Self

6 Tiny Ways To Finally Start Feeling Comfortable In Your Own Skin

Photo: Tabitha Turner | Unsplash
Woman giving herself a hug

When I was a kid, I was always the last one picked for the team or game. In part, this was because I struggled with basic physical skills. Embarrassingly, when I finally 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.

I never felt comfortable in my skin. I was awkward, and it showed up anytime I had to be physically active in front of other people. Over time, a series of memories grew so vivid whenever someone mentioned an activity resembling one of my faux pas that 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. It can show up in a lot of ways.

  • Maybe you were always the kid who got sidelined at dodgeball.
  • Or you were insecure doing something in front of other people and 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 people stopped asking you to participate.
  • Or you said things so cringy the air felt like it was 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.

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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 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 anxiety. Anxiety sparked every time a social event came up. Knowing you can be adept one moment and socially awkward the next is hard. How can you ever become more comfortable in your skin?

Feeling comfortable in your skin is to feel confident and good about who you are. It’s easier said than done. 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 awkward and uncomfortable. Being comfortable in your skin takes practice. It’s humbling, and it means facing your anxiety more times than you may imagine.

Part of being neurodivergent means you’re never really at ease with yourself. I know, I’ve been there too. But, it’s worth trying to get there. I hope 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 at ease. I know for me, this has been a practice, not an event and not an accomplishment. The accomplishment is to make each day a little easier so I get closer to feeling better about myself and comfortable with who I am.

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Six small-but-effective ways to start feeling comfortable in your 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. They 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. Once you trust yourself more, you find it easier to 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 based on their past. You may think of yourself as “too much,” a “bad friend,” or “not good socially”. And while you may have had moments with these issues, it isn’t who you are.

When learning to be comfortable in your skin, you take stock of the stories you believe are true and remember you can change the story moving forward. Your character is not set in stone.

How you think about yourself matters. When you assume “no one will pick me for the team,” you show up with a belief in your “beingness”. If you believe you have these bad characteristics, you will show up as that person and be stuck in old thinking, which stops you from taking new risks in life.

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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. You have to change your internal soundtrack to feel comfortable in your skin.

Listen for when you are self-critical or say things like “You're bad,” “You’re wrong,” or “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 in your mind, 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 the story is true?

• What facts support the story in your mind?

• Could there be another reason, or set of reasons, for the situation?

• What else could it be?

After answering those questions, write a new story, one with a more realistic, neutral tone. Instead of thinking, “They didn’t return my text because I was too outspoken at the meeting,” replace this idea with the possibility “They might be busy, it is a hectic time.”

5. Reframe your missteps

Making mistakes or saying things you wish you could take back is the time when your inner critic comes out loudly. Instead of taking a misstep as a fact or certainty, put it in context. Something happened, but it doesn’t define who you are. It’s difficult to feel comfortable in your skin if you think of yourself as “good,” “bad,” “always,” or “never”.

Instead, with self-compassion, try to let some of the pressure off and remember 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 self-compassion and 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 to remind you of your strengths every day. This is the real key to building mental muscle to get the courage to try new things and take risks. Ultimately, feeling comfortable in your skin is a practice and takes time, but it is so worth it for your mental health and your well-being.

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Caroline Maguire, ACCG, PCC, M.Ed. is a personal coach who works with children with ADHD and the families who support them.

This article was originally published at Author Website. Reprinted with permission from the author.