Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On Self-Esteem

Our generation has been getting painted with a broad, narcissism-colored brush quite a lot lately. The New York Times thinks we all have some blithe notion that our degrees in philosophy or comparative literature are going to land us jobs...and that we're not even particularly concerned if they do or not. We're getting called the “why worry?” generation, and there's much crowing about this being the backlash against modern, coddling parenting. The article asks the question--do we really have too much self-esteem? and then dismisses it, saying that "don't worry, be happy" attitude is going to get us through hard times. (Yeah I want some of whatever they're smoking, too.) But I think—as a member of the “why worry” generation—that the problem genuinely is that we have way to much self-esteem. I'm not kidding. I know Seventeen wants you to have the stuff coming out your ears, but did anybody ever stop to think that maybe it's not such a good idea to have millions of teens and twenty-somethings running around thinking they're special snowflakes?

So I have this to say: fuck self-esteem. Get some self-respect. Self-esteem buys a four-hundred dollar pocket book “because I'm worth it.” Self-respect opens a savings account. Self-esteem is too good to flip burgers. Self-respect knows you can't eat talent. Self-esteem talks the talk, self-respect walks the walk. Self-esteem wants vacation days and special treatment. Self-respect knows you have to start at the bottom to get anywhere. Self-esteem expects a job to come to them. Self-respect sends out fifty cover letters, hears nothing and sends out fifty more. Self-esteem whines, self-respect works.

A "why worry" attitude is not going to cut it, cupcakes. We should be worried. There's a lot of fucked up shit going on in the world right now. I'm not saying that our overblown collective self-esteem is to blame for the oil spill or the recession or the fact that our computers are apparently killing African babies....but it's sure as hell not helping. The world doesn't need anymore snowflakes. We need thinkers, doers, builders, teachers. We need people to figure out what they're good at, and then to go off and do whatever that is the best they possibly can (that sounded more eloquent in my head).

I think we're born talented, born with potential, born able to do whatever we put our minds to. (except I'll never be able to parallel park.) But I don't believe we're born special—that's earned. Truth is, the only people in the world who think you're special just for breathing are your parents. The other six billion people in the world are going to need some proof. Roll up your sleeves, and start trading the self-esteem for some self-respect.

yumm dan auerbach

1 comment:

  1. This is an old post, so I'm probably a bit late, but.... THIS IS AWESOME and I'm thinking true.

    And just as a thought, for someone who has never had much self-esteem, this is kinda the message of hope. It's not about feeling great about yourself 100% of the time like some people manage. It's about making realistic choices, understanding where you stand in the world and being happy with that (or trying to be).

    Thanks for the message.