Many of us have had experiences of walking into a social situation and feeling shy, awkward, hesitant, and even fearful. Other times we can feel that people are scoffing at us because we apparently said something silly or foolish. We can also believe that our physical appearance or clothing is drawing critical attention, or that everyone was laughing at us when we played ineptly at the picnic volleyball game.
In self-centeredness, we typically exaggerate the degree to which people notice us or think critically about our appearance. Mentally or intellectually, we know that people have better things to do than to make us the center of their attention. They’re often too preoccupied with their own lives to even pay us much notice. Emotionally, though, our impression can be very different: We can feel that others not only focus their attention on us but also think less of us.
This feeling of being judged negatively comes and goes. Sometimes it seems to live inside us like an intestinal worm feeding off our entrails. We tell ourselves we’re as worthy and good as anyone else. Yet our emotions often say otherwise. Our subjective impressions don’t correspond to objective reality. Why is that? [Read more…]