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Monday, February 28, 2005 

Why are we self conscious?

This is a question I have been thinking about and discussing since the middle of last week. I started the week thinking, “what on earth am I going to write, I’m not self-conscious” and ended it deciding that I am self-conscious and spent the week actually being more self-conscious then normal because I was conscious of the fact that I would be writing on the subject within a matter of days. In fact it became a little joke for me, an excuse of sorts. Anything about my behavior that I examined during the week I blamed on being self-conscious. “Yes I know I am going to be late to the meeting, but I have to try on twenty different outfits this morning because I am self-conscious.” I felt bad for not finishing the book for book club Tuesday evening and later laughed to myself that the reason I felt bad is because I am self-conscious, really the reason I felt bad is because I didn’t finish the book and couldn’t fully participate in the discussion.

The very handy dandy dictionary.com defines self-conscious as follows:

self-con·scious adj.
  1. Aware of oneself as an individual or of one's own being, actions, or thoughts.
  2. Socially ill at ease: The self-conscious teenager sat alone during lunch.
  3. Excessively conscious of one's appearance or manner: The self-conscious actor kept fixing his hair.
  4. Showing the effects of self-consciousness; stilted: self-conscious prose.

The first time I sat down to write some notes for this week I wrote, “I am not self-conscious, I am merely conscious of myself. I am aware of my actions.” So when I later went elsewhere for assistance on the topic, i.e. friends and dictionary.com I thought it funny that the very first definition provided was almost word for word the same thing I had written as to why I claimed I was not self-conscious… making me realize that I am. A friend I had emailed on the subject wrote “I think I personally am self conscious about some things, but when I think about these things they are not negative (as in the teenager example.) They are more closely conscious-of self. I think "self-conscious" has over time swayed from its original definition, and has taken on some baggage and slang.” Her comment made me realize that I had been defining self-conscious as insecure and I am not insecure, not like I was as a teenager.

So what am I self conscious about?

When I am among a group of friends and I don’t know everyone in our discussion, or don’t know them well, and the story I am going to contribute comes from an experience that involves my ex-husband I do what I can to avoid talking about being divorced. I very consciously said during a conversation, “when I lived with this guy” rather then “when I was married,” which in the end sounded weirder then if I had just said, when I was married because it made everyone who knew that I was talking about my ex-husband (the majority) smirk, some even chuckle out loud. It was obvious I was extremely conscious of the words I had used and as a result they came out sounding dishonest, like I hadn’t lived with a guy at all, which wasn’t true, it was just untrue how I portrayed it and made it clear that I was embarrassed that I was divorced. It ended up being really funny for all of us and now I no longer try and say something else in place of “when I was married”, but I am still very conscious of when I bring up being married in conversations.

I am also very conscious of what I wear. I spend a great deal of time and money filling my wardrobe with young hip business professional garb and young hip going out garb and then still spend hours trying to figure out which I want to wear for which occasions. I will begin working at a new company in the middle of March and I have already thought about which outfits I will be wearing the first week and a half – you know, to make a good first impression and all.

My list of what I am self conscious of could go on, but I am going to choose to end it here because, well, I am self-conscious about the things I am self-conscious of. Which leads us to the “why”?

Why are we (am I) self conscious?

I believe, or maybe hope is a better word, that all of us strive to be better individuals. I want to be perfect and I want the people around me to view me a certain way, perfect. I try and present myself to people as the person I want to be seen as and I try and become this person. Sometimes it is as simple as putting on a nice pair of slacks and a nice sweater with tall heels and tying it all together with the perfect handbag or broach in hopes to appear as if I take my job seriously even for early morning meetings. I am conscious with myself in the use of language when I am speaking with clients, meeting people for the first time, etc. I consciously avoiding using the words, “like” and “uh” and “so”, words I don’t consciously think about among friends and family. I am conscious of my self because I want to be seen and see myself a certain way, a way that takes effort and doesn’t come naturally.

In general I don’t think that it is a bad thing to be self-conscious, although I do think there are occasions when it can be and I think those occasions always represent the insecurity part of the definition of self-conscious, the negative connotation that my friend I quoted earlier brought up. Two examples of this come to mind. First, some things about us can’t be changed, such as my divorce. I got married and now I am not. This is a fact just as I am 5’2” is a fact. Maybe I wish I would only be married once in my life and that this once would last through out my life, not just for a portion of my twenties and maybe I wish I were taller, but wishing, being embarrassed, being self-conscious about these facts isn’t going to help me in anyway and it isn’t going to help anyone around me either. Second, over examination of ones self can end up hurting us rather then making ourselves better. The person that is already thin that constantly tries to diet, that is never comfortable with the body she has and harms it in the process of becoming this concept of perfection she has created in her mind is dangerous, yet it is her self-consciousness, her insecurities that have brought her to this point. It is the same self-conscious that makes some people better people that make others self destructive. It is a fine line and what drives all of us is our desire to be seen and be certain perfection we have created within our minds. Self-conscious can be a good thing if used properly.

