Self-consciousness is a big issue for me in my religious practice, and one that I am working hard to overcome. I suspect it will be a long process.
My religious self-consciousness is probably tied into my general issues of self-esteem and the social experiences I have had since childhood. I spent most of my childhood and adulthood feeling like an outsider, and I received many, many messages that my words, thoughts, and behaviors were not acceptable to others. As a result, I learned to question everything I do around others. Alone, when nobody is watching, I am completely comfortable in my practice. All that changes the minute there are eyes upon me.
That must change.
I’m not entirely sure how I get to that place of public comfort. Participation in my church is helping. Each time something new is discussed, or some new practice arises in ritual, I feel like I get a little bit of validation. I shouldn’t need that, quite. It helps even so to know that, in one place at least, I am not alone, I am not “other”, I am not unacceptable. Strength should come from within, though. I need to find the path for my inner confidence to come through to the outside.
It may just be a matter of doing it. I still feel very new at this public practice thing. I was solitary my whole adult life, never practicing with others, never even attending festivals. My self-consciousness may just be the hesitancy of a hermit, venturing back out into the world for the first time. The knowledge is there, inside, but the gears of interaction are rusty and need smoothing.
Time in my communities may also help. These days, I don’t receive many of those messages of rejection anymore. I have two wonderful, loving communities, one centered around my family and homeschooling, and one centered around my church and religious practice. Both have welcomed me and my family with open arms, never exclusionary, never judging. The past few years in these places have done wonders for healing those old wounds. May the scars continue to melt and fade away, leaving strength behind.
In the meantime, as I continue to heal and practice, I will continue to center myself in myself, to be sure of my foundations as I begin to stretch my branches out into new territory.