The Consistency of Self Worth

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this account, mostly due to the hectic nature of my life as a senior in college. However, I’m on break right now and in light of some recent events I want to discuss individual self-worth and how the opinions of others do not fluctuate that self worth.

As a human, we all naturally have self-worth. We are taught both consciously and subconsciously from a young age that appearance has a lot to do with measuring this worth. Whether people find you attractive, whether you fit into the right clothes, whether you fit a certain stereotype. Although physical attributes are often evaluated, these evaluations have no impact on your actual self worth. For example, one person may find me attractive while another may not. Neither of those things makes me better or worse, because they don’t fluctuate your worth.

A person has self-worth whether they have “desirable” characteristics or not, being physical or inner. What someone thinks of you has no bearing on your actual worth. What you look like outwardly has no bearing on your worth. We are taught that skinny is good, and that pretty is good, and that long hair is good, and that following gender norms is good. But if you don’t do those things or aren’t those things it doesn’t make your worth as an individual go down. Not being conventionally attractive or not being “skinny enough” *insert eye roll here* does not make you worth less.

It is important to challenge these thoughts that are taught to us and consciously make an effort to judge the worth of a person less on appearances and more on characteristics that go beyond that. It’s unfortunately natural for us, even me, to immediately judge the worth of a person based on their looks. Pretty people get hired first, skinny people get complimented first, it’s the nature of our society today. However, those things don’t have any actual bearing. Looks fade and weight fluctuates, styles will change a million times in the next ten years. When you base your worth on your outward appearance you are bound to be disappointed because of the constant changing of beauty standards. That’s why it is important to begin evaluating people from a deeper level than what is on the surface. This includes yourself. Don’t let your physical appearance be your only way of feeling good. Don’t go the rest of your life hating what you look like or feeling less than because you don’t exactly fit the perfect stereotype of beautiful.

Active ways to challenge this need to happen within yourself, but also outwardly. Start complimenting people on characteristics other than physical one’s. Do the same with yourself. It’s easy to equate a bad grade with a lack of self-worth, or someone calling you a “potato” with being worth less than someone who is traditionally beautiful. Make yourself aware that those factors have absolutely no impact on your worth, because it is constant and non-fluctuating. Make yourself aware of your accomplishments and achievements, and let those be your anchors to reality. It is more than easy to get swept up in appearance or someone else’s interpretation of you, but practice believing in the inflexibility of self-worth and it will go a long way.

It’s perfectly ok to take pride in your outward appearance, I highly encourage that. Just not when it is the only factor being taken into account. Your beauty is not the absence of mine, just as my beauty is not the absence of your own. There are more ways than one to represent beauty, and there are more factors to self-worth than anything physical. Take the time to evaluate where your judgments come from and take time to be actively aware of the consistency of your own self worth.

-JB

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Indirect Messaging

One of my favorite things as a writer and as an observer of general human behavior is to examine why people do and say things. What feelings, experiences, or previous biases inspired someone to say or something? Would this dialogue be in character for this person? If it’s not, what has changed to make them say something like this?

Obviously, it’s not as easy to dissect things without the person’s entire backstory, like we might get from books. When dealing with real people, we have to substitute a lot of what we know of them personally to things we can guess about them from social factors.

This practice comes in handy when someone says something that’s racially charged. They probably don’t mean to make it sound like that, but they never thought of how it would sound to someone who didn’t already have those underlying racial prejudices.

An example of this happened to me the other day: I mentioned a dude I used to have a crush on, using his name ‘Dayvon’. My friend, who I only met relatively recently thank to my new job, responded with “Oh, I didn’t know you liked black guys.”

Which was a weird thing to say.

I was left feeling mildly offended but mostly uncomfortable by his comment. Which I know he didn’t intend and which I know he didn’t even think about that deeply.

But this is what I mean: a lot of the messaging we’re putting out stems from some uncomfortable pre-conceptions or biases. And we need to be aware of those.

What really inspired this post was something I saw on Facebook yesterday. The a capella group, Pentatonix, recently put out a cover of “Jolene” with Dolly Parton.

Please watch it, it’s really good.

