‘ON SELF RESPECT’

Oct 21, 2014

‘ON SELF RESPECT’

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By Samantha Ellis

Recently I’ve been following Raw Beauty Talks embark on a courageous campaign called “#IAmEnough.” This is not a new crisis, but it’s an absolutely vital one.

Women have always fought a war against society’s expectations, but most vividly and violently, we fight a war against our own expectations each and every day. It is far too true that we are own greatest critics. Without realizing it we are constantly asking ourselves the same question. Playing the scratching, tired, bent record over and over again in our minds: “What is it that is going to make me enough?” We exercise until we can’t feel our legs, we drink until we’re numb, we date until we lose our minds (and sometimes our dignity) all in the active, constant pursuit of the answer to this question. Will he make me feel like I’m enough? Will losing 5 pounds make me love myself? Is it the ownership of something coveted that will make me happy? We live our lives in the constant purgatory of not knowing where we stand with our own selves.

QuoteSam

Joan Didion wrote a beautiful essay in 1961 titled “On Self-respect.” I felt this essay trying to speak to a part of myself that I had long since buried with other equally necessary and impossible parts. The part of myself that said, “I am enough.” No, the part of me that screamed, “I am enough.” I still feel the power of Didion’s words stirring stale things inside of me whenever I seek them out. And I realize now, after growing up a little bit, that some people were never blessed to have felt like they were enough, not as a child and not now. Especially not now. Adult life is too full of measuring sticks, credit scores, and mistakes that carry fatal weight for us to give into the fairytale notion of believing in ourselves. It’s a blessing to have felt what I will simplistically call self-worth. But self-worth isn’t simple, it’s complicated and that’s why it’s so hard to nurture, even harder to grow. I have held onto to past feelings of self-worth like life preservers in the worst of times. I have held onto Didion’s words, coxing me out of the darkness, telling me that, “Reputation is something those with self-respect can do without.” I’ve told my girlfriends to read this essay. I’ve preached of it. I’ve said precociously like I’d just discovered a national treasure: “You need to read this. It will change your life.” Not even really believing that it could. But I see now that the value I place in Didion’s essay is in earnest. Because Didion realized at 28 years-old that self-acceptance, self-worth, and self-respect are a private reconciliation. And that realization is more than half the battle. I, like Didion, have come to the rough discovery that whatever you demand and win from others means nothing compared to the demands we make on ourselves.

We’ve all sat in the shower and just cried. Balled our eyes out. We’ve let the mascara drip and pool where it will on our defeated faces. Leave us alone, this is our time to mourn. These are the private battles we fight every day. I think what’s so powerful about Raw Beauty Talk’s “#IAmEnough” campaign is the acknowledgement of these little battles. Of the time we spend at war with ourselves. The “#IAmEnough” campaign is acknowledging publically our deepest, grimiest, most painful secret. That we don’t love ourselves very much at all. That in this life it’s too easy not to. We’re up against too much. There’s too much beauty and too much ugliness and we don’t care about balance. We want it all. As Didion said, we all want “happiness, honor, and the love of a good man.” Whatever this combination manifests itself as to you personally, it’s at the forefront of our minds as we pursue personal and professional goals. But the truth is, it’s hard to have it all. And it’s a little lucky. While it may be valiant and fulfilling to pursue everything you’ve ever dreamed of, we will all experience times where we are left with nothing but ourselves. True times of crisis. And the biggest gift you will give to yourself in those moments is your own private reconciliation. The unshakeable knowledge, absent of fear, that when you are left with nothing but your own self, you are far from nothing. You are already enough.

Sam

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