling comfortable in your own skin is a practice that takes time but it is so worth it for your mental health and your well-being.