Be not self-conscious; be conscious of the self
The word ‘self-conscious’ refers to an excessive awareness of one’s appearance and actions. For example, when we give our first public speech, we may be self-conscious, that is, too worried about how we look and how we speak.
Self-consciousness can be crippling. It can divert our mental energy away from concentrating on doing our actions properly to conjuring images of what others are thinking about our actions.
When we are thus self-conscious, the self that we are conscious of is a pseudo-self. It is our surface appearance that is visible to the public eye. In fact, it is not even that – it is our conception of what the world is seeing when it sees us. This conception is derived mostly from our material desires, our notions of what kind of appearance will attract us and thereby make us feel good.
Gita wisdom helps us break free from such self-consciousness by enabling us to become conscious of the self, our authentic self – the soul. The best way to become conscious of the self is by becoming conscious of the Supreme Person Krishna with whom the self is eternally related as an integral part, as a beloved child. The process of bhakti-yoga brings dynamism to our consciousness of our self by providing us multiple ways in which we can serve Krishna.
The Bhagavad-gita (06.18) urges us to give up material desires and thereby situate ourselves in consciousness of our true self. The more we live in our harmony with our spiritual identity, the less we worry about our material image because we understand that it is peripheral to our actual self. Once we start relishing the fulfillment of our true spiritual identity and glory, the need to be self-conscious and seek flickering pleasure through a positive self-image in the world disappears.
When the yogi, by practice of yoga, disciplines his mental activities and becomes situated in transcendence – devoid of all material desires – he is said to be well established in yoga.