May. 3rd, 2010

kiriamaya: (Default)
I said on a filtered post that I can sometimes be too full of myself and need to be reminded that I'm not really that great. Why in the world would I say that when my self-esteem is already in the toilet most of the time?

This sort of thing has been a topic of discussion in a lot of social justice communities lately: many of us (women in particular) are taught that we shouldn't toot our own horns, as it were -- we shouldn't be proud of ourselves, we shouldn't own and internalize our positive qualities, we shouldn't love ourselves too much (if at all), etc. And a bunch of writers whom I admire (such as Sady Doyle and Kate Harding) have basically risen up to say, "No, that's bullshit! I'm fucking awesome!" And indeed they are. And this is crucial as an inspiration to those of us who aren't quite convinced that it's okay to like ourselves -- after all, if they can do it, maybe we can too!

Problem is? During those (still somewhat uncommon) times when I do feel comfortable liking myself, I am usually kind of a jerk. This is what makes me think I am too full of myself, at times. But is that really the problem?

Or is it that my pent-up resentment at being denied a generally healthy self-esteem basically explodes during those times?

I use the word "denied" very deliberately, because there's really more going on than just an internal struggle. The problem is one of social expectation. If Bob tells Alice that she's awesome, and Alice says something like, "I really am, aren't I?" he's probably going to conclude that she's a giant stuck-up bitch. Which is ridiculous, because she's just agreeing with him. If she really is awesome, why shouldn't she be allowed to show it? And it's not even just about what you say, either; sometimes, merely doing something cool -- writing something intelligent, or building a cool website or program or whatever -- will enrage people, make them think you're showing off or whatever.

And this is where people will try to tell me that I just shouldn't care what other people think. That's all well and good if I'm dealing with random people on the Internet, but it doesn't really work when I'm trying to find a job, or work with a team on a project, or convince new people that I'm worth getting to know, or any number of other situations where I don't have either the time or the spoons to be an Anti-Oppression 101 teacher.

So yes: resentment builds up, and that resentment ends up exploding when I'm actually in a safe space (as an aside, I think this dynamic may account for a lot of anti-oppression blog drama).

And the solution I'm proposing to myself is... to lower my self-esteem even more?

That's incredibly messed up.

It's true; I do need to be less self-absorbed. But getting down on myself isn't going to fix that! Unwarranted self-aggrandizing and self-bashing are both caused by the same thing: an unrealistic appraisal of oneself, rooted in a desire to appease others.

I'm not really sure what to do about it. I guess, just... like myself more? Do and share the things I enjoy more? Take better advantage of those safe spaces I do have?

I don't really know. Thinking.

[Commenting Guidelines: Discussion of this topic is welcome. Self-help platitudes are not.]


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