When I haven’t been scoffing a sensationally large amount of Haigh’s chocolate this Easter, I’ve been hanging out with my nephew, Hugh. He’s eight months, a spectacular attention seeker and utterly brilliant at being himself 100% of the time.
I love being around kids at this age before they’ve got any notion of what it is to be shy or self-conscious. They’ll smile at strangers, stick all manners of inanimate objects into their mouths (including the dog’s tail if they got half the chance) and will unashamedly let rip with a loud, bellowing fart at the dinner table. Nothing to see here folks.
I’m fascinated by what happens to my body when I notice I’m self-conscious. As an actor, I am familiar with that subtle rigidity that comes over me when I’m performing or know I’m being observed by others. It’s the same kind of feeling I get when I’m waiting to meet a friend in a busy bar and trying to look nonchalant or unfazed. Suddenly I am hyper aware of being alone, who might be checking out my butt and how my arms are folded. I’m guessing I don’t look as at ease as when my friend finally arrives.
One of my favourite things to observe for interesting body language is a first date. I was out with friends last week and at the table next to us was a couple clearly meeting one another for the first time. Their bodies were wrestling to remain ‘cool’ and relaxed but inevitably their best intentions were being betrayed by a palpable awkward body language fused with a budding sexual chemistry. You can just always pick a first date!
Self consciousness is a funny thing. That unshakeable fear that we are being judged in that moment. It can be subtle or slight or I’ve also seen people caught in the grips of a full blown panic attack at the idea of having to get up and do something in front of others – like speaking in public. The fear manifests in our bodies in different ways. I know I play with my hair, sing under my breath and massage my nail cuticles. How does your body give you away? Don’t know? Pay attention next time you’re in a situation and not at ease. By simply being aware that you are self-consciousness in any given moment, you start to recognise how your body behaves. Once you know your tell tale signs, it becomes easier to find stillness and relax…well, pretend to relax.