Self-consciousness is an 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. An unpleasant feeling of self-consciousness may occur when we realize that we are being watched or observed, the feeling that "everyone is looking" at us. Some people are habitually more self-conscious than others. 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. For example, a piano player may "choke", lose confidence, and even lose the ability to perform at the moment they notice the audience. This is a function of the psychological phenomenon of social facilitation. As self-consciousness fades one may regain the ability to "lose one's self".

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, self-consciousness can be a problem at times. It is often associated with shyness and embarrassment, and can affect self-esteem. In a positive context, self-consciousness may affect the development of identity, because 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.Fact|date=October 2007

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 decrease self-consciousness (see deindividuation). This can lead to uninhibited, sometimes destructive behavior. Placing an individual in front of a mirror can temporarily increase self-consciousness.

See also



*McGaughey, William (2001). "Rhythm and Self-Consciousness: New Ideals for an Electronic Civilization". Minneapolis: Thistlerose Publications. ISBN 0-9605630-4-0.
* Laing, R.D. (1960) "The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness". Harmondsworth: Penguin (this book has a chapter explaining self-consciousness).

External links

* [ "Big Brother eyes 'boost honesty'",, 28 June 2006]
* [ "Selfconsciousness for engineers"]

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