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Sunday, March 06, 2005 

Self Consciousness: An Ugly Form of Pride, or Just a Result of Being Ugly?

I struggle with self-consciousness in the same ways that everyone else has expressed this week (Cameron, I don’t have “man boobs,” but I do have “man calves,” which is a bad thing for a woman, and which results in an inability to wear flats with short skirts, a real tragedy come spring time). But sometimes I think my self-consciousness borders on dementia: I put makeup on before going to bed at night, just for that split-second before we turn off the light, roll over, and start snoring. I can’t look at myself in the mirror in front of other people (I don’t want them looking at me and asking themselves “why is THAT girl even bothering?”). I write fake emails or make fake phone calls to avoid the embarrassment of waiting in a long line at school only to realize that the phone is busy or I have no new messages (what will the people waiting behind me think? That I’m a loser with no friends, that’s what). I can’t make phone calls most of the time, even to my good friends. I am so self-conscious that even when I am alone in the bathroom, I can only open one eye when looking at my reflection in the mirror. This is so second-nature that I don’t even realize I am doing it. Embarrassing proof of this exists in a picture of me, mouth open, one eye shut, holding a compact, looking in the mirror while getting ready for my wedding. Even on my wedding day, I couldn’t look myself in the eyes (in the EYE, yes, but not the EYES).

These are not reasons to pity me. I only list these few examples as a resume of sorts. I am an authority on self-consciousness, and have been for quite some time. This is why I know that self-consciousness, when it gets bad like this, is not only a choice that we make (as others have pointed out this week), but it is also a rather dark and unexpected form of pride.

Pride would seem to be the opposite of self-consciousness. After all, proud people are the ones who think they are better, smarter, and prettier than everyone else. Proud people exude confidence and self-love don’t they? Self-conscious people exude timidity and self-loathing. But pride, I think, has a more general meaning: it is not just about conceit, it is about selfishness. When we are unduly self-conscious, we put ourselves at the center of the universe. Indeed, we are self-centered. In a very famous talk about pride, given at the April 1989 Saturday Morning session of General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson said that “Selfishness is one of the more common faces of pride. ‘How everything affects me’ is the center of all that matters—self-conceit, self-pity, worldly self-fulfillment, self-gratification, and self-seeking” (http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll?f=templates$fn=default.htm). And self-consciousness fits right in with self-pity, I believe.
“What will everyone think of ME?” we ask ourselves. “How will I be perceived?” etc. We worry so much about what people think of us that we stop worrying about how other people feel and are being treated. I know this state of pride well. It is what stops me from saying a kind word to someone I don’t know very well (why would they want to talk to me? And look at how ugly my outfit is today!). It stops me from calling an old friend out of the blue, or from inviting a new person to sit by me in Relief Society. Because I am so concerned with myself, I put the needs of others last. My world revolves around me, and all of the agonizing minutiae that make up my daily life. (See my blog if you are at all skeptical.)

This keeps me from helping others as much as I ought, and it enables me to exist in a cozy state of false humility: “At least no one can say that I think I’m better than anyone else!” True, but am I any better in thinking that I am below others, or in establishing my own self-worth based on what others think of me, or where I am in relation to them? To quote Ezra Taft Benson again: “The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough.” Isn’t that the essence of self-consciousness? Isn’t this what makes one “unduly conscious of oneself as an object of notice; awkward or embarrassed in the presence of others”?

So this is why I think I am self-conscious, although I am afraid of what you might think of me when you read this. But there it is: pride (and maybe a little genuine ugliness, because of the man-calves and all).



By Carly from My Misadventures

Carly,

I love what you have written. Definitely a different take on the topic then the rest of us presented, and one that is so true. I have been thinking about “pride” all day today as a result. Thank you for being our guest blogger… your post is perfect!

Carly... dang it woman you're a good writer! Honestly, I love reading the things you write and this was no exception.

I agree that self-consciousness is a form of pride, and like Becca this post has got me thinking about it. Today at church a boy sat next to me in Sacrament meeting. This hasn't happend once in the year and a half I've been in that ward. After the meeting was over he leaned over and said, "Sarah, I really like sitting next to you." I looked at him like he was nuts. "WHY?" I demanded. "I don't know," he said. "I just do." And I was floored. Because WHY would ANYONE want to sit next to ME? There are such cuter people who don't cuss nearly as much as I do and who are so much less annoying! But, now I realize it's just my pride talking, and I gotta nip that in the bud.

Thanks for your thoughts. And I personally am quite glad you don't have man boobs... as I'm sure your husband is also.

I am amazed...sitting here feeling totally amazed. For one, you have the ability to bare your soul so CHARMINGLY. And the concept that self-consciousness is PRIDE, pure genious. That was the last nail in the coffin, so to speak.

We talked about pride in sunday school today and some of the same quotes were used. I will NEVER think of pride in the same way. My eyes were opened.

And for all those seemingly confident people out there...they APPEAR to be confident because instead of awkwardly hanging up the phone when it is busy, they leave a "very important message" instead. You go girl...

I wanted to tell you that you did a very good job, that you made some good points, that I am going to use these ideas for a Young Women lesson, and that I am impressed with your whole pride as self-consciousness notion (I think you are right, though I am reluctant to comtemplate the implications in my apparently prideful life) but I was afraid you would think I was dumb.

I, too, will never think about this topic in the same way. I studied that talk years ago for a religion class at BYU. It had a huge impact on me then, and I had been thinking just lately that I should probably pull it out and study it again. However, that talk (figuratively) occupies the same space on my bookshelf as Spencer W. Kimball's "The Miracle of Forgiveness": I know the doctrines are true, but more often than not it is just too hard to face, because then I'll have to do something about it.

Thank you for this important reminder.

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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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