Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, yet still half awake, I had a vision of sorts, a semi-dream. The image I saw was of a woman, her name was Georgina, though how I knew this, and why that name, I do not know. I was observing her from a distance. She was in a dark blue bathroom, standing in front of a mirror with her back to a window. The window had net curtains blurring the view outside, a soft white light filtered through them giving an ethereal glow to Georgina, and they undulated in the breeze created by her movements. She was swaying to silent music. A gentle, private smile on her lips. Her long black hair cascaded in waves down her slender body, modestly shielding her nakedness. I thought to myself that she was very beautiful, not because of her physical attractiveness, but because of the fact that she was immersed in herself, enjoying her solitude and the freedom it gave her to be natural.
As soon as I had those thoughts, Georgina’s dark eyes moved away from her reflection, and turned towards me. She was suddenly aware that she was being watched, and immediately her demeanour changed. She became self-conscious. For a moment she debated whether to cover her nakedness, then she decided not to as she realised that I was admiring her rather than judging her. She became slightly coy. Her smile became subtly seductive, her eyelashes fluttered a bit, and her movements became a dance to please the watcher.
I snapped out of the vision, annoyed at myself for disturbing the intimate interaction that a being was having with themselves. It had not been my intention to observe such a private moment, but once I did, I was captivated by what I saw. Not because of the person I was watching, but because of the fact that those moments are rare to behold in others, and, in many ways, in ourselves too. When we are wrapped up in ourselves, alone, unobserved, free to just be as we are naturally, we don’t think about ourselves from the outside, but just experience ourselves from the inside. They are fragile moments as the slightest awareness of them shatters the calm and induces self-consciousness. Our mind kicks in and we start thinking of how we are being perceived, not just by others, but by ourselves too. We awaken the beast of judgment, and all the nasty little demons of self-criticism. Too fat, too awkward, too ugly, not good enough, unloveable, weird, stupid, uncool, and a millions other endlessly self-negating thoughts.
It is strange really. Self-consciousness has two very distinct meanings. The first is the one which causes so much grief, makes us behave as though we are on stage, performing, hoping to please the audience, gain applause, yet certain that we will fail and end up looking foolish. The second is the one which is supposed to enlighten us, give us an understanding of ourselves, detachment, objectivity, and bestow the power of self-awareness.
The most overused motto of our times is – Be Yourself. The idea is a very good one, but as soon as we think about being ourselves, it becomes very difficult to actually be ourselves. Thinking about it causes much confusion. Who is this self that we are, that we are supposed to be, and how do we do it naturally when we are thinking about it and interfering in the natural expression off it.
We are most often ourselves when we are not thinking about being ourselves. Those moments are hard to capture. The second we think about it, the moment is gone. As soon as someone else enters the scene, the moment vanishes, and we become conscious of their eyes watching us, and their mind thinking about us, probably judging us, and finding us to be lacking somehow. Or is that just me.
So, what are your thoughts on self-consciousness? Do you find it easy to be yourself?