Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important,
although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem,
and personal satisfaction.
– Margaret Thatcher
We’ve all heard this phrase, “You can not love others until you learn to love yourself.” So often this thought is the closing statement to discussions on finding love, losing love, and moving on from love. This sentence to me has carried more weight in my mind in the past weeks as we continue our conversations on race relations within our country. What does it mean to love yourself? Where does self esteem come from? Are you born with self esteem? Is it something you inherit from your family? And when you find yourself as an adult with low self esteem what do you do?
Full disclosure I have wonderful self esteem. I love my body, hair, flaws, drive, work ethic, and more. There are things I want to improve upon myself but the scale is tipped towards more things I love about myself than dislike. To me this is what loving yourself means. I look in the mirror and compliment myself on the things I like. Where does this come from? It began as soon as I was born. I was always told I was beautiful, smart, and brave. The little phrases my mother said still swim in my head as I go through life. “Tall women are leaders.” “Love your body because this is the only one you are going to get.” “Don’t worry if a strand of hair is out of place or if you have a hole in your shirt. People are more concerned with their appearance to even notice the details of yours.” I know my mother would find positive things to say about me no matter how I looked but unfortunately this is not always the case. So often the traits and characteristics parents don’t like about themselves they not only pass on to their children but point out to their children.
In our country we have an epidemic of low self esteem. Whites want to be tan, with large breasts, and Victoria Secrets “I just had wonderful sex hair”. Blacks want straight hair, lighter skin, and either more shapely or less shapely figures. Asians want larger eyes, lighter skin, and to remain “cute” and youthful forever. Men aren’t any better. More and more obsessed with their physical characteristics, they are more “lost” and unable to identify and fill the new needs of their partners, primarily emotional needs. Men are struggling to find their “place” within society. Simultaneously, the “i” culture is everywhere, allowing us to cater to our greatest wants and needs. This culture can also appear egotistical and self serving but a life purely focused on ones self is bound to not only see more cracks but give them an enormous amount of attention. So which is it? I think I’m awesome or secretly self loathing? A bit of both depending who’s asking?
I believe our insecurities and low self esteem are playing a key role in preventing us from accepting one another, embracing each other, and moving forward past our current race relations. We see it all the time with bullies, mean girls, douche bags and others who treat others poorly because of their own issues that they are not addressing. I believe we all need to step back from the racial slurs, stereotypes, shit talking, hating, and aggressive language to stop and take a look at what we say to ourselves. If you use that type of language against yourself there is no way you’ll have kinder words for others.