OK, maybe it’s time for something a little more serious. A little more personal.
Do you love yourself? You should. You’re the only with your exact pattern of DNA that has interacted with your environment in exactly the way that you have. Sure, being unique isn’t necessarily a reason to love yourself. But having unique DNA with limitless possibilities…now that’s a good reason to be bullish on your personal stock. Of course, if you’re going to make anything of your life, you’ll have to overcome whatever unnecessary hurdles your genes are throwing into your path.
One area where our genes are seriously working against us is in how we view ourselves. In caveman days, the status hierarchy in the tribe was everything. Those at the top had food, shelter, and mates. Those who were not suffered and died a childless death. That was the harsh reality of our ancestors’ environment. Natural selection navigated that environmental pitfall by installing in humans the tendency to pay attention to status and to do what it took to get it. If you’re here to read this today, we can be sure of one thing – your ancestors were good at this. But now, this same mechanism that kept our ancestors alive is crippling us when it comes to feeling good about ourselves.
The fact is that there are far too many people in this world who hate themselves, and I would venture to say that the percentages in the US dwarf the percentages anywhere else on the planet. This is very simply because of the quest for status. Humans, in looking for a way to the top of the totem pole, continuously assess their environment (and in America, there are more ways to the top and more definitions of being at the top than anywhere). We determine who has status by seeing who gets the most attention, who has the most of whatever happens to be valuable, and, of course, by which guys have the best girls, and which girls have the best guys. We then naturally compare whatever attributes we think contribute most to the success of these high-status inividuals to whatever we have going on. If we don’t measure up, we feel bad about ourselves. This was a good thing in caveman days. It’s anything but good today.
Back when our ancestors were angling for position in a tribe with limited slots, being attuned to status made all the difference. Today, however, status means nothing. Those who are the top of the ranks in our society are there for reasons that do not matter at all to us personally. For example, though so many focus on the super-rich, being wealthy in itself is no indication of anything but money. There are as many jerks among the rich as there are among any other demographic. And they are no more happy than any other group – trust me, they are consuming more Prozac than anyone. So, why should we care if we don’t stack up with them? The same is true for the beautiful people.
The current trend these days is toward being beautiful at all costs. The question I always want to ask these folks on the make-over shows is this: why do you want to be beautiful? Of course, I know the answer – to get people to notice me/like me/love me, and so on. This is silly. Even if it works, you’ll have people who care about you for your looks. That’s a pretty flimsy foundation for a relationship. Sure, some people believe that being attractive will give them to chance to show off that wonderful personality to people who have previously not been willing to give them a look. But again, why cater to these kinds of people? They’re obviously shallow and lacking in the kind of character we should be in search of. Alas, however, this is the caveman mind at work.
We clamor for status – unconsciously, in most cases. But there’s a fix. The first thing to do is to reject what society deems important. Society at large is one big market. We can’t forget that that which sells isn’t necessarily valuable. So while society is raving about fake boobs, the ladies with flat chests and low self-esteem are hating themselves as they figure out how to finance the operation that they believe will solve all of their problems. Suppose being flat-chested comes into style, then the situation will reverse. Can you imaging the silicon queens rushing to get their boobs removed? How could one’s self-esteem be tied to something as fickle as the social acceptability? No, self-esteem has to be tied to something deeper.
We need a common denominator here, one that will stay intact regardless of what society prefers. And we have one – it’s called character. That’s step two – work on who you really are as a person. Learn to be kind, honest, fair, trustworthy, knowledgeable, disciplined, forward-thinking, and open-minded. These are attributes that can endure anything. More importantly, these are the kinds of things to love about yourself.
The sad and ironic fact is that I know scores of people who have most or all of these characteristics (even if they’re sometimes hard to spot), yet they hate themselves. Their caveman genes have such a grip on them that they focus entirely on the yardstick (or sticks, as it were) of social acceptability and ignore the things that really matter. You know how I know? Because they are the ones who are constantly putting other people down. They are constantly trying to shatter anyone’s good news. They are constantly looking for evidence of weakness or inferiority in their acquaintances and friends. Anything to take the focus off of themselves and how much they loathe what they see when they look in the mirror. It’s sad but I see it all the time.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or beautiful or have sought-after talents. Sure, these attributes can be helpful in living a fun life, and there’s nothing wrong with pursuing them. You just have to make sure that they are, in no way, tied to your self-esteem. In this respect, they simply do not matter. What matters is relationships. And you only get good relationships by loving yourself for being a good person and then demanding that others love you for the same reason. If you’re not the good person you want to be, get to work, and love yourself for being a work in progress, and for having the commitment to become who you want to be. And don’t be afraid to be yourself. It doesn’t matter what you’re into. You can be a cross-dressing, ping-pong champion and I guarantee that there are folks with whom you’ll click and form deep meaningful relationships. You just have to let go of what your genes tell you and decide to love yourself, no matter who you are.