An old friend was in town yesterday, and I met her and her husband for lunch. I haven’t seen her in a year, and I hate to admit that my excitement about our reunion was tempered by embarrassment – I’ve gained weight since she saw me last. I was self-conscious about the way I look, the idea that I might look “worse” than the last time she saw me.
Did it matter? Of course not. There were smiles and hugs and much laughter. But the experience prompted me to reflect on the idea of self-consciousness.
First: it means “conscious of self,” right? So if I’m being conscious of myself, is it at the expense of being aware of others? When we feel self-conscious, we tell ourselves it’s because we care about what others think. But my friend was there to see ME, and I doubt she really saw the extra pounds. And you know what? If she did, it didn’t matter to her. She’s my friend, and she loves me, the real me.
Secondly, I’m thinking about how self-consciousness holds us back, and keeps us from sharing our gifts with the world. It’s heartbreaking for me to see a student who’s bright and talented, a student who should be filled with confidence, writhing in self-doubt and shame over imagined flaws. Then I realize – that’s me, sometimes. When I suppress myself, I’m not giving, not sharing.
Sure, some people will reject me; that’s a given. They’d reject me with or without the thing I’m so self-conscious about. As the saying goes, life doesn’t begin five pounds from now. It’s here, right now, today. Each moment that passes is a moment I can never get back. I should never reject, or avoid, a friend’s affection because I’m caught up in my own self-criticism; how ironically self-defeating is that?
Today, I want to be fully conscious – of myself, of those around me, of you. Only then is it possible to really live.