What Does It Mean to Be Self-Conscious?

Reviewed on 3/2/2021

Self-consciousness is a heightened sense of awareness of oneself.
Self-consciousness is a heightened sense of awareness of oneself.

Self-consciousness is a heightened sense of awareness of oneself. Self-consciousness is being preoccupied with oneself, especially with how others may perceive one's appearance or actions. Self-consciousness and self-awareness may often be used interchangeably; however, they are not the same. Self-awareness refers to a state of awareness about one’s individuality or personality including different aspects of the self, such as feelings, qualities, and desires. Self-awareness is often considered a positive quality. It is being conscious of oneself as an individual. It helps fit better and function in society and maintain relationships. Self-consciousness to an extent also has the same benefits as self-awareness. Self-consciousness is usually being excessively conscious or concerned about one's appearance or manner, which can be a problem at times. Self-consciousness is often associated with an unpleasant feeling, unlike self-awareness. Feeling of self-consciousness may occur when one realizes that they are being watched, observed, or judged, the feeling that “everyone is looking.” Some people are more self-conscious than others and can have associated unpleasant feelings. Being self-conscious can result in shyness, low self-esteem, decreased confidence, jealousy, anxiety, depression, or paranoia.

What are the signs and symptoms of being self-conscious?

Self-conscious emotions in moderation can be healthy. However, excessive feelings of self-consciousness can become unhealthy and toxic and affect mental health.

Signs of healthy self-consciousness include:

  • Taking pride in one’s accomplishments
  • Enjoying interacting in social environments
  • Taking responsibility and apologizing for mistakes

Signs of unhealthy self-consciousness include:

  • Constant feeling of being watched or observed
  • The feeling of being judged
  • Feeling that “everyone is looking”
  • Responding to embarrassment with anger and hostility
  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Blaming others for one’s mistakes
  • Feeling unnecessarily responsible for wrongs made against oneself
  • Having a low self-esteem
  • Experiencing lack of confidence, agitation, nervousness, shyness, low self-esteem, jealousy, anxiety, depression, or paranoia

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What causes self-consciousness?

Self-conscious emotions develop because of an understanding of rules, standards, and goals. Children can start feeling a sense of self at around 18 months of age; that is when self-conscious emotions start developing. Many children have a complete sense of self-consciousness by the age of 3 years. Adolescents have high levels of self-consciousness, and they also start experiencing significant social pressure for the first time at this age. This is also when they are at risk of unhealthy signs of self-consciousness leading to other issues.

What are the benefits of self-consciousness?

Healthy self-consciousness can have several benefits. Pride helps people work hard for accomplishments. Having confidence boosts self-esteem. Having self-esteem helps perform better at work and school and take on new challenges. Negative self-conscious emotions to a small degree can have positive effects. Jealousy helps us determine what one wants the most and work harder. Excessive jealousy can result in feelings of anger, hate, and never being content. Self-consciousness and self-awareness help improve social functioning, follow rules, maintain relationships, and have empathy and sympathy. They also help feel guilt, shame, and embarrassment that can help with appropriate social behavior.

What are the risk factors for self-conscious emotions?

Unhealthy self-conscious emotions can affect mental health and increase the risk of the following issues:

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References
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/self-consciousness/

https://www.psychalive.org/self-consciousness/

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