Self-Consciousness vs. Self-Awareness

I don’t know that I can recall a time in my life when I have not felt self-conscious . . . I remember as a small girl feeling butterflies in my stomach before family gatherings, even small intimate ones. This must be something I was born with, or maybe something that I acquired at an early age due to my environment. I don’t believe that feeling self-conscious is that much of a good or happy thing. Living in a heightened state of self-consciousness can cause anxiety and fear, and if it continues for too long, I believe it can be very damaging.

Being self-conscious is different from being self-aware. Self-awareness is having a sense of who you are and with self-awareness I come to understand that I am often a self-conscious person. Knowing who you are and being self-aware is important for our overall well-being. Having a sense of who we are, and specifically who we are in Christ, is our foundation upon which all other things having to do with our health and wellness are built.

When we are facing the challenges of accepting a chronic health condition or illness we are often forced to become quite introspective. During this time, we might look critically at our definition of ourselves, our identity. The battle between self-consciousness and self-awareness ensues. When I first received the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, I was shaken. It could have been something worse. . . it could have been something life-threatening. . . but I was unable at that time to focus on anything else other than what I thought now defined me completely. This diagnosis now became a part of my self-awareness and in fact, with a heightened state of self-consciousness, it took over most of my thoughts.

In an effort to become informed, I went to a bookstore and purchased a “comprehensive” book about Fibromyalgia. I did research on the internet. All I was able to see was how my life was now changed and how I was unable to fix it. The part of my brain that was so good at being self-conscious kicked into overdrive. What would people think of me? What would doctors think of me with this diagnosis? How would my family react? How would my friends react? Would anyone really understand what this meant for me? How can I manage to be seen as a strong and capable individual with a label like this attached to me? Lost in the midst of these chaotic thoughts was my true identity. Quickly, my foundation was crumbling and my real sense of self was gone.

How Does This Apply To You?

Could I have avoided this most common experience? I think if I had built my foundation, my sense of self, on Biblical principles and had found my identity in Christ completely prior to this event in my life, I would have been far better off. I believe that over-driven part of me, the self-conscious side, would have been more calm, more at peace. There is no way to know for sure if I still might have struggled if I had completely defined myself in the light of Jesus before. And quite possibly or most likely, God meant for it to happen this way for me. As it turns out, I am aware of my value now, as a child of God, and that means that no matter what description comes after my name, first and foremost, I am His and created by Him, therefore . . . I am good. This is true for you, too!

These are the thoughts that I would encourage you to keep at the forefront of your mind when your self-awareness is challenged by the thoughts that often accompany living with Chronic Pain: “I am good”, “I am valuable”, “I am important”, “I am created by God”. Keep your self-awareness focused on the truth, and let that truth set you free. Try earnestly to avoid the critical thoughts of the self-conscious, and rest in what truly defines you.

You might ask yourself: Am I feeling self-conscious about my new (or even “old”) diagnosis? If so, what lies are you being told by this self-conscious part? What is a healthy response? What is God’s truth and what can you find in the Word of God to dispute these lies? Practice replacing the lies with thoughts that will fill your soul with gladness and joy, not negativity.

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