Monday, January 15, 2007

Let Us Praise Ourselves

Zuzu on feministe suggests an interesting topic for discussions on feminist blogs: The difficulty we have of stating our good points. The "we" here is most likely feminist women, but all sorts of people have trouble with this. Just imagine yourself standing in front of some small group of quite friendly people and being asked to list at least five things about yourself that you really like. Gulp.

This post is one of those "do I dare to eat a peach" posts for me. It rings all sorts of alarm bells about not being arrogant, not focusing on the self, not focusing on trivial aspects of the body, not bragging (never bragging). And even deeper alarm bells start booming in the background: Are we being led by the nose to talk about our values still within the patriarchal system of tits and hips and legs and asses and sexual appeal in general? Isn't pointing out how well we do on those measures still a reinforcement of those measures themselves? But on the other hand isn't the old maxim "know thyself" a good one, too? And doesn't knowing yourself mean being aware of both the bad and the good and even the indifferent aspects of you?

So clearly it is a topic worth airing here. When I started to make my list of nice things about myself I realized that I was immediately veering towards the sorts of things I'd get societal approval for, such as being charitable and giving money to all sorts of valuable purposes. This exercise is really very interesting. It reminds me a little of the exercise we once did in martial arts training where you had to let yourself fall from some height and just trust the other people to catch you before the concrete floor. Now that was hard.

This is hard in a different way, but it's ultimately the idea that you might not be caught before your head hits the concrete. Because we, and especially we the women, are not supposed to blow our own trumpets. Do try making such a list of at least five things you like about yourself, whether they are about your body, your personality, your skills or what you have done in your life. Then look again: Did you add something to belittle yourself? Did you hedge and prevaricate? Did you add something trivial and silly just to show that you are not, after all, taking yourself too seriously? I bet you did.

Part of the problem I had was in desperately trying to avoid any kind of implication that I'm somehow better than other people. Dingdingding go the internal bells all the time. Zuzu, I think I hate you for giving us this exercise.

Here is my miserable attempt to praise to myself:

1. I have one small opening to the large universe of creativity, and when the door opens, if I'm there and awake, then I write fairly well and clearly, too.

2. I have the gift of conciseness.

3. My eyes are a nice shade of green.

4. I can do lots of pushups without resting, and ten one-armed pushups, too.

5. I'm much nicer and nastier than I used to be, more three-dimensional, and it took a lot of work of which I am very proud.

Now it is your turn. Remember the rules: No belittling, no hedging.