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