This is going to be another one of those blogging weeks where organization is difficult due to interrelated points. I will try and be coherent.
I'm going to start with my Facebook status today: Do you like yourself?
I do. I was thinking about it because of a conversation with someone else whom I suspect doesn't. I think you should. I do.
Picking up last week's thread, I have found that I am basically the person I want to be. That is good. When it was less true, at least one of the problems was that I could not see myself accurately, and there were things I didn't know about myself.
One factor was that we are not good at talking about bodies. Maybe we are better now, but having those conversations where you could feel good about the areas where you were fit and work on the areas that needed improvement - it just wasn't happening.
I mention that mainly because in other areas where we worry about polite conversation, the primary result seems to be reinforcing a harmful status quo.
For example, it's not polite to talk about money. That leads to not knowing when the pay of you and your coworkers is based more on gender and race than on contribution and competence. It makes it easier for people to cheat you. It makes it easier for people to create false impressions, and it makes it easier for people to brazenly spend ridiculous amounts of money in ways they should be ashamed of.
When it's awkward to talk about sex? Sure, one result is sex that is less enjoyable than it could be (perhaps without people even realizing that it could be better), but it also leads to issues where consent is poorly understood, and where diseases get spread, and unintended consequences happen.
Also, if someone is being rude - especially in a passive-aggressive matter - where it feels like anything you do to stand up for yourself would be even more rude, that's just not any fun at all.
So it is important that we talk about things, and that we care more about substance than surface. It is important that we learn vocabulary for talking about things, allowing us to understand others and to give form to our own thoughts. We need to be able to analyze and comprehend when things aren't working and work out ways of addressing that.
The other contributing factor, though, is that girls aren't supposed to know anything good about themselves anyway.
I am smart. It became clear early on academically, other people notice, I know it, and it still feels wrong to say it. If I can't admit to the most obvious good thing about me without feeling awkward, what positive traits am I allowed to own?
If you say something bad about your looks, a lot of people will contradict you. That's nice, though it can backfire. For example, if I complain that I'm fat and someone answers "You're not fat; you're pretty!" that merely reinforces the utter incompatibility of "fat" and "pretty", and I am fat. Again, that one is really obvious.
This may circle back to the first problem, that we are not good at talking about things. Maybe it is better to be able to admit that someone's nose isn't great, but also that it doesn't make them hideous and it is the least important thing about them. There are minefields in that direction, but there might be something really good on the other side too.
Regardless, it should be okay to be able to know good things about ourselves. I know I am smart. I also believe it is a gift from God. That would make it very inappropriate to hold it over other people, when in fact I should be using it to serve people. I also know that there are areas that I don't know a lot about, there is training I haven't had, and I am fallible. There can be balance in knowing your strengths.
It should be possible for pretty girls to know they are pretty, or to be glad they have manageable hair or to like their eyes without feeling better than everyone else. It's so common that they aren't even allowed to know they are pretty, and that is worse for girls.
I am going to spend more time on that, but I will go in a slightly different direction tomorrow. In the mean time, here is an old blog post and one recent article: