The Art of Loving is an marvelous book written by Erich Fromm back in the fifties. If you can remember back that far? The main gist is that we have to work at love beyond the initial swoon.It is incredibly complex. It seems to be an apt title for this week’s missive in that my topic is self esteem. I have been batting around ideas with an old friend who is struggling right now. To me it is key to so many things in life it deserves a lot of attention. .
Self esteem is simply our subjective judgement of our worth in society. How do we stack up in relation to the rest of the world? The tough part is we are doing the grading as both pupil and professor. We are constantly under scrutiny as to our beliefs, looks, clothing and status in life.
A lack of it is one the prime symptoms of depression. We put ourselves down in so many ways it is tough to crawl out of the hole. We glare at people and say,”What are looking at?” when we are probably the furthest thing from their mind. We berate a waiter or supposedly lesser person just to make ourselves feel good. Doesn’t work. Then the feelings of guilt and frustration pull us lower and lower.
It is personified in strange ways. Perfectionism is one. We are never good enough. We keep trying to achieve the unachievable. We set absurd standards for us and others in the hope we will be more lovable. It can’t be done. On the other side of the coin it spawns procrastination. If I don’t make a move then I can’t be wrong. Inaction eventually leads to feelings of inadequacy. Sad but true.
The one I love is people being late. We stall and find stupid tasks that seemingly must be accomplished before our entrance. We crave attention and the “TaDa” moment. Fashionably late means I want to be noticed. If you piss people off, all the better. You have made your mark and the rudeness becomes self reinforcing. Kind of like a diva without the autographs.
In all cases we always see the world from our own point of view. It’s our game and our rules. We refuse to accept counter philosophies and we become infuriated at any hint of alternative thought. That is opposed to “alternative facts” of course. Which brings us to our current cause celebre, the Donald.
Narcissism is extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration. This term is bantered around as it relates to His Hairness and may not be far from the truth. It is somewhat counter to lack of self esteem in that it is probably too much of it. The favorite letter is “I” and you had better fall in line. Some fear authoritarianism and dictatorship. I just look at it as another ego run amok. There are plenty of culprits in DC, Hollywood, New York and cites far and wide. Legends in their own minds.
The underlying feature of all this is the inability to judge oneself honestly. None of us are perfect and never will be. Who hasn’t dreamed of fame and fortune? It is holding onto that fantasy through life is where the trouble starts. It starts in childhood where doting parents praise your accomplishments in the same way your failures. You can do no wrong and will be great. No matter how good or badly you perform you look for the adulation and reinforcement. Look again.
Hopeless? Of course not, as long as you are willing to face facts. We are not talking about self flagellation but a good hard look. Dare I call it a dose of reality? We have to set bars but let’s be reasonable. I love it when a professional golfer eyes a 60’ putt and then bemoans it when it comes up short. A mere mortal is despondent because he or she only made $10 million last year. The average American thinks everyone is entitled to a new care every year or a 5,000 sf house. Get real.
I have stated before that our world loves to put us down. Not verbally but visually. From childhood to death’s door, everyone is prey to the fine art of promotion and advertising. Next time, study that 30 second spot. You will not get the girl if you don’t drive this truck or drink this beer. Every femme has to look like a Victoria Secret model. Get the latest in technology to hit your drive 6 yards further this year. Don’t be left behind. Don’t fail to measure up to our absurd fantasies. When you fall short, the drop is precipitous.
Getting back to that love thing it comes down to loving yourself for who you are, warts and all…and we all have them. Figure out how good your are not by what you have but what’s in your soul.There is a sense of calm when you get there. That old feeling comfortable in your own skin. Then you are not a fraud with a designer personality. You are just you. Doesn’t mean you can’t strive but don’t set yourself up for failure.
Even better look at the world around you. Do you get short because people are not living up to your standards? Do you want to change the world to your terms? Did you marry your spouse hoping they would change or do you love those annoying habits as part of their persona? Idiosyncrasies? I think a better term is unconditional love not only for those close to you but for you yourself. Look in the mirror and enjoy the ride.
Ted The Great
There are about 5,000 books listed on Amazon for self esteem. Probably the same is true for self improvement. Now does that mean we are unhappy with ourselves or just trying to be better? Dunno the answer to that one.
Ann Landers once said that when we are 20 we wonder what people think of us. When we are 40 we don’t care. When we are 60 we realize that all that time no one was thinking about us at all.
“That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is. Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing. You get to love your pretense. It’s true, we’re locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you’re trying to steal their most precious possession.”― Jim Morrison Couldn’t have said it better myself.