My dad used to criticize everything I did growing up, including even just looking in a mirror I was walking by. He called me vain. Tiny barbs like that really take hold and shape a picture of you that you can’t easily shake over 18+ years.
I completely relate to hating being observed in any way. I’m acutely aware of how I may appear to anyone in any given moment physical appearance wise, and because I find myself repulsive, I tend to wear over large clothing and shrink into myself in a useless attempt to fade into the background. I never try new things in front of anyone, afraid of being teased or mocked for not being perfect at it on the first try. I stay up all night because it feels liberating and free, the same as with you. I can do whatever I want and finally relax my tensed muscles without fear of someone strolling up and ruining it.
I’ve been slowly learning that being vulnerable to people you can actually trust is important, and it’s helped me process that I don’t have to be a rigid, perfect image and behavior all day every day. That doesn’t stop me from getting tense most days, but it does help me feel less oppressed by the presence of others. It’s hard to explain to others, and for people who get close to you, it can be frustrating for them. Hurtful things that reinforce what you believe about yourself may be said. Shut down again. Rinse and repeat.
But it’s still important to do, because most people don’t harp on you like the first offender did. Most people apologize, or talk it out with you after you’ve both calmed down. Reassurance is the best thing I could ever ask for, my own self doubts need a lot of it, that’s for sure.
I hope you can open up to someone in time. It’s hard, but when you find the right people to do it with, it’s very rewarding. And emotionally liberating.