Do we come in to the world with our sense of self? Or is it something that develops over time? The nature or nurture argument is an old one, and it comes to mind every time I see (or post) an affirmation. And God knows, I see enough of them. Everywhere.
If you spend any time at all on social media or the internet, it’s easy to conclude that everyone’s super-insecure with low self-esteem and that there’s a great need for confidence-building, especially among women. People seem to vibrate and resonate with affirmations as if their lives depend on it. And maybe they do. Yes, there are so many wounded people in our world.
Affirmations are great reminders, but I do think it’s heartbreaking that people require affirmations like the one above. It’s hard for me to imagine needing an outside source to affirm one’s intelligence and self-awareness. And yet I know that many do need that reinforcement. Badly. And affirmations serve that purpose. So–whatever works.
The dark self-view reflected in this affirmation makes me want to cry.
We don’t make right choices every time–in fact, some of my worst choices were my best teachers. Hmm. Maybe those WERE Right Choices. Oh, some affirmations are so confusing!
There’s no question that I came into the world with a strong sense of self, or at least a seedling of it. It wasn’t exactly a gift from my parents, who were inconsistent in the manner in which they affirmed us. Although maybe it WAS a gift, because bucking up against their authoritarian style certainly helped me define myself. And of course, they thought I was the smartest thing since sliced bread. If sliced bread had brains. If that’s the way you’re treated, it seems logical you’ll grow up believing it. In that same way, if you’re treated like you’re stupid, well, that’s what you believe. At least until you’re old enough to get professional help. Which I swear by.
But back to sense of self. Yes, I’m wandering around but it’ll come together.
The other day I talked with someone who had run into a family friend laid off from a high tech company. He was now employed at a convenience store. Both parties were embarrassed–he at being seen so underemployed and my friend at seeing him.
Those wouldn’t have been my reactions. Here’s why: Decades ago I moved to California without a job. I was underemployed as a temp secretary for two years, but felt no embarrassment at all. One gift my parents DID give me was the idea that all work is worthwhile, and that making a living however you did it was the important thing. So if I’d run into that guy, I wouldn’t have been embarrassed, I would’ve high-fived him for taking care of himself and his family.
But that view requires some serious self-definition and the knowledge that we are not defined by the work we do. Nor are we defined by—and this is a big one for women– how we look.
I can’t say I’ll never have any cosmetic procedures–I just had an age spot burned off my hand because I didn’t like looking at it — but I can say I won’t have big procedures. Women who are over-botoxed, lifted, peeled and lipo-suctioned lose their individuality. They all look like some generic version of “female.” It ain’t flattering and it sure ain’t beautiful.
No wonder we need affirmations!
The fashion industry–and diet, cosmetic surgery & so many other industries– prosper on women’s insecurities with their message that beautiful women are size 0 and those who aren’t teensy are fat and certainly not beautiful. Many women believe it, too, and one result is eating disorders.
I never bought that.
There are times when I’m thin and times when I’m thick but I’m always me and I always know who I am. And, here’s the kicker: there are always quality men and lovers in my life, regardless of my age or weight. A girlfriend and I were talking about this recently and she observed, “you know, you put out the vibe that this is who you are–a sensual being–and that comes across to men.” Yes, and they like it. You’re beautiful if you believe you’re beautiful. It takes no affirmation to confirm a belief you already hold.
So here’s what I want to tell women: you are not your wrinkles, your cellulite, your job or your weight.
You’re not the way someone else has treated you.
You’re so gangsta.
And you don’t need a bunch of affirmations to make that so.