I’ve noticed a trend in self-help style articles. They tend to offer guidance wrapped around insecurity which I consider false advertising. Strong guidance leaves you feeling able and clear.
The other day I read an article that’s part of a series on self-esteem and how to build and maintain it. I felt strange as I first read through the piece, and I couldn’t detect why at first consideration. So, I went on to other activities in my day. Then I thought about the author’s words again, and I felt angry. I asked myself, Why is this even a thing? It’s by someone I don’t know. Why does it matter to me what that person says? As I pondered, I realized this: The reason it mattered to me was because the article was essentially fear packaged as love. It framed itself in a “love you and do good stuff for you” structure, and its contents consisted of an author describing her own behavior as “slutty;” other people’s potential behavior as devaluing; and associations between a woman’s sexual choices and her image in the world.
Why does anyone’s behavior get labeled as slutty? What is this provocative of which you speak? Why does a woman’s sexual choices define her image in the world? And why use image as a control mechanism, as in – Be careful or else people might think you’re a whore or a bitch?
I emailed the author and outlined my observations. I don’t know whether she’ll respond or how she’ll take my words. I previously sent her a question, and she responded. Maybe I’ll find out how she perceives and responds to words of disagreement. I find that people are often more than happy to respond to praise and questions, and they can become hostile or withdrawn when faced with disagreement.
There’s all kinds of fear in the world. It manifests in various forms. The one that’s caught my attention lately is the manifestation of fear in words. Fear in words often displays as corrosive observation. It typically hurts or manipulates. People say sticks and stones and that type of thing, and in my opinion, words can hurt sometimes – particularly when the word recipient is feeling hurt or betrayed or otherwise mistrustful. Fear manifests as the “bad” emotions, to name a few: unsafe, irked, angry, miffed, ignored, anxious, disrespected, and devalued. These emotions tell us about our experience of a situation as it relates to our values. Sometimes parts of our mind pick up on signals that our conscious mind doesn’t notice. So, we may be telling ourselves everything is fine and we’re believing it, and our emotions may not concur.
People who encounter oppressive situations as a young person either address them or develop particular skills to avoid bad feelings when they don’t address them. They may learn how to address a conflict, talk through it, and feel good about effort rather than dominance. They may also learn to adapt to the situation and devalue their emotions or find another way for their emotions to exit importance. Some people use religious or philosophical ideas to talk away importance of emotions. Other people act with repetitive behaviors to avoid emotions, such as drinking to excess or working or eating too much or too little. I’ve met a few people who delve into anger, martyrdom, or grandiosity to push away feelings of inferiority. There are countless ways to avoid feeling pain or fear. Even reading self-help books could turn into a way to avoid feeling emotion if one only reads about and does not experience life.
I think the self-help field has benefits to it. Like other aspects of life, it requires discernment. An author, a therapist, a spiritual or religious guide may offer stories and suggestions; a culture may idealize obedience and muted anger. Sources may sound just and honorable for the most part, and then one day some words may appear as strange for an indistinguishable reason. I believe it's important to discover why strange feelings exist rather than ignoring them. This process of discovery and discussion defines a value system. It helps a person become his or her own capable guide.
Well hello there.