If I understand the question as "What is consciousness?", then I would have to contribute that it cannot amount to the glorification of our mental (and other) abilities which is constantly bandied about. I'm a hard-headed reductionist and, I believe, realist on such matters. Here, instead of buying into the usual bullshit, I must direct the reader's attention to the forces through which conscious self-awareness arose in the first place. Probably among all complex organisms such as mammals, birds and even fish and reptiles, a certain level of consciousness has always existed. If we were on the same level as these creatures, we wouldn't even be here talking about it. But we aren't, so something more needs to be clarified regarding human conscious self-awareness.
All well and good. But what makes us "special"? I'm here to point out that, as opposed to the rest of the natural world, we control our world to degrees way beyond those of lower organisms. Beginning with the Agricultural Revolution, we found ourselves managing our food supply in ways which, by-and-large gave us free or spare time effectively for the first time in the history of the planet. Especially with the Industrial and, later, the Technological (i.e., Electronic) Revolutions, this free or spare time really began to be applied to human beings at all walks of life.
Now the rub of having free or spare time to the degree that we have it now (or earlier) is the matter as to how we use that free or spare time. If we were to try to define just what it is we do with all of that free or spare time when superfluous activities and "fluff" are stripped away, what might we say? I'm a firm believer that what this boils down to is that we develop, to ever-increasing degrees, an often unhealthy obsession with the doings of our neighbors near and far in terms of what threat they may represent to us. To me, this is the unfortunate and "ugly" truth of the matter, which is, for all practical purposes, impossible to get around. We are not the supposedly free creatures that we would like to take ourselves for. And our interests very much devolve down to ourselves and our own well-being. But the redeeming aspect of this is that this means that, being all alike, we are all in the same boat and can finally empathize and sympathize with others. Isn't this what we want?