My mother and grandmother spent a lot of energy being martyrs. They liked suffering over situations that could have been handled in more pragmatic ways. Nonna Francesca would despair over not being able to find over-ripe tomatoes to make her favorite marinara sauce and my mother would begin wailing when I didn’t eat my peas. Most issues were handled the same whether they were serious or delirious.
They also spent a lot of time on self deprecation. Some were focused on making the family laugh but others were predicated on the fact that women of that era did not discuss themselves in positive ways. Which brings me to how far we have transitioned when it comes to how we discuss ourselves.
No one would turn to my mother or grandmother and tell them they needed to work on their self-esteem or become more empowered. They would have thought you had lost your mind since that would have fit into the category of arrogance. They were brought up to discuss themselves with humility, although their description of humility was not particularly accurate.
Over the years a plethora of self-help books have focused on the fact that you have to learn to love yourself in your entirety in order to be a happy, healthy person who lives a long life. The concept has grown exponentially through motivational talks, organizations, Utube and hundreds of posts on Facebook, and Instagram. The huge popularity of the Selfie enables the possibility of sharing whatever we’re doing in real time, no matter how trivial.
So, my question is one which I have been pondering for quite some time. Is loving yourself unconditionally no matter how you look, how you interact with others or what you value a good model? I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t. Do we enable individuals who are grossly overweight to accommodate to or even love themselves being overweight healthy for them? I am not advocating shaming, but gentle compassionate encouragement. Is allowing individuals who treat others with disrespect okay? Should a gang member feel in right relationship to themselves in the same way someone who is volunteering to extract people from the rubble of Aleppo? Do we continually foster telling children their special even though they may not be doing anything special. Isn’t that word meant to explain something unique, remarkable or outstanding.
I’m sure there are those who disagree, this is just one women’s opinion but I personally don’t love myself everyday. There are things about me that I want to work on, there are times when I didn’t like myself for days on end due to situations in my life when I wasn’t working with a full deck. I think honest self assessments are necessary for growth. And to quote the robot WALL.E, “If everyone’s special, than no one is”.