Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

Self-esteem (I can has it?)

Lots of people are suggesting concrete actions to take in the wake of the Public Domain Boobs Project. A non-exhaustive list: miriammoules ponders teaching communication skills—which I suspect has a lot in common with the "Our Whole Lives" sexuality education curricula from the Unitarian Universalists, and let me just say that I am even more determined that FutureBaby should get some variant of this than I was before; synecdochic has another long meaty post on how not to be That Guy; and as already noted, backupproject is starting up.

I've been noodling with a related question since quite early in this discussion, the source(s) of self-esteem. I saw several women say, as best I can paraphrase [*], that at an earlier point in their lives they might had said "yes" to the people asking to touch their breasts, because they would have perceived it as a positive statement about their sexual attractiveness. And then they would have regretted it, when it became clear—for instance, on reading the original post—that at least one of the askers was more interested in healing the psychic wounds of high school than in them as people, sexually attractive or not.

[*] The fullest discussion of this I saw was in a locked post, and now I'm not sure where I saw any of the public statements, because of the volume of discussion.

I can't speak to this from personal experience, at least in part because during my most socially vulnerable times, my default was to freeze and then retreat in confusion. But, also, I have always had a bedrock confidence that I was smart and that I was not ugly.

(Either as cause or effect, I also have a slight tendency toward vanity, which I do my best to rein in. And of course, I also have the privilege that comes with those two qualities, which I am not as good about recognizing as I want to be. I didn't and don't have the same confidence in my social skills—see, "freeze and then retreat"—but I don't think that would have been sufficient to leave me vulnerable to this particular situation.)

And I have no idea where that confidence came from. To the extent it's based in reality [**], that isn't sufficient to explain it, because there are lots of people who are smart and not ugly who are convinced they aren't. I'm sure my parents expressed confidence in me, but that's got the same problem, and because I have a weird memory I don't remember anything specific they did or didn't do.

[**] Please don't tell me whether it is or isn't. That is very much not the point.

So, now I'm wondering how to raise FutureBaby with a fundamental conviction that you are the best judge of your self-worth, based on sensible moral and ethical values (or some other way of phrasing it that avoids both sociopathy and too much dependence on the opinions of others). Not just with regard to sexual behavior, but in everything, starting from day one.

If you all have recommendations for resources, or comments about what worked for you, or things I've overlooked, or anything else that you'd like to share, I'd like to hear it.

Tags: parenting, public domain boobs

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