What’s the difference between being self-conscious and self-aware?
This one’s been a struggle for me. Even though I “know” deep down where the disparity lies, it’s one’a those things that you never truly “get” until you apply it practically – over and over again – in an actual array of ego splitting scenarios you view as opportunities to become more of that latter thing (self-aware) while you grow out of the former (self-conscious) way of feeling and interacting. It takes a lotta moment-to-moment work to attempt a self-aware state of living and being in your own skin. And I fail pretty much every day in at least some way. But that extra effort’s the only way to achieve even a modicum of it. Anything less and you’re just faking an awakening for the sake of making others happy.
(Or just getting them to get off your ladynuts. Either way it’s a tiresome act to keep up.)
Seeing the difference is crucial, first, though. And the way I’m starting to see it is that being self-conscious is this isolating feeling where you assume everyone around you is judging you the way you are in the privacy of your own head. And if they are, self-consciousness causes you to feel unease and separation from everyone else about it instead’a actively addressing it. Self-awareness, contrarily, is where – sure – you recognize all’a those unfavorable facets dotting your persona. But because of it, you’re thus able to watch out for and manage them. Also, you recognize that these irritating traits don’t separate you at all from others. Because they’ve got similar ones. If you were a self-conscious person, you could get defensive and use that fact against others when they start to pick on you for yours (“Well you can’t talk about my vices because you drink your feelings every day at lunch between work!”… “I’m your daughter! I’m this way because of you!”…)
(No matter how true it is.)
Rather, when you’re self-aware, you realize that putting down others – however factual or good of ammo it may be – doesn’t bring you up any. It just screws you over from rising above whatever shitty ritualistic behavior is making you quietly weep and wrist slit to Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” the moment there’s no social barometer around to play the pissing game with.
So how do you do you get there?
There’s a ton of great self-help stuff out there. But that’s only half the battle. Overindulging in improvment info can become mental-masturbatory after too long. I mean, don’t get me wrong: the list-making, meditation, spiritual reading, or listening to the likes of Alan Watts is all monumentally awesome preparation. It’s imperative to have a spiritual principle compendium from which to draw later. But if you’re not ultimately using it by throwing yourself into a challenging mix on a daily basis, it’s like studying without ever actually taking the exam (which is coincidentally literally what I’m doing right now with my pre-PTA application exam #DefectCeption). This was something I realized only recently when I got outta isolation and started working in a clinic setting part time again – around a shiz ton of different types of personalities. All amazing people – but (as a life-long self-conscious person struggling everyday to scale self-awareness ladder and only ever barely gripping the first rung some days), it’s still a journey – learning how to actually connect with fellow species members on a real level. I’d add “again” to the end of that sentence, but I really can’t. When you don’t even realize that you’re being self-conscious (which is the only way I’ve ever connected previously), there’s nothing real about your interactions. Nothing authentic. This’s something different altogether. It’s like learning to walk with newly gifted bionic legs you sometimes feel awkward wearing, try to take off, and then don’t feel right flopping around on the floor either. I dunno if I’ll ever get totes accustomed, but as I try my hardest, they’re teaching me lessons everyday on how to navigate a more aware life. And while there’s a ton of tips yet to reveal themselves to me, I’mma focus on the most salient one today.
So what’s the biggest lesson I’m learning?
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
(And DO question your own reactions.)
Especially when it comes to your identity. There’s this happy medium between self-deprecation and being able to laugh at yourself – if you know why you’re doing it. What is it you ultimately want out of your communicative ping pong game? For me, my main aim in any group is to try and connect on some level with the people I’m encountering or remove myself if the vibe gets too negative. Family gatherings. Work scenarios. Social sitches. Sometimes (if you’re a self-conscious egocentric person like me), before that vibe turns negative, it can easily feel like you’re being targeted, even if you’re not – or if the targeting’s just in jest. When that happens, I’ve found that the easiest ticket out of that developing neurosis circus – before all the elephants escape and go on a wild stampede – is to put on the clown gear in lieu and lightly make fun of myself along with everyone else.
This is helpful because if your friends (Or coworkers. Or barista asking if you’re okay ‘cause you launched a dairy latte across the wall after demanding soy) are pointing out an actual changeable thing versus some character quirk everyone can chuckle about together, then that laughter lubricant serves as an excellent anesthetic. Particularly for when you (hopefully) decide to actually start trying to change said personality flaws versus just getting defensive. Sure, sometimes the people you’re around are just self-conscious and self-loathey enough that they’re actually nagging you despite your efforts. When that happens – when your tools are no match for their self-hatred manifesting as vitriolic cannonballs – then don’t get self-conscious like they are. It’s a crappy level to live on. If you wanna act super-enlightened, you can ask them what’s making them behave that way.
Or, ya know you can can always just give the the finger and go where you’re welcome and respected.
As they say, laughter’s the best medicine.
But, like any good scheduled II medicine, we can put it to good use – like handling the pain of change.
Not just getting high on sit-comathons.
Which I’ll probably do tonight on reruns of “Mom”, thanks to these intermittent gifs.