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On Self-respect


On Self-respect

In a world weakened by self-acceptance, the only thing that can save us is the strength of self-respect.

When I was fourteen, One Direction released a song called “Little Things”, where they told their audience of teenage girls, “You’ve never loved your stomach or your thighs, the dimples in your back at the bottom of your spine, but I’ll love them endlessly,” and, “You never want to know how much you weigh. You still have to squeeze into your jeans, but you’re perfect to me.”

I could never relate to this song, thank God. I loved my flat stomach, my thigh gap, and my smooth back. I knew I weighed ninety pounds and liked the way my double-zero jeans hung just below my hip bones. I wasn’t interested in being “perfect” to somebody. I liked being perfect, period.

When I was eighteen, I saw the scene in American Psycho where Patrick Bateman told Jean, “You can always be thinner, look better.”

Now this was a message I could get on board with.

It might seem like One Direction’s lyrics were kinder than Patrick Bateman’s line, and I’m sure they were intended to be. Too bad the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. One Direction were encouraging girls to let themselves melt into soft blobs of mediocrity and falsely promising the men of their dreams would love them for it. Patrick Bateman was telling them to do whatever it takes to become the hottest possible versions of themselves. The second piece of advice will get you a lot further in this world than the first will. You just have to have enough self-respect to take it.

This goes for men too.

In an Instagram post, television host Ty Pennington said, “There has been such a force behind accepting all shapes and sizes and aging in the female community which is AWESOME (keep it coming) but maybe let’s give that same grace to men?”

Socrates, by contrast, said, “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”

Ty Pennington was begging for the respect of strangers. Socrates was telling you to respect yourself. Once again, we see the appearance of goodwill versus the actuality of goodwill.

In her 1961 essay, “Self-respect: Its Source, Its Power,” Joan Didion explained, “Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts.” Of course, if she were still alive, she’d be old enough to be one of our grandparents, but her statement still carries weight. In this Huxley-esque age of instant gratification, the ready availability of immediate comforts typically overpowers the intangible possibility of larger comforts. You see this in the way people eat, the way people exercise (or don’t), the way people date (or don’t), the way people work (or don’t), and the way people think (or don’t).

Declining birth rates are correlated with declining self-respect. People my age often try to use respect for their unborn children or respect for the planet as reasons for their lack of desire to have children, when the real reason is a lack of respect for themselves. The dumb ones say they would never want to bring children into a world like this, and the really dumb ones say that there won’t be a world to bring children into because of climate change, overpopulation, WW3, etc. Because they’re that dumb, I don’t argue with them. In my opinion, it’s probably for the best that they don’t reproduce or raise children. I just wish they’d be honest with themselves about why.

There are so many reasons that I want to have children someday. I obviously have a lot of issues with the way the world is right now, but I’m still grateful for every day I get in it. I’ll never be able to fully express how glad I am that my parents didn’t decide to “do me a favor” by not having me. Even if everything falls apart, I want to be here when it happens, and I have to believe my future children would feel the same way. But instead of getting into the deep and selfless reasons for having children, I’ll go with the shallow and egocentric ones. If I had nothing to gain from having children besides passing down my hot genes and passing along my good ideas, that would be enough. Some people don’t respect themselves enough to have children. I respect myself too much not to have children.

People who lack self-respect attempt to compensate with self-pity, self-indulgence, and self-love. They are trained to treat their flaws as defining character traits and sources of pride. This is how we end up with morbidly obese people reframing themselves as champions of “body positivity” and emotionally unstable leftists turning their social media bios into resumes of every victimhood box they check.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t love who you are. Honestly, I love who I am so much that it probably verges on narcissistic personality disorder. The key is to be worthy of this love.

Part of the appeal of the dissident right is the fact that the people here have self-respect. Didion said, “In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues.” There is a certain toughness here that stands out in a society that glorifies uncertain weakness. The moral nerve we have in this sphere hits a nerve in everyone outside of it because it shows them what they’re missing. What was once called character is so villainized in our society that most of us are forced to maintain anonymity online to avoid character assassination offline. Even actual assassination.

“Nonetheless,” Didion continued, “character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.” The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is even rarer now than it was when she wrote this essay. The popular mentality today is that anything wrong in your life is someone else’s fault. Blame your problems on your parents or your exes, mental illness or current events, institutional discrimination or systemic inequality — anyone and anything but yourself.

The worse off you are, the better all this sounds. So many people don’t want to accept responsibility for their lives because their lives suck. They’re unhappy and unhealthy, unintelligent and uninspired. In contrast, I want to accept responsibility for my life because I want some credit for the high standard to which I hold my body, mind, and heart. I assume that if you’re reading this magazine, you probably feel the same way.

On some level, I’m preaching to the choir. The people who need to hear this message most are the least likely to see it here. Right-wing bodybuilders and thin-armed e-girls are not the ones wallowing in the self-sabotaging pool of self-acceptance. But the overweight, overmedicated, overemotional people who need to hear this message most are also the most likely to either ignore it or object to it. So if they won’t read or listen to this message, we have to make them feel it.

The only thing we’re supposed to shame anymore is shame itself. So many terms containing the word “shame” have entered the lexicon — fat-shaming, kink-shaming, slut-shaming, victim-shaming — but actual shaming has left the building. This is why TikTok has videos of girls in their twenties romanticizing their stack of SSRIs and guys in their thirties admiring their wives’ boyfriends. The absence of shame has led to the absence of self-respect.

In the South Park episode, “Raising the Bar,” Kyle asks Stan, “How did shamelessness get to this? Did it start with fat people on scooters? Or did it start way before that?” He concludes that it’s our fault. We lowered the bar a long time ago, he decides, and there’s no going back. Luckily, I’m not as blackpilled on this as Kyle. If we were the ones who lowered the bar, then we can be the ones to raise it.

I’m not saying we have to bring back the pillory and stocks of colonial America, but public shame serves a purpose. If people won’t hold themselves to any standard, the rest of us should hold them to one. You don’t even have to directly criticize someone to shame them. In the aforementioned American Psycho scene, Patrick Bateman actually wasn’t directly telling Jean that she needed to be thinner and look better (although the implication was there). She offered him a bite from the pint of sorbet in her hand, and he refused, saying that he was on a diet because you can always be thinner and look better. Would you want to shovel down spoonfuls of Strawberry Sundae after hearing that? Just being attractive, intelligent, and principled is often enough to make the unattractive, unintelligent, and unprincipled feel ashamed. If they hate you for it, that’s only because they hated themselves first. That being said, targeted criticism can be constructive too, when done correctly. Sometimes, the nicest thing you can do is be mean. Respect for ourselves and one another, paired with a lack of respect for those who haven’t earned it, is a major advantage our side has.

Regarding people who respect themselves, Didion wrote, “They are willing to invest something of themselves; they may not play at all, but when they do play, they know the odds.” The fact that we’re on this part of the Internet, even those of us who are here anonymously, shows that we are willing to invest something of ourselves. We know the odds are against us, but that doesn’t stop us. We’re playing, and we’re playing to win.

Didion concluded, “To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which, for better or for worse, constitutes self-respect, is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent.” We have this sense of our intrinsic worth. We have the ability to discriminate. We love what is worth loving. We are indifferent to anything undeserving of our attention. We have self-respect, so let’s use it as a wrecking ball to smash the hideous tower of self-acceptance.

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