Friday, February 26, 2010
vlog on self image, Facebook
vlog February 25 2010 from Freddie deBoer on Vimeo.
I should say, if the title of this blog doesn't make it clear, I say "part of the problem with the French existentialism" in a context where they represent perhaps my most enduring and important intellectual influence.
When I say that people have an idealized view of themselves that is expressed online, I don't so much mean idealized in the sense of being unrealistically positive, but merely idealistic in that it operates on the level of ideas. That is, they don't necessarily or usually think of themselves as looking better than they do, they simply have a vision of themselves which they have developed a certain level of pained comfort with. Or, anyway, this is the way it works with me. I could be projecting this on to other people, although in my experience if you want to make a group of people really unhappy rather quickly, just show them a video of themselves. I mean, most of us know someone who legitimately thinks of him or herself as less attractive than the consensus view. When someone sees a picture or video of herself and recoils, it probably isn't because the picture looks significantly less attractive than the self image. It's likely just because it doesn't look quite like the self image, whether attractive or not, that he or she has become comfortable with.
Anyhow... you do have to give yourself a break, and for me, adulthood has been a struggle to at once give myself a break, and to simultaneously recognize that the internal forces that compel me to be easier on myself are worthwhile primarily to the degree that they enable me to be easier on those around me. One of the insights that I think I appreciate most about self-esteem is the notion that people with the highest self-esteem aren't necessarily or even usually the people we think of as good people. (This idea might be gaining a little ground, but even cursory Googling suggests self-esteem is still the dominant orthodoxy.) I think, ideally, the urge to be happy with yourself should be symbiotic with an urge to be better towards other people, and in part this should involve being more forgiving of their faults, while you ask for more forgiveness of your own.
Life isn't that clean, I'm afraid. Personally, I agree with those who argue that there are many various levels of self-evaluation going on in any person, and some tend to be too harsh, and some too conceited. Also, I agree with the idea that there is both level of self-esteem and durability of self-esteem, so some people (ahem) have high visions of themselves in certain areas, but those visions are easily hurt by others or by failing to meet expectations. It's all a confused soup.
I imagine I'll get some snide emails about this. Some will tell me that all this stuff probably is best not being thought about. They might be right!