Self-Aware or Self-Conscious: Which Are You?

Self-Consciousness vs
Self-awareness vs. self-consciousness. This is one of those semantic paradoxes we wordsmiths enjoy dissecting.

Some time ago, I had the jolting revelation of my self-consciousness around someone I admire, someone who has genuine, extra-sensory perception, and thus could feel into me and know my inner thoughts, even those I was unaware of having. She wasn’t “spying” on me or anything. I had GIVEN her permission to do this, as I was seeking her guidance in understanding myself better. (I’ve mentioned Diana Lang here before in a post or two. She is a brilliant empath, intuitive, and spiritual counselor here in Los Angeles).

After years of working with Diana and learning so much, I suppose I was finally ready to see this particular veil. I had long been aware that being looked at from the inside out, even by someone with the most loving eyes, someone to whom you have given permission, can be, well…intimidating! But somehow, I had not realized (duh) that I was self-conscious because of it. Nor did Diana ever use the word self-conscious. She used the word “closed.” She said my heart was closed.

“My heart is not closed!” my ego would assert, irritated, and I balked at the notion, claiming to be simply self-aware, objective. But over time, I began to recognize, to actually feel my closed heart, though outwardly I was smiling and saying all the right things. My ego had thrown up a sleek, gracious, smooth-talking, invisible-to-the-naked-eye defense, which she, the wily woman that she is, recognized, but that I couldn’t see myself. She kept reiterating, “This is just data, Angie, not judgment. Let it teach you.”

And, wow, has it taught me.

In mindfulness study, self-awareness is what we practice. We are learning to observe ourselves, to become awake to how our minds work, how our perceptions filter reality and drive our actions, and how our perceptions are influenced by a multiplicity of inputs, most of which are occurring subconsciously.  Over time, we learn to recognize our defense systems, even the sheerest and most seamless of them, and we learn we have the choice to let them go. It may take a lifetime to do, but we learn we can.

Self-consciousness, on the other hand, is a consumptive kind of self-awareness, one that is negative and implosive in nature. We are not seeing our “data.” We are being overwhelmed by inner questioning, self-criticism and comparison, to the point that our hearts are too full of this spew to be available to others. Our best-intentioned, egoic impersonation of heart may keep reaching out, but the reaching will be shallow and conflicted.

Mindful availability is a new term for me, one I learned from an article written by Sue Monk Kidd in her book of devotions, Firstlight. It is a term I am now using in my writing groups, encouraging not only mindful and heart-filled writing, but mindful and heart-filled listening to others’ writing.  The idea is to REALLY listen, to practice surrendering our own internal chatter (mostly self-critical and hyper-sensitive) in order to free up bandwidth to deeply hear and encourage the delicate, budding, heart-song of another, then feed back to them something authentically appreciative about what they wrote.

Each week, as we move around the circle and read, self-consciousness begins to gently thaw, and our hungry-to-be-known hearts begin to warm up and come forward. This is the greatest gift we can ever give anyone, our willingness to receive their hungry  hearts. And it is the greatest gift we will ever receive from someone else. A two-way blessing.

All week long Bruce Springsteen’s lyric “Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart” has been playing in the background of my mind. I think it was there, calling this post forward. Self-consciousness tells us to be ashamed of our hungry-heartedness. Compassionate self-awareness tells us hungry-heartedness is the essence of our divine humanity. We are hungry to know and be known, to love and be loved, and to experience the richness of life we know deep inside we were put here to have. Nothing wrong with that! Nothing to be embarrassed by! Nothing to be defensive about!

And right there in our shared hunger, we can feed each other. It’s vulnerable. It’s raw. It’s real. And it’s as good as it gets!

24 thoughts on “Self-Aware or Self-Conscious: Which Are You?

  1. Brenda

    Okay, THIS is your BEST post ever! Good enough to elevate you to guru or sage status, if not higher. And I don’t say this to flatter you, Angie, my heart sister, but I say it because I am awed by the channel you have allowed, nay, WILLED yourself to become, letting wisdom and healing FLOW through you out into the beautiful world. (I also liked it because you mentioned Springsteen, of course! Hee Hee!). I love you and the way you are using your gifts!!!

    Reply
  2. Sylvia Friedlander

    Brilliant! Your writings are evolving from the heart and I am astonished by their depth. Thank you for this.

    Reply
    1. Angela Hite Post author

      Wow. Thank you, Sylvia. These last couple of years of learning have been astonishing to me, too.

      Reply
  3. Deborah Davies

    So lovely, Angie! Amazed at the synchronicity of the closed heart imagery – for so many reasons! I’m so honored to be learning from you – to be on this journey with you! With love, my dear one❣

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    1. Angela Hite Post author

      Deb, we are indeed on a journey! And I am so very happy you are in this group! Your heart is right there singing, and what a beautiful song! Love, love.

