Demystifying Self-Consciousness

What is self-consciousness, what causes it, and how do you overcome it? 

Are you preoccupied with how other people perceive you? Do you frequently feel concerned about potentially offending or upsetting others? Are you anxious about performing in front of an audience? If so, it’s possible that you are experiencing self-consciousness.

Experts who research self-consciousness suggest that it’s natural for people to alternate between self-reflection and focusing on others. At times, we may consider our own thoughts, emotions, and actions, while at other times we may focus on those of others. The degree to which we engage in self-reflection is believed to indicate our level of self-consciousness. Based on this broad understanding of self-consciousness, researchers propose that there are two distinct types of self-consciousness.


  1. Private Self-Consciousness – 
    Habitual attendance to our thoughts, motives, and feelings.
  2. Public Self-Consciousness –
    The awareness of oneself as a social object. This person might have concerns about how they appear to others (Turner, Carver,  Scheier, & Ickes, 1978). 

Public self-consciousness is sometimes further divided into two types:

  1. Style Consciousness – 
    Awareness of our behaviors as they are observed by others.
  2. Appearance Consciousness – 
    Awareness of how we look, physically, to others (Takishima-Lacasa, 2014).

Private self-consciousness is also sometimes divided into two types:

  1. Internal state awareness. Awareness of feelings and physical responses.
  2. Self-reflectiveness. Tendency to reflect on the past, ourselves, and our motivations  (Takishima-Lacasa, 2014).

Self-Conscious Emotions

When we feel self-conscious, we might experience a variety of self-conscious emotions. They are:

Shame, Guilt, Pride, Embarrassment, Jealousy, Empathy


According to Tracy and Robins (2004), we tend to feel self-conscious emotions when we perceive that we have met or fallen short of certain expectations or standards we set for ourselves. 

For example, this can lead to feelings of pride if we feel we have succeeded or shame if we feel we have failed. Although these emotions may not always be enjoyable, they play an important role in driving our behavior. They can motivate us to strive for more, encourage us to behave in ways that foster social connections, and inspire us to be more compassionate. 

Neuroscience behind Self Consciousness

Self-consciousness involves heightened self-awareness in relation to others and has been linked to activity in brain regions such as the prefrontal cortex, insula, and amygdala. The prefrontal cortex, particularly the medial prefrontal cortex, is involved in social information processing and self-monitoring. The insula plays a role in emotional processing, with studies suggesting a link to heightened self-awareness and anxiety in social situations. The amygdala, involved in processing emotions and threat detection, has been associated with social anxiety and self-consciousness. Although the neuroscience of self-consciousness is complex and ongoing, studies suggest it involves multiple brain regions and processes.

Can We Overcome Self-Consciousness

Self-consciousness generally develops when we are young. Although it can get easier in adulthood, it doesn’t always. If we were worried about how others thought about us when we were young, we can sometimes bring these habits with us. That’s why learning how to change these thought processes can be useful. So, here are some tips to overcome self-consciousness.

Self-consciousness can be a challenging emotion to manage, but there are several strategies you can use to overcome it. Here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable and confident in social situations:

  1. 😊Build Self Trust: Self-consciousness involves questioning our thoughts, emotions, and actions. To overcome it, we must learn to trust ourselves and make our own decisions.
  2. 🤗Practice self-compassion: When you’re feeling self-conscious, it’s easy to become overly critical of yourself. Instead, try practicing self-compassion by treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer to a friend.
  3. 🎯Focus on the present moment: Self-consciousness often arises when we’re worrying about the past or the future. By focusing on the present moment and being fully engaged in what’s happening around you, you can reduce feelings of anxiety and self-doubt.
  4. 😵Challenge negative self-talk: Negative self-talk can be a major source of self-consciousness. Try to identify any negative thoughts or beliefs you have about yourself and challenge them with evidence that contradicts them.
  5. 🧠Cultivate mindfulness: Mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or meditation, can help you stay present and focused, reducing feelings of self-consciousness and anxiety.
  6. 🎉Set realistic expectations: Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself can fuel feelings of self-doubt and anxiety. Instead, focus on setting achievable goals and celebrating your progress along the way.
  7. 🤝Seek support: It can be helpful to talk to a trusted friend or therapist about your feelings of self-consciousness. Having someone to listen and offer support can help you feel more confident and less alone.

Remember that overcoming self-consciousness is a process that takes time and effort. By practicing self-compassion, mindfulness, and challenging negative thoughts, you can begin to feel more comfortable and confident in social situations.

A coach can help you overcome self-consciousness by providing support, guidance, and practical strategies for managing your emotions. They can help you identify the root causes of your self-consciousness, challenge negative thought patterns, and develop greater self-compassion and self-confidence. Through personalized coaching sessions, a coach can also help you set achievable goals and monitor your progress, building your self-awareness and helping you feel more comfortable and confident in social situations. Overall, a coach can provide valuable tools and support for overcoming self-consciousness and achieving greater self-awareness and personal growth.

NLP can be an effective tool for helping individuals overcome self-consciousness and achieve greater self-awareness and personal growth. Some NLP techniques that have proven very effective are

  • Reframing
  • Anchoring
  • Visualization
  • Meta Modelling
  • Perceptual Position exercises

An NLP Coach can help you to reframe negative thoughts, build confidence,
and develop a more positive self-image.


  • Takishima-Lacasa, J. Y., Higa-McMillan, C. K., Ebesutani, C., Smith, R. L., & Chorpita, B. F. (2014). Self-consciousness and social anxiety in youth: The Revised Self-Consciousness Scales for Children. Psychological assessment, 26(4), 1292.
  • Tracy, J. L., & Robins, R. W. (2004). “Putting the Self Into Self-Conscious Emotions: A Theoretical Model”. Psychological Inquiry, 15(2), 103-125.
  • Turner, R. G., Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Ickes, W. (1978). Correlates of self-consciousness. Journal of Personality Assessment, 42(3), 285-289.

Sajid Ahamed is a “Certified Trainer of NLP” and organizes John Grinder approved New Code NLP and NLP Master Practitioner Certifications  Courses in India and the Middle East. He has more than 1000 hours of coaching experience and is an ICF accredited Professional Certified Coach (PCC). Apart from the Trainings, he covers a  wide niche of coaching including Relationship Coaching, Parenting Coaching, Leadership Coaching.

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