I had several ostensible reasons for avoiding it. The campaign has won all kinds of awards and the respect of its peers, so it didn’t need even the tiniest amount of attention I could bring it. And I found the marketing of it to be a little disjointed.
But the main reason was that I didn’t understand the intellectual basis for self-esteem, which struck me as dogmatic.
I’ve known plenty of people… women and men both, but probably more men than women… who seemed to esteem themselves very highly, but were absolute terrors to deal with. Often as not what they needed most, it seemed to me, was strong dose of humility.
A couple of things have changed.
First off, my daughters are getting older and as they mature it seems like society and culture grinds at girls in a way it didn’t me as a boy of their age.
Second, I have come to admire the work of Eric Hoffer, an autodidact who persuasively tackled the issue of self-esteem back in the 1940s and 1950s in a refreshingly anti-Freudian way.
Hoffer wrote this, for instance:
“The individual on his own is stable only so long as he is possessed of self-esteem. The maintenance of self-esteem is a continuous task which taxes all of the individual’s powers and inner resources. We have to prove our worth and justify our existence anew each day. When, for whatever reason, self-esteem is unattainable, the autonomous individual becomes a highly explosive entity. He turns away from an unpromising self and plunges into the pursuit of pride — the explosive substitute for self-esteem. All social disturbances and upheavals have their roots in crises of individual self-esteem, and the great endeavor in which the masses most readily unite is basically a search for pride.”According to Hoffer, then, all the jerks you’ve every dealt with aren’t jerks because their self-esteem is too high, but because they’ve substituted pride for self-esteem. Humility isn’t the opposite of self esteem, pride is.
In my next post I’ll dissect Dove’s campaign itself.