Shitty Conventional Wisdom on “Real Security” and “Loving Yourself”

“Real security comes from within” is an old trope, and I think there’s something wrong with it. Mainly the thing that’s wrong is that it’s wrong.

The problem with the trope is that all too often in context it implies that self-respect is something that only you build. Something that only you can give to yourself, and if it has any relation to what others think it isn’t real. I think that’s wrong. I think the input of other people can be an invaluable resource in building self-respect. I know it has been for me. I didn’t find self-respect within myself on my own, and frankly I’m not sure I could’ve. I had a lot of help. I still have help, and I still need it frequently.

I don’t think there’s anything better than the help of other people for developing real security. Being secure is something you continue to work on throughout your life, both in and out of friendships and relationships. You know what’s helped me develop a sense of self-respect more than anything else in my life? Talking to good friends and partners. Self-respect is something you build. Like a house. It exists within you, yes. It rests on foundations within you, yes. But in my experience, it gets built a lot faster and a lot better when you let other people help with construction. When that help is good, and the structure is built well, that self-respect you built together may stay around long after the friendships do.

“You have to love yourself before others will love you”, is another trope I dislike. First off, no, you don’t. Look around, there are zillions of people who are loved by others who have trouble loving themselves. Second off, the same as with self-respect, sometimes experiencing the love of others is exactly the thing you need to learn to love yourself. I understand that both of these tropes are often about, “Don’t let your self-esteem rest on what others think of you”, and I think that’s decent advice, but all too often it disregards the fact that learning to love and respect yourself is something that others can play a tremendously positive role in. And rather weirdly, I think there are few things better for learning to not care what others think than learning from others how to not care what others think.

I think some of the best things for self-love, and self-respect are getting to know people who love and respect you, and learning to see through their eyes until you learn to look at yourself in the same way. That takes other people. And that’s okay. And you don’t need to be all finished building self-respect before being close to other people. In fact, sometimes it is just that closeness that is the best thing to help the self-respect along.

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2 comments on “Shitty Conventional Wisdom on “Real Security” and “Loving Yourself”

  1. This is a very good point. While I don’t think one should rely entirely on others’ affirmation, what would you think of a person who nobody likes but who really likes themselves? I’d say they’re deluding themselves. Yet according to these tropes, they’re being successful. Nah. Obviously not everyone is going to like you, but if nobody likes you you’re probably doing something wrong.

    • Agreed. In a way, I think it’s more a process of deciding whose opinions you care about and why, rather than deciding never to care about anyone’s opinion. If I want to know if I’m being a dick or a good person, I’ll ask this person, not that person. It’s like, if I want to know the temperature, and I know thermometer A is broken, and thermometer B isn’t, I’ll look at thermometer B, because it gives me useful information. I’ll try to learn to ignore A, because there’s no point in freaking out about a heat wave because of a broken thermometer reading the temperature wrong, but there totally is a point to it if the accurate thermometer says the same thing. And maybe if I’m not sure if a thermometer is working or not, sometimes I’ll see what kinds of comments it leaves on blogs to get a better idea or something.

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