I would quote the entirety of Slouching Towards Bethlehem if I had the time/if it didn’t violate copyright laws/if I thought you’d have the patience to read a blog post that is actually an entire book. But instead I’ll just quote bits of it at a time over the course of the next few days. First, this part about self-respect:
To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are on one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are particularly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out–since our self-image is untenable–their false notions of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. Of course I will play Francesca to your Paolo, Helen Keller to anyone’s Annie Sullivan: no expectation is too misplaced, no role too ludicrous. At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us.
— Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect”
I remember a time when this defined my life. That time feels like a different era now. Because it was. And every day I am grateful to get farther and farther from that version of my self.