When we enter the world, awareness sets in. A sense of the other is eternally present, an internalized gaze directed towards us from those capable of judgement and praise. The significance lies not in the fact that we are being seen, but in the knowledge that we are being seen and how this affects our own actions.

Our current culture emphasizes visibility in all aspects of life. Social media actively promotes the constant display of private, everyday activities. Perception is everything. There seems to be an unstated assumption that unless something is documented, it doesn’t matter; that unless something is shared, it has no worth. Actions begin to gain value for how they can be shown to others, rather than for the carrying out of the actions themselves.

Does this heightened awareness influence our behaviour? I would argue that it alters our intentions and expression of self quite profoundly. Our intentions are what direct our path; they are the foundation and motivation behind our actions. So what happens when thoughts of external reactions begin to seep into our plans and decision-making processes? What happens when we set out to do something with the knowledge of how it will make us appear?

I have often been told to examine my motives in order to reflect on their sincerity. Is an action good in and of itself? Or in our own individual quests to be the so-called best that we can be, should we also take into consideration our reasons for our actions? This self-examination is something that must be done without external assistance if it is to be truthful. When we surrender ego long enough to honestly acknowledge weakness, I’m sure we will all see more than merely “pure” intentions. Haven’t we all helped another in the hopes that the good deed would be reciprocated? Haven’t we ever been kind or charitable and expected praise in return? Anyone who denies ever giving thought to their appearance in regards to their actions is probably delusional.

I also referred to the expression of self as a victim of self-awareness. Perhaps it seems an odd thing to say, but thinking too much about ourselves prevents us from truly being ourselves. When words are contrived in order to create a certain image, self is only a façade. There are multiple selves and they all interfere with the true self when the lines between them become inevitably blurred.

So how do we access “self” without pretension? The solution could never be clearly expressed or carried out. I think that true self is something we are continually journeying towards. However, maybe part of the answer is to think less about self and worry less about how we can find our true one. Maybe what we need to learn to do is to channel self so purely that all awareness of self is lost. If we immerse ourselves fully in the moment, perhaps self will slip from our consciousness and become simply who we are, rather than a detached aspect of our person.