Wednesday, March 16, 2016

You Special Snowflake, You!

Seriously: you don't have to be "amazing." You don't have to be "insanely cool", or insanely anything, and I'd rather not be. And so on. I don't get the appeal of memes like this.

More than that, I think sentiments like this are destructive.  They feed the notion that you have to be "good enough" to deserve to live, and of course what is good enough is impossible to define.  Since they are aimed at people who don't feel they're good enough, that they don't deserve to exist, I can't believe they work very well or for long.  Supposedly repeating affirmations is supposed to prop up damaged self-esteem and convince yourself that you're good enough after all; but you have to keep repeating them, and finding new ones, probably because whatever effect they produce wears off.  For people with addictive personalities, I think they just become an addiction in themselves, like therapy.  As you develop tolerance to your affirmations, you need progressively stronger and stronger ones, more exalting and delusional.

I'm also reminded of Amanda Marcotte's remarks (via) about the widespread desire to be a special snowflake.  Lately Marcotte has descended depressingly into Hillarybot-ism, but she was still right that time.  In this case, do you have to be "amazing," a special snowflake, to feel good about yourself -- at least good enough to get up in the morning and live your life, to believe that people who approve of you aren't deceived or trying to deceive you, and to approve of others?  I wonder if this kind of mindset is also a product of the rampant competitiveness in American society, especially in the culture of therapy, and its obsession with being a "winner."  And if you spend a lot of time berating and punishing yourself for spending too much time in your comfort zone, I doubt this affirmation will help at all.

It seems irrelevant to me, mainly I think because I was so affected and influenced by Walter Kaufmann's case against the concept of desert in Without Guilt and Justice, seconded by Ursula Le Guin's philosopher Odo in The Dispossessed:
For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger.  Have we not eaten while another starved?  Will you punish us for that?  Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate?  No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.
Maybe the reason that this insight doesn't work for people who like affirmational memes is that, like the people who (coincidentally) believe they were royalty or high priests/priestesses in past lives, they agree that if you aren't superior to everyone else, you don't deserve to live.  So they repeat the affirmation like a mantra, in hopes that it will silence the lurking interior terror that they aren't really very special at all.  But maybe I'm giving them more credit for articulate thought than they deserve.  If they just have that fear that they aren't special, maybe they're using the wrong affirmation.  Try Odo instead; she works for me.