It's not really our fault. We've been trained to it for generations. But it is our responsibility, and we bloody well need to fix it.
I'm talking about how we minimize, despise, excoriate, and abhor ourselves. How we exclude ourselves from consideration. How we martyr ourselves for others. How we call ourselves ugly, awful, incompetent, and stupid.
I don't know exactly how to describe the sensation I get when I see a beautiful, fiercely intelligent, accomplished and skilled artist and craftswoman twenty years my senior call herself ugly and stupid... but I am realizing that I have that same power now, and it's up to me to use it wisely. Not to give voice to the anger and self-hatred and self-loathing I feel so fiercely. Not to indulge in the kind of scab-picking hairshirt self-abnegation that we've been trained to crave, even though it's so fucking bad for us and everyone around us. Even though it robs us of our power to be positive in the world, and good for other people.
There's a thing coffeeem said to me once that ranks up there as one of the two most transformative positive things another human being has ever said to me*. I have since clung to it and passed it along to friends in times of need.
What she said was, "You'd never tolerate somebody talking about me--or any of your friends--the way you talk about yourself."
And then lately, I've started thinking about that queer horrible sensation in my chest when I see a woman who I deeply respect and admire casually savage herself, and I have realized that Stephen Sondheim has the right of it, as in so many things. "No one is alone." Not in the sense that there will always be someone there for you--oh, no; that's the grade school reading of that sentiment. There will not always be somebody there for you. Sometimes you have to do it yourself.
But in the sense that nobody is so isolated that their actions have no effect on those around them.
You see, people believe what I say. If I say that I am abhorrent and useless, I'll believe it. And even if the people who love me don't believe it... it will hurt them to watch me do it, anyway.
And worse, people for whom I am an authority figure, an adult woman, somebody who has lived, will see it. And they'll internalize it. Young men see adult women despising themselves, and it teaches them that women are abhorrent and useless. Young women see adult women despising themselves and it teaches them that they themselves are abhorrent and useless.
It doesn't matter how I feel about myself, how richly I think I deserve the browbeatings I give myself.
It is my responsibility to do this small thing to make the world better for other women--other people--younger and older.
Well, if it was easy, it wouldn't be fun.
*The other one was something The Jeff said to me, back when I was nineteen or so--"You're not as crazy as you think you are." It was more that I wasn't as crazy as I had been taught to think... but yeah, it changed me.