redtabby's autism blog

A blog considering how psychology, psychiatry, social life and personal life do and don't interact with the autistic spectrum, sometimes obviously, sometimes not.

Monday, July 26, 2004

The Moth of Self-esteem

About lunchtime a big moth blew in on a fresh north-westerly through the kitchen window and got stuck behind the net curtain, which didn't help me identify it, but it really was a large one, with grey-brown forewings and what looked like a tomato-soup red splash on the hindwings.  It and I had a flapping session with the curtain as the moth wanted to be free and outside as much as I wanted it to, but was struggling in the draught.  Eventually it found the exit and took off, and, flap over,  I looked it up.  The only creature matching it is the Red Underwing, Catocala nupta, a nocturnal moth that flies in August and September, so it must be a new one that mistook the bad light for early evening.  I don't blame it.  This summer is positively Icelandic in its low cloud and low temperatures.

What's that got to do with self-esteem?  Not a lot if you're a moth, but I've thought for a long time that this concept is a) unhelpful and b) overused, but nevertheless attracts people to it like the moths to the proverbial light-bulb, and with no better effect.  I am reading Frank Furedi's 'Therapy Culture', and was pleased to find that he dislikes the concept of self-esteem as much as I do, and the authors he quotes (in chapter 7 mostly) have disliked it for some time too. 

I don't see how anyone can accurately deduce that someone necessarily has low self-esteem just from looking at them, or hearing them speak.  One or two people I know well have a vested interest in appearing mousy, down-at-heel and unconfident.  These folk happen to be somewhat melancholic and Aspergery, but can shine and laugh when they are not being socially observed, i.e. when that particular pressure is off.  They are all right on their own ground.  They may be unconfident socially, but that's a much more specific thing than the blanket condemnation 'You have low self-esteem'.  There's a big actor-observer difference here, especially if the actor is in any way autistic, and knows only too well that social 'rules' are a bit of a mystery.

Having said that, hopefully everyone looks a bit horrible in their own eyes now and again.  Without it we would never correct our own behaviour or develop our moral sense.  I hope the self-esteem promoters realise what it would be like to have a nation of vaunting egoists who never felt in the least bad about anything they said or did, who had no interest in correcting their mistakes, or even in knowing what a mistake was. 

Yeah, let's feel nice about ourselves - when it is justified.
Rant over!  Nighty-night, people.



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