I am a huge fan of Pentatonix and also of this song, so this cover was an absolute delight to me. It was marred to me, though, because of how this one girl from high school presented it on Facebook.

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Like, why? Why did you have to do that? When appreciating the talent of one artist, why do people feel it’s necessary to put down other artists? Especially poc artists?

I’m trying to think why she picked these artists in comparison to all of the popular artists of the day. What do these artists have in common?

I bet you can guess.

I know this person personally (or at least I went to high school with her) and I know she didn’t mean anything by it. She probably didn’t think she was being racist.

But taking these prominent black artists – possibly the most prominent black artists (barring Beyonce, but no one could argue the talent of Beyonce) – and dumping on them, unprovoked,to prop up a predominantly white group is just so messed up.

It didn’t sit well with me, and now I can’t enjoy this song as I might have otherwise because I’ll always be thinking about how someone is using it to preach the inferiority of black performers.

So why do we say these things? Why do people bring up race or religion or sex or sexual orientation as if it was something other and shocking? Is it because of messaging we received growing up? Probably. Is it because of messaging so ingrained in the American psyche that people think Kylo Ren is a better love interest for Rey than Finn?* That’s also likely.

We can’t control what messaging we experience or internalize, but we can examine ourselves and control what messaging comes from us.

Don’t be that guy.

-JM

*Yes, I know, I couldn’t make it through an entire blog post without bringing fictional characters into this. But look at all of the fanfiction websites! The fact that more people ship a heroine with her actual abuser rather than the love interest narratively set up for her just because Kylo is white is actually staggering. And why? Because of messaging that tells us interracial couples aren’t normal. Boom.

Starting Small

The more you learn, the harder it is to ignore. Statistics float in my head constantly; one woman a minute is sexually assaulted as a war tactic, one if four college girls will be sexually assaulted, one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Educating myself on social justice issues has been a big part of my passion since I began my college career. Knowledge is power, but it can also be debilitating.

My privileged background often makes me feel guilty, makes me feel like I have to save the world. Fix hunger, stop sexual assault, change sexism, end racism. No matter how unrealistic those goals are, that’s the responsibility I put on myself. As an activist, one of the hardest things to do is to realize your limits. One person cannot do all of those things, and I’m still working on accepting that.

A few months ago my Women and Gender Studies Professor spoke at a diversity conference and her topic was activism. She was addressing the million dollar question: how do I begin to change the world? We have been learning all semester that education is the number one way to spark change. Laws only work when they’re reinforced, and in many places they aren’t. Societal norms won’t change until the mindset of the people change.

I was struggling to find a way to properly educate people. Who do I target? Who wants to listen to a liberal college kid complain about how messed up the world is? Is it enough just to correct people when they make sexist and homophobic jokes? My professor suggested blogging, and she’s the reason that Jessie and I started this blog. To be honest, I was skeptical. I have a lot to say, but I was worried that people wouldn’t take me seriously. My biggest concern was that I wouldn’t be making any difference at all.

In that same class, we are reading a book about activism to end the semester. Through this book I am learning that making a change doesn’t have to be some monumental, instantaneous thing. I am learning that change takes time, and that everything has a ripple effect. Educating my friends on why their jokes are harmful does make a difference, because once they learn that it is offensive they start to tell their other friends who use those same words.

Someone may stumble upon this blog and, even if my words don’t completely change their mind, their interest may be sparked. They could talk to their friends about it or search for more information. Or they could just let my words resonate with them while they form their own opinion. No matter the case, what we are doing with this blog is meaningful. We are putting issues out there that many people are afraid or unwilling to discuss. We are making people think twice about actions that they normally wouldn’t think about. We are slowly but surely creating change.

Although I am still struggling with not being able to save the entire world on my own, I am proud of what I am doing. Small efforts really build up. Education creates awareness, which in turn creates change. I feel that in our society we have this belief that we need to be great right away at everything we do. We don’t allow ourselves the time to cultivate our skills and passions without feeling like we have to be better than we are.

