The Age of the Selfie: Confident or Narcissistic?

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We are living in the age of selfies and carrying mantras of “love yourself” in our everyday lives. In the American culture today, we see growing value placed on self-esteem and maintaining this sense of self. We are constantly working on ourselves to become better than we were before – socially, financially, mentally, and emotionally. This is a positive thing. The way we feel about ourselves helps foreshadow how we will feel about those around us. It will also reveal how we plan on treating others as we make our journey through life. Self-esteem, in essence, gives the life of the soul and the desire to make improvements on internal/external images. Having a sense of self and a sense of worth are arguably two of the most essential things needed when sustaining life. It is just as important as needing to eat, sleep, and breathe. Without a sense of self, one may grow to question why there is even a “self” to begin with. The door for existentialist thinking can spiral into nihilist thought, thus turning into low hope and low self-esteem. Of course, thinking about life’s existence/importance objectively does not lead to low self-esteem directly, but it is interesting to notice any possible connections between questioning life and ending it. 

We build confidence and self-esteem through validation. When we complete something (well), we are typically rewarded intrinsically or extrinsically as children. Our caregivers either gave us a feeling of security and validation through praise or left us on our own. Not everyone has a stable foundation that encourages self-reflection and growth, leaving some to spend time searching for self-esteem or some completely neglecting its importance.

This extensive stress on improving self-esteem has worried many about whether vanity will prevail over genuine confidence, or whether high self-esteem will be slumped with narcissism. This begs the question: are you upholding the importance of the self, or are you showing narcissistic tendencies?

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Stripping someone of feedback based on performance and replacing it with empty praise breeds vanity. Showering someone with compliments about aspects of themselves without emphasizing healthy/imperative self-reflection may convince someone that they are flawless. To be narcissistic means to seek gratification for one’s own attributes through being vain. It is giving a dog a bone for peeing on the carpet repeatedly. It is praising oneself when nothing has been done to seek praise. It is seeking and expecting attention/response from those around. The distinction between a confident, esteemed person and a narcissist can be difficult to find. With social media, status, standard, and physical appearance being important within (pop) culture, it is easy to fall amongst the users who have ever scrolled and thought “wow, who really needs to take a picture of everything they do and post about what they have accomplished?”

From first glance, this might look like a question that pokes fun at those who are “flexing for the gram,” but once you begin asking larger questions about why we post, the question turns into an inquiry about self-esteem and image. It begs the question of why we feel the need to share information about ourselves, how often, and who. Also, How many of us want to share ourselves constantly because we feel a need to be relevant? How many shares photoshopped selfies to get a follower count? How many of us grow insecure or upset when someone we have shared isn’t getting the attention and adoration we expected? How many of us feel we have to be the best and are the best, just cause? How many promote our self-image dishonestly and condemn those who do? How many of us are unconcerned with the success/happiness/well-being of others but are quick to cry out when nobody is there? The questions are endless, but the answers can seem impossible to pinpoint. Sometimes we feel that we are posting because we are content with who we are/what we do, regardless of the attention and/or gratification we receive. Sometimes were are proud of our work, progress, or improvement. Sometimes we post because we want someone else to notice who we are/what we do, regardless of what is being shown or vocalized. The latter can lead to developing narcissistic tendencies. 

Narcissism is detrimental because it blinds us from being able to see our flawed selves. It hinders us from being able to actively heightened our self-esteem and boost imagine in a way that is conducive to the esteem-building of others. Although being narcissistic comes with hyping yourself up (always), it does not always mean you lack the ability to empathize. Narcissists believe they can truly understand and “feel for others” because to do those things is to possess nobleness, this feeding into the ego once more. For example, a narcissistic person would say they would save you in a forest fire, but if that meant they had to lose all of their in order to save their life – you might just be out of luck.

Now, do not get me wrong – always practice building esteem, praising yourself for self-improvement, academic achievement, job promotions, weight loss, makeup tutorial, etc. Tell yourself you messed up when you flat out, messed up. Make changes when need be. I do not know you, but I assure you that you are not perfection, you are perfectly human. You deserve to care about yourself wholeheartedly and you deserve to be cared about by others; I can also assure you that you are, too.

If you can accept that humans have always been, and always will be, works in progress we can make some progress on becoming less narcissistic and more confident in who we are. As Mila Kunis put it, 

“Confidence, not cockiness. Knowing who you are is confidence. Cockiness is knowing who you are and pushing it down everyone’s throat.”

Life Will Look Beauiful, Again.

