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Express Your 'Self'


When you talk to people, it is always all about you? Or are you able to put yourself aside? Tell us about yourself. Let's talk about you!

When you talk to people, it is always all about you? Or are you able to put yourself aside? Tell us about yourself. Let's talk about you!


Hello! From VOA Learning English, this is Words and Their Stories.

Have you ever talked to someone who only wants to talk about themselves? It’s “me, me, me” or “I, I, I” from them all day long! This kind of talk can be a real “turn off” to the people listening.

But at times, perhaps we are all guilty of being selfish or self-absorbed. For those days, here are some self-centered expressions you can use.

Today our program is all about you!

Let’s start with the word “self.”

“Self” can be added to many words to make new words. If you are self-conscious, you are aware of yourself in a bad way. You carefully plot your every move. People who are self-conscious can seem nervous around others and perhaps not very self-confident.

However, self-awareness is a good thing.

Self-awareness means you recognize both your good points and bad points. A person who is self-aware understands that what they say and do affects the people around them.

The difference between being self-aware and self-conscious may seem minor. But there is a big difference.

Self-employed people are people who work for themselves. They are their own bosses. But people who are self-serving only think of their own needs. However, if you are self-employed, being a self-serving business person is a good thing. No one is there to help you. You must look after yourself.

Self-preservation is also good thing. You have to depend on yourself to survive. However, self-pity is not a good thing to have. Nobody likes to be around people who always feel sorry for themselves.

You don’t have to be filled with self-pity to annoy other people around you.

If you are unable to make a decision, people could say to you, “suit yourself.” This expression is a response when you don’t really care what someone does. It means "do as you please." In other words, have it your way!

Let’s listen to an example:

“I don’t think I’m going to the party tonight.”

“But you just said you were going and that you would give me ride!”

“Okay, I’ll go.”

“Look, suit yourself. Don’t go because of me. But make up your mind!”

Some expressions using the word “self” can sound strange.

Take, for example, the saying to be beside yourself. To many people, this might sound like you are having an out-of-body experience. But to be beside yourself means to be affected by a strong, usually negative emotion, like anger or sadness.

Here are a few examples:

“When her mother died, she was beside herself with grief.”

“He was so upset that he was beside himself.”

Another unusual-sounding expression is to be full of yourself. This means that you think so highly of yourself that you are full; there is no room for anyone else.

If you are full of yourself, you might think that you are the greatest thing since sliced bread -- a common expression in American English.

If you are full of yourself, you may need to get over yourself. “To get over yourself” may sound like a difficult physical exercise. But it only means that you need to think of others not just yourself.

If you are way too caught up in your own life or think you are better than everyone else, others might say to you, “Get over yourself.”

Now, getting out of your own way is different. This means that the thing or barrier keeping you from getting what you want is you!

If you are the reason you are not achieving your goals, a friend could say to you, “You have to get out of your own way!”

People who experience hard times can become a shadow of their former self. This means they have less influence or strength than they once did.

For example, imagine a man who has a loving wife, a high-paying job and helps out in his community. Then his wife leaves him. She blames herself for the separation. But this doesn’t help. The man turns to alcohol to escape his marriage problems. Then he loses his job, his home, his friends. When you see how low he has fallen, you could say he is a shadow of his former self.

But enough about him.

Let’s get back to you. Practice using some of these “self” expressions to express yourself.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this article for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. The song at the end is “Express Yourself” sung by Madonna.

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