Saturday, April 29, 2006


Self-esteem is a strange piece of baggage. A lot of times what gets called self-esteem is the obvious sense in which it is how highly you esteem yourself. But self-esteem as it works in life is a bit more complicated than that. It importantly revolves around other people. Which is odd, because it's called self-esteem, not other-esteem. But esteem only enters the picture of the self when there is something to compare it against. If there were no one but you, you would have no self-esteem because there would be no one to esteem you, nobody else with similar abilities to be placed higher or lower than yours. That wouldn’t bad, though, because you wouldn’t need any, not having anybody else to put up with.

But just as self-esteem is not all about how you esteem yourself, it isn't all about other people either--you do get involved in the act, at its most critical level. Self-esteem marks an area in which you and the other are bound together. It is based entirely on the perception you have of other people’s perceptions of you. You can either give a shit what they think, or not. But usually, saying that you could give three shits what somebody else thinks is simply a cover. You really do care, you do think about it, you are affected, it just isn’t as overt and pandering as other people.

The funny thing about self-esteem is the circle of interactions that brings it into being. If we focus on erotic attachments, this is certainly clear. Sandy likes Bob. Bob doesn't know that. Bob thinks Sandy is great, but doesn't like Sandy in the same way. Bob tells Sandy that he likes his ladies thin in the hips. Sandy is not thin in the hips. She thinks that this is why Bob doesn’t like her and so gets down on her own wide, child-bearing hips. Sandy thinks the comment is somehow directed at her, when really, Bob would never say anything to hurt Sandy and is certainly not thinking of Sandy when he says it. But that’s just it: it doesn’t really matter how people perceive you. It only matters how you perceive people as seeing you.

Real life is much more complicated then the Bob and Sandy story. Real life people have layers of these circles, all going around each other, all connected, all stirring up trouble.

The trick of self-esteem is that other people's perceptions aren't always wrong. They don't always matter, but sometimes they do point out something about you that is true. Sometimes you are rightly esteemed as having low value in some area. It’s a hard thing to be awakened to a widespread perception of you that you have willfully ignored or always been oblivious to. It just so happens that I should finally come to terms with the fact that I’m going bald, I have bad acne, I have a big nose, I have thin and flat hair, I have hair all over (even my back), I’m not that funny, I'm a huge poser, I drive too fast, I drive too slow, I’m too quiet and standoffish, I’m too loud and obnoxious, I’m too drunk, I’m too stoned, I’m too stupid, too elitist, too straight, too effeminate, I’m pretentious, I’m boring, I'm silly, I'm cowardly, I'm ignorant, peevish, defensive, unfun, depressed egotistical cranky simple--

but who needs that shit?

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJuly 13, 2006

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