A very short message on dwelling in negativity and remembering beauty:

Sit down on your couch, beanbag, lawn chair, mattress, tile, floor, street and think about your life. Think about all that your life entails: the chaos, the wonder, the tribulation, the climbs, the leaps. Especially the leaps.

Wait – now, I was told to do this very same thing by a peer of mine at school. He said just think about your life and reflect in order to restore the aspects of your life you deemed beautiful. He urged me to dig deep in order to discover the hidden mystery of why my life looking a little estranged, distant, different, hideous. Diving into some areas of life just isn’t possible when your mind does not allow you to enter those parts. Some nights I lay away wondering when the faint memories will rush from the back of my head into the front of my eyes so that I am able to confront that ugliness that has made its home here. On the nights that I am able to take a piece back with me to contemplate on, I am left in ruins wondering what ruined me. I wondered what had gone so wrong in my privileged life in order for me to ever witness such ugliness, so near and full of youth. Telling me to timely think about the past influenced me to fall into a victim mindset.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion:

“Reflection is good, but I need more than reflection. I need reform.”

So, for now embracing a different routine that allows me to think about my life in a positive, reflective way without getting lost in old photo albums and childhood nightmares. Looking back on past scars and being able to say, “yeah, that was pretty fucking tough. I thought I was going to die. I know I will not feel that way in that situation again” became a goal of mine. It is best that we look back at things for what they were and do not do too much contemplation and explication. Somethings cannot be thoroughly explained, and some things are not meant to be. In a way, seeing lapses of my childhood in fragment makes for a cinematic finish. Maybe one day I will sit and be able to write about the times I sat on my couch and reached some of those memories in a journal while drinking wine and rubbing my beautiful new Akita. Until then, I am left to remember this.

Do not worry yourself too much. Your life will be beautiful again, just in different ways.

You Should Go and Love Yourself

“You can’t truly love someone if you do not first take the time to love yourself.” These phrases sound like canned commercials with the only chance of implementation lying with the practice of baking and bronzers, but love has no shimmery look.

I’ve tried wearing rose-colored glasses in the dark and it did nothing to shield me from what was to come. I remember – I was sixteen and in my first (what I thought was serious) relationship and nobody could tell me a damn thing about love. I knew all about love already, I had it all figured out on my own, and I knew who I wanted to give all my love to for the rest of my life. Well, I believed I knew what loves meant and what it meant to embody love.

I had bruises, a broken spirit, and a tender heart to show for it. I spent too many nights soaking pillows and throwing fists against walls to not know what love is. This energy I was investing in this relationship and on this person was inadvertently draining me and taking my attention from other important life goals. This must be love.

Because what else is all this destruction for? I fought off demons to maintain these feelings. I stabbed at old wounds to revive what existed between the two of us. Swinging moods and arms became routine when the family would ask me about my love. I would tell them, they just do not understand what it feels like to love so hard it hurts. They kept ensuring me that it was my own love I was looking for.  Sneering at anyone who dares say I am incapable of loving just because I don’t “actively practice” self-love, I found myself wanting to keep these feelings of love under wraps. I wanted to work on the love between him and me in silence since everyone was just so doubtful that this could be love.

It was love because I said it was love. Do not even think about interjecting your wisdom saying about seeking love in the wrong places – I have heard them before.

And finally, the silence was broken by cries from things others than love. Dishonesty, malice, hatred, uncertainty, jealousy, made themselves known just when I believed love encompassed them all.

Love was not hurt, but sometimes love hurts.
The time I spent loving him, was actual time spent hating myself. I don’t know how but my dislike for the way I was treated by him only highlighted the things I didn’t like about me. It wasn’t until I awakened in a room that wasn’t mine to recognize a face that wasn’t mine, and a spirit that wasn’t either. Who are you?

Years later, I am still learning the basics of dating myself. Taking myself out for ice cream on random nights, reading my favorite novel, crying my favorite cries. Putting makeup on simply to take photos and tell myself I’m hot shit.  Dancing in the mirror or in store aisles. Singing-off tune to r&b. Writing down my feelings for everyone to somehow feel but never read. Setting standards. Setting expectations. Setting curfews. Making trips, making moves. Kissing my wounds. Smiling at my own jokes. Shuttering at my own smile. Talking myself out of a black hole. Telling myself it will be okay. Placing ice packs on bruises. Putting gloves over sharp fist.

It is difficult transforming from an abuser of yourself to a lover. The hardest person to get along with and sustain a healthy, lasting love, is yourself. when love has a look, it will be me. 

