Friday, November 20, 2015

When feeling bad about yourself is good

I have really good self-esteem. Always have. It's a very useful thing that has served to protect me from some of life's most earnest attempts to crush my soul. Yet even with all this self-confidence floating around, I've still had times when I didn't like myself very much. And you know what? I was right.The times when I've felt the worst about myself have been the times I look back on and go "yep, I was not being a very good version of myself right then". My most frequented corners of the internet are saturated with messages of self-love and self-care, but they're all aimed at people who need them. I don't. I think they're actually bad for me.

When I feel bad about myself, it's usually because I should. It's usually because I'm doing something unhealthy (like not having friends and working in a call center), or I'm so busy and/or stressed that I'm losing track of the things that make me enjoy life and like myself. I feel bad about myself because the person I am right then is not who I want to be. In these cases, the answer is not to coddle myself* or to try and feel better about myself, it's to figure out why I feel bad and deal with the problem.

On the whole, I believe that such constant exposure to the culture of self-care has actually made me weaker, because on some level, I believe the messages I hear. When the internet says 'it's okay if you can't face all that work now', I believe it and take breaks I don't need and don't get things done.

The one tumblr affirmation I really take to heart is this:

I like it because rather than seeming assuring and comforting, it seems accusing. That cat doesn't want to soothe me, it's glaring at me with faint disdain. It's saying "What's the matter with you? You can do this. Pull yourself together." And often enough, that's really the message I need.

(Of course none of this means self-care is bad, unimportant, or people should stop talking about it. It just means I should look at it less.)

*I do not claim that self-care is inherently coddling. I claim that applying self-care practices when they are not needed or helpful is coddling.

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