Self-Conscious Emotions

Written by David Heitz | Published on January 21, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on January 21, 2014

What Are Self-Conscious Emotions?

Self-conscious emotions are connected to how we see ourselves and how we think other people see us. Embarrassment, guilt, pride, and shame are considered self-conscious emotions.

“Self-conscious” really means “self-aware.” Self-consciousness is a healthy part of being human, even when it is slightly discomforting. But when it is excessive, it can interfere with a person’s quality of life. When most people talk about “feeling self-conscious,” they mean that they are extremely conscious of a flaw or shortcoming they believe they have.

Excessive self-consciousness can prevent a person from being able to form relationships. It can cause shyness, isolation, and depression in severe cases.

Adolescence is often a time of extreme self-consciousness, because teenagers and young adults are developing their personalities and figuring out their place in the world.

Many things affect how we look at ourselves and react to situations. Much of what defines us is hardwired by our parents and our early environment. We learn early on what is most important, based on how our parents reward, punish, and teach us.

Excessive Self-Consciousness

Excessive or irrational self-consciousness can lead to continual feelings of embarrassment and shame. These feelings can cause a person to withdraw from the world and from relationships. Excessive self-consciousness frequently contributes to social anxiety disorder.

Therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, can help overly self-conscious people gain a more realistic understanding of how other people perceive and react to them. In severe cases, a doctor or therapist may prescribe antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.

Self Care

Professionals offer these tips for creating a more positive self-image:>

  • Examine self-conscious feelings to determine how real they are. Start by thinking about how you perceive others, and use that as a guide.
  • Do things that you can feel good about. Even small things, such as being punctual and keeping your word, can provide a sense of self-satisfaction.
  • Avoid doing things that might make you feel social shame, such as lying or gossiping.
  • Apologize honestly for mistakes and try to make amends.
  • Practice engaging with other people in low-risk activities, such as light conversation with salespeople.
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