– by Antonia
Today is a good day for self-acceptance. Today we have “Gleeks” embracing being unpopular, we have real beauty Dove ads championing our individual beauty, Hannah Horvath riding a bicycle in a bikini, Harnaam Kaur no longer waxing her beard, a re-emergence of natural hair, a reemergence of bush and Lady Gaga telling us “…God makes no mistakes” we’re on the right track baby we were born this way. And if all that isn’t enough we have hashtavists chomping at the bit for the next slut/fat/[insert noun here]-shamer to shame.
There are so many mechanisms that exist right now to support you loving who you are, exactly the way you are, no matter how far you stray from the ideal. So why is it still so hard? Recently, in a speech at the Gloria Awards and Gala, comedienne Amy Schumer gave a detailed account of how much we (knowingly or unknowingly) rely on the responses of others to build our esteem. She starts off as a confident high school student who’s that way because “…People knew me. They liked me. I was an athlete and a good friend. I felt pretty, I felt funny, I felt sane.” Then once she gets to college she looses all her confidence because she’s not as pretty as the other girls in college and worst of all men don’t notice her. Toward the end of the speech, Schumer says how, even to this day, Twitter comments or tactless radio disc jockeys can instantly strip her away from all the confidence she’s built since parting ways with the person that she was during her first year of college.
It’s hard to have unwavering impenetrable confidence because we belong to communities and we rely on those communities for the bare necessities, for opportunities, for warmth, for identity. It’s easy to feel comfortable in a community that affirms you and even easier to feel comfortable in one that praises you. It is not easy to feel good in a community that marginalizes you or looks down on you or, worse yet, doesn’t even see you. The current conversation about loving yourself generally tells us to love ourselves despite what others might think, to not need outside validation. And as much as all that is true, it’s not enough.
We need to acknowledge certain hard truths. First we must admit that the people around us, and their opinions of us play a role—to what extent is another question. But we do need to acknowledge that in different situations we need the people around us to respond to us in certain ways. If we’re looking for love, we’ll need someone to see us as in-and-out beautiful, if we’re looking for a job, someone will need to view us as competent, if we’re looking for company, we need someone to see us as fun. But as we acknowledge these types of social needs we do have to couple them with the fact that not everyone will see us for what we are and that the only person that has the real chance of seeing everything that you are is you. So what do we do with the fact that we (1) do need certain social responses but (2) won’t always get them? What do we do when the world doesn’t see us as we need to be seen? How do we handle those moments when we don’t get the love that we need or the pat on the back? What do we do when we feel so different from everyone else or when we have to stand apart or alone, knowing that we’re not programmed to do so? Where do we really pull our confidence from then?
This big question is one we’ll be tackling this month at Un’ruly as we dedicate the month to standing apart.
Photo: Alex Wolf