I am here to tell you that small steps can make a world of difference. Not only with activism, but anything. Setting small goals to accomplish makes our experiences more rewarding, and allows us to realize just how much of a difference small steps make. So stop avoiding whatever you are because you feel it won’t be good enough. You don’t have to be perfect or have all the answers in order to create change.

-JB

Rape “jokes” are NOT funny.

I just want to give a trigger warning before I begin because there may be triggers involed, so I am sorry in advance.

 

Some people don’t see the problem with rape jokes. Why can’t you say what you want? People are too sensitive, right? I get it, you’re not a rapist and you’ve never been raped, so what’s the harm in making a joke?

With the high statictics of rape, one of two people are bound to hear you: a rapist or a survivor of rape. To the survivor, you’re completely discounting their experience. Making it normalized, making it seem like it wasn’t a big deal. To the rapist, you’re giving them validation. They’re probably thinking “wow, maybe that person has raped someone too, maybe what I did isn’t so bad.” Does it bother you knowing that a rapist thinks that you’re a rapist too, because of the jokes you’re making?

I know what you’re thinking. You would never hurt someone like that, would you? You’d never take advantage of someone more vulnerable than you. However, when you make jokes about rape, when it becomes normalized, boundaries are blurred even further. By making light of something as serious and detrimental as rape, you are increasing the likelihood of others being raped. Are you bothered yet? Are you starting to rethink your “jokes”?

Maybe not yet. I’m over thinking it, yeah? I’m looking to far into a problem that isn’t even a problem. But am I? Let me tell you some of the psychological trauma that goes along with being a survivor of rape. PTSD. Flashbacks. Panic attacks. Feeling at fault. Depression. Suicidal thoughts. That’s just to name a few. Now, imagine you’re with your friends in the same class as you and you all just got done taking a difficult exam. You say “that test raped me” and someone who is a survivor hears that.

Do you know everything you just brought to the surface by “just” making a “joke”? You made them relive probably the worst experience in their entire life. You’re friends laugh at the joke, because that’s what you do with a joke, right? Now think about the survivor. Not only was their rape brought back to the surface, but now people are laughing at it. People are laughing at what happened to this person, completely discounting the trauma they’ve been through. But that’s not your intention, is it? You only wanted to get a laugh out of your friends.

Well, that joke and those laughs have far more implications than you’ve thought of. And I’m not blaming everyone. It’s been so normalized and we hear it so often that sometimes we think it’s ok without evaluating what is really happening. But I’m begging you, please evaluate what those “jokes” mean to people. There are far better ways to say that a test was difficult without validating a rapist or invalidating a survivor.

-JB

Blatant racism hidden in “compliments”

“I forget they’re black, they act white!”

I’m sure we’ve all heard this said by someone in our lifetime, or at least some variation. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t see anything wrong with a comment such as this one. I know that I used to say it when I was younger, and it fills me with so much regret. Since then, I’ve learned a lot and opened my mind and I realize that it is such a harmful statement that reinforces racist stereotypes.

When you say this sentence to a black person, there are two implications being made.        1) Black people are inherently wrong or roudy or any other negative stereotype you can come up with
2)White people behave better, and are better in general.

Both of those implications are horrid and wrong and make my skin crawl. Now, I know a lot of people would say “that’s not how I mean it!! I really like this person!!” but they are unwilling to look past their own comfort level to see what is really being said. The same goes for phrases such as “Wow, you’re so well spoken!” Is that supposed to be a compliment? Being surprised that a black person can be well spoken? It’s racist. And insulting.

Please step back and take a look at what you are saying before you say it. Really evaluate the meaning behind the phrase, and if it isn’t what you are trying to convey then change what you say. If someone tells you that your phrasing or comments or words you use are insulting or racist or hurtful, you don’t get to decide that they aren’t.

*Being a white girl, I can never come close to understanding exactly the effects that these phrases have. I go by what people of color tell me, research, and my gut. I am not writing this to speak over those not being heard, it is just my goal to amplify what I have been hearing in hopes that it reaches ears it wouldn’t have before. If anyone is offended or has any suggestions as to how I can be a better ally, please come forward. I want to learn as much as I can and be as thoughtful as I can.*

-JB