Last night I had finally figured out what it was that I was going to say… which is what is above. But then I called my parents to chat… When the topic of this week’s blog came up my dad explained that philosophy doesn’t believe in a self-consciousness, it simply doesn’t exist. So in the end maybe I am not self-conscious, how could I be if it doesn’t exist? Or am I possibly just being self-conscious about what a philosopher would think?

oh...such a thought provoking post, Becca. You might hate it, but I'm always so glad that you're first. SO GLAD.

This was WAY good...started my wheels turnin'....

I agree with JP... very thought provoking. (And I too am totally glad you're first)

I think it's interesting how much we often focus on our outter selves to make our inner selves more appealing. I am the same way with clothes. When people see my jam packed closet (ok... when people see my clothes strewn floor) they are AMAZED. I will use ANY reason to buy new clothes. I just want my outside to match my inside...

Interesting stuff, huh?

Oh my, there IS a fine line between self-examination and self-obsession...it can be funny or it can be tragic.

You've also got my wheels turning...

What's it like having a philosophy professor as a dad? I think it would be difficult to discuss ANYTHING..."Dad, my friends are being weird at school..." "Honey, school doesn't really exist, and let's talk about the nature of friendship...that doesn't exist either..."

Here's a comment to ease your self-consciousness about low comment volume.

Yeah, I'm self-conscious. Mainly because I worry about what 5-foot-2 divorcees and their wacky friends will think of me. :P

But seriously, it's an interesting question. I'm terribly self-conscious -- I like the blogosphere because I can edit my text and make sure it's right, whereas in person I'm much more likely to stick my foot in my mouth. And that knowledge makes me less confident about opening my mouth to begin with.

Thanks for moving me from three to four Christian.

And Kaimi, thanks for making it clear that my friends are wacky not me. I can't say what they think of you, but I can say that I think you should teach your son to say Barry Zito is da man in every language possible.

Oh... and CA, "school doesn't exist?" I can't wait to point your comment out to my father.

Becca, first off, you write notes before you blog? You are too much into blogging.
You said you hope “that all of us strive to be better individuals.” But is not a lot of the self-conscious items you’ve talked about only an effort to impress people. Since I am posting so late, I can refer to Kaycee’s post for today where she says its more important to change the way we see rather then the way we look. I do not think self conscious issues are as much a improvement issue as they are a self esteem issue.

wow!!!! Thank you so much, someone told me tonight, im self-conscious, i wanted to read more about why im self-conscious and what makes people do it.... now to work on being comfortable with what and who i am, so i wont be so self-conscious

Loved your topic, someone said i'm self-conscious so i had to research why we are, and what makes us 'self-conscious' here's a good page i found.... hope u dont mind me pasting it....

Feeling Self-Conscious? 6 Tips to Turn it Around Fast!
by Peter Murphy

When you feel self-conscious it means you are putting too much
attention on your self, too much focus on what you are doing and
how you are doing it. And this is a formula for poor performance.

The secret then to dealing with this problem is to become other

If all you do is shift your focus from self to others you will
communicate better, perform better and become a far better

Another positive consequence is that other people will enjoy
spending time with you because it is so obvious you give them
your complete attention.

Your goal is to become so fascinated by other people that your
focus is on what they say, how they say it and why they say it.

6 Tips for Becoming Other Conscious:

1 Pay attention to the way people breathe, watch closely and
observe the relationship between breathing and speaking.

2 Listen not just to what people say but the way they say it. Pay
very close attention to speech patterns, changes in tempo,
volume and tone.

3 Ask thoughtful questions to understand the way others think.
Really strive to grasp why others think what they think.

4 Whenever your focus shifts back to the way you are behaving ask
yourself questions about the other person so you need to pay
attention to him e.g.

- What does he really mean by that?

- How does he manage to be so boring?

- How does she keep people so entranced with her words?

5 Use your imagination to change your mood and to keep your mind
too occupied to be self-conscious.

You could for example imagine that the people you are talking to
are wearing no clothes or inappropriate clothes. Why not have
some fun, feel good and still enjoy a good conversation?

You owe it to yourself to find as many ways as possible to feel
good. As I have said before excellent communication skills are
more dependant on your mental and emotional states than on clever
language patterns.

6 Use affirmations to condition a new belief about your ability
to be relaxed and other conscious. For example:

- I am fascinated by the way people talk
- I give my complete attention to whoever I talk to
- I am an excellent conversationalist
- I feel fantastic when I meet new people

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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