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  4. Jim Goodwin

    Thank you, Angie, for doing the heavy lifting. You gather the grapes, squish them with your tireless feet, distill it all down, and pour a delicious glass of wine. All we do is show up and drink it down. I smiled when you brought it back to music at the end with Springsteen because I know your inner rocker chick is always dancing. And that made me think about our inner child and self-consciousness. I imagine that much of the “chatter” comes from deep emotion that we have not accessed, that lies buried within us, that asks simply to be acknowledged. It appears to be dormant until something triggers it, and it erupts out of us like a stinking, gaseous, volcanic spew. Often it involves parents, siblings, or ex-spouses. Duh 😉 It seems pretty basic. But, I’m not sure we can ever master this volatility. We spend most of our life insulating against these triggers – moving away from home, cutting ties, limiting our exposure to those who might make us erupt. I have recently come home, to my childhood home, and surrounded myself with trigger happy relatives. And there have been a few eruptions. But something else happened the other day. I went to our “cabin in the woods” where we grew up romping about every summer with the teepee and the killer swimming hole, and the rest. I found myself staring up at a particularly impressive tree in the meadow, and I had one of those moments that you can only have when you are alone, surrounded by natural beauty and nostalgia. When I wrote about it later, I simply said “this tree, which has watched over me for nearly 50 years, spoke to me today for the first time. It said ‘remember.'” Your post today reminded me that what I got in touch with that day brought me some powerful self-awareness. Because as I stood and looked up at the tree, I felt as if I remembered my entire childhood in a flash, maybe even beyond to past lives and deeper ancestral memories, and I was struck with an image of “hanging naked and wired” (Bowie.) For a moment the chatter was gone. All the events and memories that made me who I am were shed away, and my true self emerged pure and raw as light. I may have even touched that Zen spot where the self is so clearly revealed, it ceases to exist in isolation and joins the oneness of all spiritual energy. So, thank you for helping me make sense of that experience. And I highly recommend to everyone to “remember.” Childhood memories can be a treasure chest of self-awareness.
    With love, Jim

    Reply
    1. Angela Hite Post author

      Damn, Jim! You blow me away!!! I FEEL every word, and I agree, that trip backward into childhood opens up so much…both the “light and dark angels,” as Sue Monk Kidd calls them. Do you have a blog I can read? If you don’t, please make one, my friend!

      And call me next time you are back down here. Kindred spirits should see each other from time to time!!!

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    2. Brenda

      Wow! Jim, I don’t know who you are but you rock! I agree with Angie! You need to share your thoughts with the world!

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      1. Angela Hite Post author

        I’m laughing at your comment, Bren – ‘I don’t know who you are but you rock!” Jim DOES rock, Brenda, both metaphorically and literally!

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        1. Jim Goodwin

          Y’all are so sweet. I really enjoy writing like this when it hits me. It doesn’t happen often. But when events connect like they did for me with the tree and Angie’s post, it comes pouring out. I hope it happens again before too long. Although if time is an illusion, it happened, is happening, will always be happening 😉 But for now, in this moment, I want to say thank you, again. Sharing your insights takes tremendous bravery, fearlessness really. And we all benefit. All my love, Jim.

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  5. Debbie McGowan

    Deepest bow, dear Angie. MAGNIFICENT post! Thank you for sharing your experiences and amazing wisdom and inviting us to ponder our own true hearts and minds in such a loving and non-judgmental way. We DO have a choice to open to life or remain closed off. Thank you, especially, for showing us that it’s okay to be completely vulnerable and lay our naked truth at the altar. That we can understand and explore how our minds work so that we may become more “mindful” and continue to peel back those layers of past conditioning that can keep us captive. I’m continuing to peel back my own layers and I think there’s hope! I really love your new term – “mindful availability.” When mind and heart meet in just the right way, something very beautiful happens on a deeply personal level AND I am aspiring to become a better listener – so that I may “deeply hear and encourage the delicate, budding, heart-song of another” – beautiful! Self-inquiry is a daunting but necessary task if we want to live an authentic life and I have found such a journey is only for the very brave of heart and soul but everyone has what is required to take the leap! You make it look so easy. Bless you, my friend, for continuing to show us the the way to inner peace and freedom. There’s some BIG medicine here! Love you.

    Reply
    1. Angela Hite Post author

      Dear Debbie, thank you, my lovely! I am laughing out loud, LOL, LOL, LOL, at the statement, “You make it look so easy!” It may actually be easy to peel back the layers….if you are a super-highly-evolved being, of which I am not yet one! But I am definitely on a mission to become that Bodhisattva Heart, no matter how long it takes! As I know you are, too! Much love!

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  6. Cecilia

    Whoa Whoa Whoa!!! Strong and full of love, this piece delivers BIG. Thank you Angie for the angle and perception of this so needed conversation. I will ponder and practice❤️
    Cecilia

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    1. Angela Hite Post author

      We are deep in the growth, dear Cecilia, aren’t we? I’m so glad we are in it, together!

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  7. Corliss Blue

    Oh my, Angie. I returned from one of the most teaching and healing experiences of late, to find this amazing blog. It settled deep within my open heart and soul. Thank you for this gift.
    Love love love
    Corliss

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  8. Christy Garcia

    Angie,

    I work with Diana and have been working on my own heart opening. I, too, had the same ego reaction as you did when Diana mentioned this to me. But I soon learned that it was an observation, not a judgment. With this awareness, I’ve discovered that there were many layers that needed to be examined and healed. I’ve also found that this journey of heart opening and mindfulness has uncovered a lot of joy! I see things with new eyes through the heart. It’s work in progress. I’m not as open as I’d like to be, but I’m on the way (sometimes stumbling on the self-consciousness, too).

    Your words and experience resonate completely with me. I am honored to be in your workshop and am looking forward to more unfolding, exploring deeper and to more opening of my heart.

    With love and gratitude,
    Christy

    Reply
    1. Angela Hite Post author

      Christy girl, I am so glad you are in the workshop, too! I feel you! Can’t wait to see what comes next. Much love!

      Reply

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