It’s funny that the act of being self-conscious is considered a bad thing. “Stop being self-conscious,” people say, as if to chastise us for being overly self-aware. “Why am I acting so self-conscious?” we ask ourselves, lamenting the fact we care too much about what other people think.
But couldn’t self-consciousness be a good thing? Rather than thinking that you need to stop being self-conscious, can you turn your self-consciousness into a positive?
If you think about it, no one should be afraid of feeling self-conscious. Self-consciousness is synonymous with self-awareness and should be something we strive to attain, not something we shy away from.
It’s time we flipped the idea of self-consciousness on its head. We need to stop being self-conscious in the modern sense and start being more self-conscious in the traditional sense. If we can, we can make the act of being self-conscious an advantage, rather than the deficiency it’s considered currently.
What Does it Mean to Feel Self-Conscious?
Currently, the idea of being “self-conscious” is used to describe times when people feel embarrassed or inadequate. It’s an act of feeling “undue awareness” of oneself, meaning that you experience an excessive or disproportionate amount of self-awareness. However, if you look it up, “self-conscious” also means the act of knowing your own existence as a conscious being.
So while an excessive amount of self-awareness might be a bad thing on the surface, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that greater self-awareness is actually a good thing. In fact, the act of knowing yourself as a conscious being might be the most important thing in the world, making self-consciousness the most powerful mindset possible.
For example, the definition of self-conscious is specific when it says that the term describes a person’s deliberate action or intention due to his or her full awareness. Does this sound like a bad thing? No, of course not.
However, the definition also explicitly states that self-consciousness is excessive awareness regarding one’s appearance or actions. This is much more in line with the way we currently view the act of being – or feeling – self-conscious.
So which one is it? Should we stop being self-conscious, or should we embrace it as a positive? However, to me, the decision is easy. Because to me, the question is really: Is it better to know oneself fully, with the downside that we might become too self-aware for our own good, or do we limit our self-awareness so we remain blissful, with the downside of ignorance?
How would you answer the question? Your response will dictate how you live the rest of your life. No pressure.
Where Do Feelings of Self-Consciousness Come From?
Maybe we should first discuss the origins of self-consciousness to prove why being self-conscious is good. You see, feeling self-conscious is a survival trait. Humans evolved to become social creatures who relied on each other to survive. Ingrained in each of us is the fear of being excommunicated from the tribe, which manifests itself in feelings of self-consciousness.
Think about it. Back in the days of nomadic tribes, it was impossible for a human to live on their own. We needed groups of ~150 people, known as the Dunbar number, to survive. Getting kicked out of your tribe or your extended family was literally a life-or-death situation.
Over time, oddballs and loners were either kicked out of the tribe or failed to procreate, largely removing themselves from the gene pool. To replace them were humans we became increasingly better in social situations and increasingly better at cooperating. The result was a Sapien gene pool flush with humans that had the ability to network.
Doesn’t it make sense, then, that it was dangerous to be decidedly different? It was – and is – an evolutionary advantage to live within societal boundaries and perpetuate the status quo. And of course, the manifestation of that evolutionary advantage is the feeling of self-consciousness. The more aware you were of your actions and how others within the tribe perceived them, the better off you were at surviving.
How Can We Use Self-Consciousness to Our Advantage?
Of course, this evolutionary trait was refined over thousands of years and is now pre-programmed into our mental wiring. We’re literally born to feel self-conscious. We probably don’t need it anymore, but we have it. A leftover program from yesteryear.
But this also brings up an interesting point. In years past, the idea that someone would actively want to stop being self-conscious would be a ludicrous thought. Today, however, it’s common.
So, if we want to use our feelings of self-consciousness to our advantage, we need to stop thinking about it in the modern sense and begin thinking about it in the traditional sense. Like the definitions say, rather than seeing it as excessive awareness, we need to see it as full awareness that guides our deliberate action and intention.
This is why we need to stop being self-conscious, and at the same time, become more self-conscious. We need to view self-consciousness as greater awareness of oneself, as the act of knowing who you are as an individual. The result is a deeper perspective and a wider world-view.
However, in order to achieve greater awareness, we first need to remove what’s blocking us. We need to stop being self-conscious as it relates to our excessive feelings of self-awareness. In essence, we need to rewire our brains so we view self-consciousness as the act of knowing ourselves better, rather than the act of caring what others think of our actions.
How to Stop Being Self-Conscious
“How to stop being self-conscious?” is the ultimate. If we can stop being self-conscious in the modern sense, that is, if we can stop caring what others think, we overcome our personal suffering. And then, if we can become traditionally self-conscious, that is, if we can better understand ourselves as individuals, we live with purpose and intention.
To help, there are 4 specific ways you can stop being self-conscious while increasing your self-consciousness:
1. Self-Awareness is a Good Thing
The act of feeling self-conscious, even in the modern sense, is actually a good thing. Think about it. How can knowing yourself excessively be a bad thing? Is it even possible to know yourself too much? No, I don’t believe that to be true.
You can think about it like the feeling of guilt. The act of guilt, while thought of as a negative, is actually a positive. People who don’t feel guilty are sociopaths. People who feel guilt have a conscience and know right from wrong.
The same idea applies with self-consciousness. If you feel embarrassed in a social situation, it’s a good thing because you’re aware how your actions and intentions affect the people around you. So, the next time you feel self-conscious, remember that it’s proof that you’re self-aware, which is most definitely a good thing.
2. You’re Equipped to Live on Your Own
Being self-conscious is the biological fear of being excommunicated from your tribe. However, whereas years ago this meant life-or-death, today, excommunication results in little more than a decline in your Facebook friends. And yet still, we fear excommunication like it spells certain death.
The next time you feel self-conscious, remember that you’re already enough. While we’re born with the fear of excommunication, we’re paradoxically also born with all the tools needed to survive. Especially today, if you live in a developed or developing country, you’ll never really be left for want.
Losing all your friends and family doesn’t spell certain disaster. It might instead only result in a spell of loneliness. Remember that. And if you’re afraid of loneliness, then, well, you’ve got some other work to do.
3. Everyone Else is Self-Conscious Too
The funny thing about embarrassment is that it’s often self-inflicted. When we feel self-conscious, that is, when we’re worried that people are talking behind our backs, more often than not, we’re making the fear up in our heads.
The fact of the matter is that while we think everyone else judging us, the same people think that we’re judging them. Everyone thinks about themselves and worries about what other people think about them. But if everyone is worried about what others think, there’s no time for people to actually think about and judge other people.
So, the next time you feel self-conscious, chances are everyone else is feeling just a little bit self-conscious, too. Rather than thinking about yourself, expand your awareness so that you understand how others think about and view themselves. This world-view can help you as well as the people around you.
4. Nothing You’re Worried About Matters Anyways
Hate to break it to you, but most of the things that concern you aren’t really important. Think about all the things that make you feel self-conscious. All of these things are causing you mental anguish and unnecessary suffering.
Now, think about all the times that your fears and concerns actually manifested themselves in the real world. Now, of all the things that actually did, how many actually affected you to the degree you expected? I bet that few of your worries ever come true, and of the ones that do, even fewer harm you to the extent in your head.
Therefore, when you feel self-conscious, remember that your feelings are probably misguided. Instead, embrace self-consciousness as a positive rather than the negative root of your worries.
The bottom line is that being self-conscious is the act of being self-aware. Self-awareness is a good thing. So self-consciousness, by definition, is also a good thing. Remember that “excessive” self-awareness, which is the feeling of self-consciousness, is only unwarranted if you don’t use it as a tool to get better.