Friday, 5 May 2017

Flaws and failings

Maybe it's just another media obsession, but it seems to me self-loathing is on the increase. People hating the way they look, or thinking they're worthless, or always feeling inadequate when they're with other people.

How come so many people aren't happy with themselves, aren't content just to be whatever they are but are constantly picking themselves to bits in such a masochistic way? What went wrong with their upbringing or their experience of adult life that has made them so self-critical?

After my very negative childhood, which I'm sure you're all tired of hearing about, I should have developed some serious self-loathing myself, but strangely enough I didn't. I've always been happy with myself and I've never sat around listing all my defects. I never took much notice of other people's put-downs but nonchalantly sailed on regardless.

I remember a woman I worked with once, who was steeped in self-loathing. She had an endless list of personal flaws and failings, and nobody could convince her they either didn't exist or were totally trivial. Her mother was a well-known poet so wrapped up in her work she had little time or affection for her daughter, but that can't have been the only cause of her self-loathing.

There was a woman I had a brief fling with who was also full of self-loathing. Although she had a lovely flat, plenty of money and a young son she doted on, she had a very low opinion of herself and had tried to kill herself several times. Nothing I did or said made any difference, and in the end I had to part company with her because her gloomy self-dissections just wore me down.

Once you're in the habit of self-loathing, it's very hard to shift. It seeps into every area of your life and other people's compliments and reassurances are like water off a duck's back. But what's gone wrong with our society that this trait is so widespread?

24 comments:

Jennifer said...

Social media? Everyone comparing themselves to everyone else?

Nick said...

Jennifer: I think that's got a lot to do with it. People posting perfect photo-shopped pictures of themselves and making everyone else feel inferior.

Rummuserh said...

The beauty business which includes the plastic surgery business keeps supplying subliminal messages in all media about how one should look to be popular / successful etc. Oddly enough, I came across this bit of news yesterday which supports my theory. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/chinplants-plastic-surgery-craze-trend-uk-rates-60-per-cent-scarlett-johansson-angelina-jolie-a7717311.html

Nick said...

Ramana: I saw that article. The huge popularity of plastic surgery seems quite neurotic and narcissistic to me. As the article suggests, I think a lot of it is based on wanting to resemble some celebrity. It's also reinforcing gender stereotypes, with women wanting chins like Scarlett Johannson and men wanting chins like Ryan Gosling. Why not just accept your chin and save the money?

Bijoux said...

I'm not sure. I think we've always had people with poor self images, but maybe it's just more publicized these days.

Nick said...

Bijoux: You could be right. I think when I was young, people didn't want to admit to self-loathing, they just pretended everything was fine.

Helen Devries said...

I too wonder why people feel inadequate: is it that they know their lives to be unfulfilled, but blame it on themselves rather than circumstances?

tammy j said...

all the comments here seem to have hit on it. the mainstream media and advertising... it all is about constant competition anymore.
even tv shows ... the competitive spirit is what drives all of them... whether cooking or building something or those reality shows trying to outdo one another. it's all so tiring.
and everyone wants to be 'special' today.
although your long ago girlfriend might have actually had a chemical imbalance in her brain. some people have that kind of depression they can't overcome and it's from that. I suppose medicine to treat it might help. but first one would have to find out if they actually had it.

Wisewebwoman said...

Like addiction, drugs and suicide attempts this is all.part of our ailing society.
I don't see much self loathing out here on the Edge. I've reflected on this and listened. And it all comes down to community. Very strong connections. I didn't see much of that anywhere else I lived. It's very hard to put it all in paper but I hope to some day.

Self-confidence is rampant out here!

XO
WWW

CheerfulMonk said...

I'm afraid I don't pay that much attention to what society says --- I don't even know who most of today's celebrities are. My interest in science and math, and reading, was looked down upon when I was young, so I tuned out the disapproval and went my own way. I did keep close ties to my family, relating to them in areas that they cared about.

Dave Martin said...

Social media and all those airbrushed glossy magazines have a lot to answer for in giving people unrealistic expectations of life.
I have a poor sense of self-esteem in some ways, but for other reasons.
On the other hand, there also seems to be an increasing number of people who have a vastly inflated sense of their own importance.
Meanwhile, everyone between the two extremes quietly gets on with their lives.

Nick said...

Helen: I think a lot of people blame their incomplete lives on themselves rather than the world around them. Then again, some people are the opposite and always blame everyone else - immigrants, the EU etc.

Tammy: True, even the most trivial activities are now routinely competitive. The widespread assumption that competition is always a positive thing rather than a demoralising rat race is seldom challenged.

And yes, my ex-girl friend might have had some undiagnosed brain deficiency that influenced her behaviour.

Nick said...

www: Your little community seems to be very close-knit and mutually supportive, which as you say is not that common nowadays.

Jean: I guess you've always had the self-confidence to go your own way and not care too much about supposed social norms and other people's opinions. Good for you.

Nick said...

Dave: Indeed, some people have very low self-esteem and others are screaming narcissists. But it must be hell to go through life doubting everything you do and thinking others always manage things better.

Yes, social media, airbrushed photos, skeletal supermodels, "normalised" plastic surgery. They all encourage people to be unhappy with what they've got.

CheerfulMonk said...

It wasn't that it didn't bother me what people thought, it's just that it was a small price to pay for keeping from going bonkers. So I worked on feeling comfortable with disapproval. It was clearly the right path for me.

Nick said...

Jean: I see what you mean. I suppose my attitude is much the same. If people dislike my views or activities, that's their business and no concern of mine. As long as I'm happy with my own approach to life, that's all that matters.

Secret Agent Woman said...

On the other hand, it strikes me that narcissism in on the rise. People, particularly on social media, seem absolutely taken with their own images in a way I've never seen before.

Nick said...

Agent: I think you're right. The media are full of attention-seeking smart-arses spouting wilder and wilder opinions to grab the headlines. Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Katie Hopkins, Richard Littlejohn - the list is endless. Self-adulation run riot.

kylie said...

I'm sure people have always had their "issues" but now we have the ability to address them with cosmetic surgery etc. Once upon a time, you would just have to get on with life.
And social media just allows people to do what they always have done but on a grander scale: show off to more people or compare themselves unfavourably to more people

Nick said...

Kylie: Indeed, cosmetic surgery just encourages people to find defective bits of their body that can be surgically "improved". Good point about the sheer scale of social media's reach, which encourages both more boasting and more negative comparison. And probably more contact with other people who dislike themselves.

Hattie said...

Catching up with you. Glad your surgery went well and that you were so well treated!
Aloha from Hawaii,
Marianna

Nick said...

Hattie: Thanks. I was amazingly well treated - thoroughly monitored and discharged only when they thought my recovery was going well.

joared said...

I wonder how genetics, environment, chemical imbalances in the brain contribute individually, or together to people with self-destructive/depressed/negative attitudes. My life wasn't the easiest but most of the time I've had a pretty positive attitude despite some experiences others have related causing their disintegration. What is the difference between us or why? Can people change and what will effectively enable that change for them? The contributing factors can be so different for each person.

Nick said...

Joared: I guess those things you mention may contribute, but I think the way a person is brought up has a huge influence. Your parents (and family and friends) can systematically boost your self-confidence, or they can just as systematically undermine it. Interesting that you've coped okay with the sort of experiences that have devastated others.