Phew. Okay, now that I have your attention, I actually have something important to talk about, which is this:
FEBRUARY IS INTERNATIONAL STOP HITTING YOURSELF MONTH
I know this is true because I just declared it to be so. It's the shortest month, anyway, and it's already four days old, so you're getting a deal even if it is a leap year.
See, here's the thing. A lot of us, women especially, are really well-socialized to put ourselves down, denigrate ourselves, steep ourselves in self-loathing.**
This does triple duty in preventing us from fixing our own lives and also from changing the world for the better. Because it is exhausting for us, and it's exhausting for our friends, and it's a bad model for others.
Think of all the emotional energy you've devoted, over the years, to self-loathing. Think of all the emotional energy you've devoted to supporting beloved friends who are perfect in every way except they keep slashing themselves to ribbons. Think of everything you could have accomplished if you hadn't told yourself that you weren't good enough, that you didn't deserve anything, that you'd better play Paul Atreides and destroy the thing you really wanted because it was the only way you had any control over it at all.
And the thing is, that self-abnegation shit is all lies. Really it is. 90% of women are not nearly as awful as they think they are, which is a statistic that I made up on the spot.
(05% of all people are actually horrible people, but the horrible people never think they're horrible, which enables them to be as awful as they are. I'm not talking to those people here. They're already not kicking themselves.)
So I'm speaking specifically to the non-horrible-person cis-female self-kickers when I say: the thing is, when we kick ourselves, when we marginalize ourselves, when we erase ourselves, when we look for evidence everywhere of failure and ignore the evidence of success, when we reinforce those toxic opinions of ourselves... we're not just hurting ourselves.
We're totally hurting ourselves, because we believe the horrible things we say about ourselves, and internalize them, and we feel like we have no right to have desires or take up space or want things, especially if they are things other people want too. And the thing is, yes, sometimes life is a competition. And sometimes you lose.
You don't accomplish more by holding yourself to an impossible, inhuman standard. You don't have to slash yourself to ribbons over it. That's actually not healthy.
And when we do it, we're hurting other women too. (All other women, not just cis women.) Because we're reinforcing the cultural expectation that women will be self-effacing and self-denigrating. That we'll step out of the way and make room. That our only value is in how useful we are to others, and that we'll go meekly to the ice floe when we're not immediately useful anymore.
And often when we try to quit kicking ourselves, our friends seem to kick themselves even harder. Which reasserts the social norm that kicking yourself is the way it's done, and also models self-kicking as a behavior pattern for younger women. (I also think there's a whole complex of toxic behaviors that tie in here, such as guilt-tripping and manipulation, because basically what we're doing is institutionalizing ourselves, and robbing ourselves of agency, and there are well-documented toxic ways that institutionalized people behave when they feel like they have no control over their lives.)
So obviously, we all need to quit hitting ourselves AT THE SAME TIME for this to work!
I'm not saying there's no room for self-improvement in anybody, mind you. I know I sure as hell have room in my life for personal growth. It's why I have a nice therapist I talk to on Monday mornings, after all. But I am saying that savaging yourself over it doesn't actually produce that growth.
Anybody who has ever had a dog will tell you that you don't actually get results out of any given organism by beating it silly. You get them by rewarding the behavior you want. Positive reinforcement works. Abuse just makes a creature neurotic and less capable, not more.
And since we're adults here, we are responsible for our own training. Quit hitting yourself.
A major watershed in my adult life was the moment when coffeeem, with the sort of profound wisdom a big sister occasionally hands down, said to me, "You wouldn't let anybody talk to me the way you talk to yourself." It literally changed my life, because she was right. So why do we regularly talk to ourselves in ways we wouldn't ever talk to our friends?*
So here's my challenge for February of 2016. I'm going to quit kicking myself. If I screw up I'm going to figure out why it happened and try to fix it. If I do something positive I'm going to give myself a sticker. In fact, I'm going to give myself a sticker every time I'm tempted to cut myself and don't.
So there. No kicking yourself.
And no autocannibalism either.
**(I fully acknowledge that I'm not equipped to speak directly to the experience of transwomen, and I don't wish to be exclusionary. Also, I know that some men also experience these feelings, but they seem less prevalent. Men are more often socialized to believe they deserve to exist and want things.)
*And if you do talk to your friends that way, you're one of the horrible people, and this post is not for you.