Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

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love me to death

"Similar mother, similar father, similar dog, cat and fish,
We make the same wish, when the birthday candle's lit,
We'll both be older, we won't get our wish,
Yes, I think that I'm falling in love with myself again".
--Ron Mael

I read a good bit of information about self-esteem again lately. I'm always a bit confused by the context in which this term is used. On the one hand, it's easy to see that some folks devalue themselves so much that they stay in abusive situations, or take deleterious substances, or fall into patterns of self-denying or self-indulgent behavior. For those folks, some form of self-respect (or self-esteem, if one wishes to use that term) may well be missing at baseline. I also read a good bit about folks who convince themselves that they cannot achieve/break out/escape the rut or milieu in which they are stuck. Those people, too, might benefit from "self-esteem".

I read a fair number of people on the other hand, who speak of the "self esteem movement" as some ideological minefield from the left (a bit curiously, I might add, as many of the "new thought" oriented advocates of more "positive thinking" can tend to the right as well as to the left). Such attacks seem to me to be agendae in search of an issue.

In my own life, I have always had an acute awareness of my individual limitations. I have always found that being just a bit hard on myself can have salutary effects of forcing me to focus what resources I have, keeping me from arrogance, and allowing me the benefit of endless hours of introspection. The price, I suppose, is that I am rather more risk-averse than some, and I always feel a bit sheepish if I am self-laudatory. I wonder if I might be a less disorganized person if I thought a bit more of myself, but overall the arrangement works out fine.

I recognize that if we all were a bit more comfortable "in our skins" we might be able to relax a bit. I'm just not sure the meaning of life is necessarily relaxation. The notion of the "good German", who enjoyed the return to stability of the Nazi years notwithstanding its horrors, is an (admittedly extreme) illustration to me of the dangers of complete "acceptance" of one's good fortune. I really like to be content on a basic day to day level. But I do wonder if, like the Faust in Goethe's play, we should not lose our souls if we can pronounce ourselves fully contented?

I'm not knocking the self-acceptance (or "self-love") that we all need to function day to day. Heaven knows some folks don't have it, and need help to get it. I'm talking about the endless obsession those of us without real problems have with our own inner happiness. This way of putting it is unduly brusque, but I'll put it this way nonetheless: sometimes I think we should stop worrying so much about how we feel and just get on with it.

A few of us are uncertain of our goals and missions in life, and need to do some constructive self-assessment. But I think a surprising number of us see the projects before us and just need to set about doing them. Neither the voice of "I can't" nor the voice of "I am so good" is particularly relevant to achieving many of these goals. The way to achieve goals is to actually set out to do them. Every time I have left behind my inner critic or my inner "self loving" voice and just walked the wire, I've achieved the heights. Every time I have get lost on whether I can do something or how I feel about it, I never get on the trapeze.

What works for me, or what I think works for me, does not necessarily work for others. I'm sure not saying it's okay to feel miserable about oneself day in, day out. I recognize that some do feel miserable, and should (and perhaps must) seek help.
But I know in my life, the tasks are clear, the cards are revealed, and the question is not how I feel about the game, but do I wish
to be dealt into the next hand?
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