Black History Month: Should It Exist?

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Black History Month, held every February of each year, is known as a time to reflect, recognize, and show respect to the black Americans who have paved the way for other Americans to reach many social and economic milestones.

Black History Month: To be or not be? That is the question. Over the past decade, growing controversy has arisen over whether Black History Month is effective in its purpose of celebrating and spreading knowledge of many influential black figures in American History. When first asking others if Black History Month ought to exist, the typical response is “Absolutely!” When delving deeper into the purpose of Black History Month and why it was initially established, the answer becomes less obvious.

After being frustrated with the misrepresentation and underrepresentation of Black Americans in school after obtaining his Master’s degree and Ph.D., historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson coined a week in February as” Negro History Week.” He did so in the year of 1926 in order to honor the birthdays of civil rights activist, Frederick Douglass, and President Abraham Lincoln, who static1-squarespaceis often known as the leader who emancipated the black slaves. It wasn’t until 1976 that the week Woodson set aside would turn into a month-long celebration known as Black History Month. For decades since the adoption of the holiday, it has been recognized as a month for reflection and is also celebrated by Canada and the U.K. Now first – let me say that we have made immense progress over the past decades, with going from a one-week celebration to a whopping four weeks! But before we rejoice in the achievements, let’s look at Woodson’s reasoning for creating the week of acknowledgment once more.

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Many are aware of the accomplishments of Frederick Douglass (thanks to the redundancy of primary and secondary education), yet many do not know the significance of Abraham Lincoln’s executive actions and how his intentions for change are far from heartwarming. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, legally freeing around 3 million slaves in designated areas of the  South. While many rejoice at those numbers and idolize President Lincoln for being moral, caring, and understanding of the black experience in America, they are unaware of his intentions. As Philip Randolph expressed, “freedom is not given; it is won,” so why did Woodson base Black History Month’s precursor on a man who debatably “gave” black slaves freedom without honest intentions of bettering the lives of Black Americans? In fact, the  Emancipation Proclamation was signed as a military measure and did not free slaves on the border states like Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri (all of which had remained loyal to the Union).

In early schooling, Black History Month often focuses on civil rights leaders who are deemed less “threatening” and are able to be watered down to fit the idea of Black cooperation while remaining peaceful and complacent. James Baldwin says that “Education is indoctrination if you’re white; subjugation if you’re black.”This is not to say that leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass remained complacent because that would be far from the truth; all of them suffered physical, legal, and emotional repercussions. Although these leaders assisted in paving the way towards equality and equity, much of the dialogue from black America is missing. Textbooks will frequently provide MLK’s iconic and moving speeches, tell stories of Park’s courage to remain seated on the bus, explain the Underground Railroad, and mention Douglass’ journey from a slave to a free man; however, we are not taught of MLK’s internal battles with remaining peaceful, the woman who did not give up her seat prior to Parks, Tubman’s relentless attitude in the face of death, or Douglass’ many famous speeches or books. What is clearly missing within these teaching of famous black Americans are the details, which leads me to the main reason Black History Month should not exist: Black History is American History. 

“Black History is American History.”

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Black Americans have contributed to the upbringing and current hegemony of the country, yet school districts are still told to dedicate one month per year in educating students on their contributions (it is no wonder the racial tensions remain so high in the country, we never address history!) Perhaps if we taught history in accordance with chronological events (regardless of race/ethnic background), we would have a more accurate and inclusive view of history. Imagine all that we would learn through incorporating more about the Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, the Black Panthers, Angela Davis, W.E.B. Dubois, Sojourner Truth, Nina Simone, Booker T. Washington, Muhammad Ali, and many more years long! In theory, Negro History Week should be celebrated 52 times each year, and we should always be ready to celebrate.

As  James Baldwin once wrote, “…any Negro who is born in this country and undergoes the American educational system runs the risk of becoming schizophrenic.  On the one hand he is born in the shadow of the stars and stripes and he is assured it represents a nation which has never lost a war.  He pledges allegiance to that flag which guarantees “liberty and justice for all.”  He is part of a country in which anyone can become president, and so forth.  But on the other hand he is also assured by his country and his countrymen that he has never contributed anything to civilization – that his past is nothing more than a record of humiliations gladly endured.  He is assumed by the republic that he, his father, his mother, and his ancestors were happy, shiftless, watermelon-eating darkies who loved Mr. Charlie and Miss Ann, that the value he has as a black man is proven by one thing only – his devotion to white people.  If you think I am exaggerating, examine the myths which proliferate in this country about Negroes.”