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Self-consciousness is an acute sense of self-awareness, with slight tinges of paranoia. It is the unpleasant feeling of being watched or observed, that "everyone is looking at" one. It may be the basis of shyness.
When one is feeling self-conscious, one becomes aware of even the smallest of one's own actions. Such awareness can impair one's ability to perform complex actions. For example, a piano player may "choke", lose confidence, and even lose the ability to perform the moment they notice the audience. As self-consciousness fades one may regain the ability to "lose one's self".
As consciousness is itself poorly understood, so too is self-consciousness.
It is a unique type of consciousness in that it not always present, and it is not sought after. Unlike self-awareness, self-consciousness has connotations of being unpleasant, and is often linked to self-esteem. Self-consciousness is credited with the development of identity, because it is during periods of self-consciousness that people come the closest to knowing themselves objectively. Self-consciousness plays a large role in behavior, as it is common to act differently when people "lose themselves in a crowd". Self-consciousness affects people in varying degrees, as some people are in constant self-monitoring, while others are completely oblivious about themselves.
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