You’re in Love with Yourself

I hear on occasion about how kids these days are too often praised, and told they can become whatever they want, which has led to their being unprepared for the world. It’s funny, because pretty much everyone I know seems to be the exact opposite, which is to say totally down on themselves and lacking in self-esteem. Maybe there’s a connection between the two extremes, though. After all, the whole concept of self-esteem is a bit self-centered, isn’t it? And if you’re told you can accomplish anything and you soon find out you really can’t, that would have to be a blow to the ego, and perhaps lead to the other extreme. I would imagine that, back in the day, self-esteem was largely a privilege of the rich. If you’re busy trying to make sure you have enough food to eat, you probably aren’t that concerned with how good you feel about yourself. In other words, worrying about being filled takes precedent over worrying about being FUL-filled. Or is that entirely true? Depression has a chemical element to it, after all. Perhaps there were plenty of clinically depressed subsistence farmers and no one knew about it. I always have to wonder about that kind of thing when people mention how ADHD or autism are more common now than before. Are we sure that’s true, or is it just that more people who have them are being diagnosed, rather than just being dismissed as nutballs? I’m not saying that the modern “you can be anything you want to be” school of raising children isn’t problematic, and contributing both to overly high and overly low self-esteem, just that it might not be the only factor.

Speaking of self-centered thinking, I’ve developed somewhat of a distaste for the concept of happiness, or at least the word. I think it’s been appropriated by the self-help industry, just like “family” is now the property of the Religious Right. If you spend all your time thinking about whether you’re happy, of course you’re not going to be! To me, the desired state isn’t this elusive happiness so much as it is contentment, which is probably much the same thing but sounds more comfortable and less intrusive. It’s also, at least to my mind, a more passive state. You don’t really have to DO anything to be content, whereas happiness seems to require constant fueling. Besides, there are times when happiness isn’t desirable anyway. When there’s something to be legitimately sad or angry about, putting on a phony smile and telling yourself everything is all right might not be the best idea.

By the way, I don’t think it’s necessarily true that you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you. I would say being loved by somebody else can help you accept yourself, no? And while we’re on the subject of clichés, I suspect that money CAN buy happiness. It’s just not generally LASTING happiness. But if you’re going to deny I’m happy when listening to a CD or reading a book I just bought, I would have to disagree with you. Mind you, money in and of itself is largely meaningless, but the security it can represent is highly desirable.

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2 Responses to You’re in Love with Yourself

  1. The problem is of course with GENERALIZED praise. That actually ruins self-esteem, precisely because it’s so easily disproved. I like your point about contentment, which ties in very well with truly healthy self-esteem, because I think healthy self-esteem is accepting yourself for who you are, owning the good and admitting the bad. I am reminded of an old coworker of mine who taught me a lot about self-esteem: she was a special-needs adult with mental retardation, but she had this attitude of “I know there are some things I don’t do as well as other people, but here are some things I am good at!” that was really inspiring to me– here I am, possibly double her IQ, loads of natural talent at all sorts of artsy things, and I’ve got this crappy “I suck at too much stuff” attitude. It really is learning to be content with what you have, personally or materialisticly or whatever.

  2. By the way, I don’t think it’s necessarily true that you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you. I would say being loved by somebody else can help you accept yourself, no?

    Yes! In fact, I think it’s a necessary condition in accepting oneself.

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