A heightened awareness of what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and how our actions and words and public personae might be interpreted by others, can be a source of satisfaction or shame. And the line between one and the other can be razor-thin.
The term “self-conscious” can refer to a feeling of awkwardness or an empowered sense of awareness and self-worth.
I have regular periods of self-reflection baked into my schedule, and one of the benefits of this routine is that when I’m feeling stressed or anxious or out of sorts, I can often trace any low moods or negative feelings I might be experiencing back to a moment of unproductive self-consciousness.
I did or didn’t do something, said or failed to say something, responded or neglected to respond appropriately because I was feeling self-conscious.
There are conversations I should have had that I put off because I worried about how I might be perceived. There are gestures I could have made and wounds I could have healed—or preempted—had I faced down certain fears and frets and flusters.
Thus, when I find myself fruitlessly ruminating, I sit, relax, and trace my tension backward, seeking a source, and I almost always arrive at some speck of distress that—splinter-like—has hooked itself into my subconscious flesh and caused the well-meaning denizens of my subliminal immune system outsized alarm.
A variation of this process is part of my daily, informal meditation routine.
I take stock, mentally pat myself down to see if I’m harboring stress or guilt or worries, and I tug on any threads I find until they unravel and reveal their source.
When referring to an ever-growing sense of oneself, one’s capacity and goals, one’s value and how much one has left to learn, however, self-consciousness is important for personal development and psychological situational awareness.
Lacking this cognizance, we tend to depend upon external reflections and loose caricatures of ourselves—both of which depict superficial sketches of who we are rather than the more accurate blueprint we can render when we’ve taken the time to understand our holistic push-pull tensions, our load-bearing elements, and what we’re really made of.