Self-consciousness is a heightened sense of self-awareness. It is a preoccupation with oneself, as opposed to the philosophical state of self-awareness, which is the awareness that one exists as an individual being, though the two terms are commonly used interchangeably or synonymously. An unpleasant feeling of self-consciousness may occur when one realizes that one is being watched or observed, the feeling that “everyone is looking” at oneself. Some people are habitually more self-conscious than others. Unpleasant feelings of self-consciousness are sometimes associated with shyness or paranoia.
When feeling self-conscious, one becomes aware of even the smallest of one’s own actions. Such awareness can impair one’s ability to perform complex actions. Adolescence is believed to be a time of heightened self-consciousness. A person with a chronic tendency toward self-consciousness may be shy or introverted.
Unlike self-awareness, which in a philosophical context is being conscious of oneself as an individual, self-consciousness, being excessively conscious of one’s appearance or manner, can be a problem at times. Self-consciousness is often associated with shyness and embarrassment, in which case a lack of pride and low self-esteem can result. In a positive context, self-consciousness may affect the development of identity, for it is during periods of high self-consciousness that people come the closest to knowing themselves objectively. Self-consciousness affects people in varying degrees, as some people are constantly self-monitoring or self-involved, while others are completely oblivious about themselves.
Psychologists frequently distinguish between two kinds of self-consciousness, private and public. Private self-consciousness is a tendency to introspect and examine one’s inner self and feelings. Public self-consciousness is an awareness of the self as it is viewed by others. This kind of self-consciousness can result in self-monitoring and social anxiety. Both private and public self-consciousness are viewed as personality traits that are relatively stable over time, but they are not correlated. Just because an individual is high on one dimension doesn’t mean that he or she is high on the other.
Different levels of self-consciousness affect behavior, as it is common for people to act differently when they “lose themselves in a crowd”. Being in a crowd, being in a dark room, or wearing a disguise creates anonymity and temporarily decreases self-consciousness. This can lead to uninhibited, sometimes destructive behavior.
Deindividuation is a concept in social psychology that is generally thought of as the loss of self-awareness in groups, although this is a matter of contention (resistance). Sociologists also study the phenomenon of deindividuation, but the level of analysis is somewhat different. For the social psychologist, the level of analysis is the individual in the context of a social situation. As such, social psychologists emphasize the role of internal psychological processes. Other social sciences, such as sociology, are more concerned with broad social, economic, political, and historical factors that influence events in a given society.
Self-conscious emotions, such as guilt, shame, embarrassment, and pride, are a variety of social emotions that relate to our sense of self and our consciousness of others’ reactions to us.
During the second year of life, new emotions begin to emerge when children gain the understanding that they themselves are entities distinct from other people and begin to develop a sense of self. These emotions include:
Self-conscious emotions have been shown to have social benefits. These include areas such as reinforcing social behaviors and reparation of social errors. There is also possible research suggesting that a lack of self-conscious emotion is a contributing cause of bad behaviour.
They have five distinct features that differentiate them from other emotions
- Require self-awareness and self representation
- Emerge later than basic emotions
- Facilitate attainment of complex social goals
- Do not have distinct universally recognized facial expressions
- Cognitively complex
Adapted From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia