Evolutionary selection permeates the consciousness of members of a species at a level higher than the individuals themselves. Everyone comes into awareness about the selection pressures and adaptations taking place across their population. This happens independently of who they happen to be.
Awareness of “life”, being alive, what it takes to survive, exist in each individual even when they lack it in some perceived manner e.g. being unattractive, having low self-esteem, being a failure. Indeed, it’s what enables self-deprecation and sometimes suicide based on some of these beliefs in an individual.
Each individual is not out for themselves, with the selection pressure encouraging them to succeed, but rather they are out for the collective they are part of, whether they realise it or not, whether they like it or not. It is detrimental to individuals to feel bad about themselves. However, this is the effect of collective selection.
Individuals therefore place themselves within that spectrum of being alive and aligned with the path of survival and reproduction – the literal path, and the ever-increasing figurative path in humans. Indeed, they aim to become increasingly aligned.
Eusociality is a popular example of altruistic behaviour with most individuals being unable to reproduce even if they wanted to. Despite e.g. humans being able to reproduce, the perception alone that they may not be worthy is enough to prevent them.
This awareness develops acutely during puberty, and causes the associated angst regarding one’s identity, value and place amongst others. Of course, as the selection pressures and direction of evolution itself changes, a delicate balance must be struck between meeting established ideals of survival, and being part of creating new ones through our own initiative and behaviour.
Individuals are therefore placed to constantly gauge the extent to which they may influence the evolutionary pathways of life, versus themselves being influenced by the established path. This is seen with people bargaining for their positions in the collective: balancing their perceived unattractiveness with increased service to others; increased humour or other valued features by established standards. Hence, a hybrid phenotype evolves that carries over an originally negative connotation by associating with an established positive connotation.