Self-acceptance and politics
As you will notice from this painfully long blog I’ve kept here, there’s a lot of stuff about how bad capitalism is. No bones in my body wish to reverse this sentiment; it’s about five minutes to twelve in the life of capitalism, I’m not about to change my mind.
However, I have come to the point where I am struggling to talk about politics. To say such a thing when there has arguably never been a greater time to collectively demand systemic transformation sounds somewhere between heresy and cowardice. However, looking at all these blog entries from the mid 2000s onwards, I also notice the sheer quantity of content is geared towards one thing: unconditional external validation – a self-help superman (superwoman, more accurately) to swoop in at any moment, delivering me from inner turmoil.
I’ve hit a problematic period of my life, but one I know I need to ride. I could get back on the grand project-making wagon again, but I’d end up in the same space 6 months down the line: one of self hate amidst alcohol-baked exhaustion. I can only describe self hate as compulsive self-harming sort of thinking, that activates itself to greater and lesser states, whatever the encounter in life.
Truth be told then, this has never stopped being in a problematic period of my life – but now I know I need to make an active attempt to enjoy living,
I recently read a blog on self hate by somebody called Rosie Leizrowice. Reading ‘This is how you overcome self-hatred and learn self-acceptance‘. I want to say it was like she had ghost written my life. But it’s more accurate to say that she explains what it’s like to live like a ghost – constantly trying to avoid living life, because you can’t bear to be in your own company.
Yeah, call this self-help blah blah. Solipsistic, maybe it is… It’s true that a lot of people drop out of talking about politics, and find life easier to do with an hands on, one to one basis. You’ve got to ask why so many people who try to find inner peace, and self-care find that they have to disengage with the political goals which, if implemented, would likely make life more easily bearable.
Lefist/philosopher Youtuber Angiespeaks talks about this problem in her video ‘Mental Health under Capitalism’. She speaks about how we are correct to identify that there is an entire self-help industry now, that is geared up to not only exploit a common desire to find inner peace for great profit, but to also make our unhappiness appear like it has absolutely nothing to do with socio-political circumstances. However, she’s also right to point out that the political forces trying to change these circumstances have very little time for an emphasis on self-care, both in their message and in the practice. This could be because a lot of people gravitate towards politics due to finding themselves in a life position that has bred deep unhappiness, and they desire to change this. I can only speak from my own experiences, but an identification of personal salvation in political ends often deeply neglects to mention that people should care for themselves no matter what the socio-political reality may be.
You see, I can frame everything I experience within a cultural/political context. To some extent I don’t think this is entirely excuse-making; there’s a certain degree of observational obviousness to this. But, without any sense of taking control of your own life as much as you possibly can, despite all the societal structures that restrict the possible, you will just become somebody using every event to justify their sadness – something I have done.
But I’m not trying to beat this self (myself) up, as this sends also sends out a really unsympathetic message to those who are where they are due to the vast tapestry of societal injuries. My experience of trying to understand the world without knowing how to look after myself is one of an internalisation of everything negative, taking it personally. As much as it hurt when people would call me so: no wondered they labelled me negative.
Politics as I have grown to understand it comes to embody the very spectre of self-criticism – because all self-criticism is a dislike of yourself in relation to the world – everyone else. Politics thus becomes about negatively comparing your flaws, your regretful actions, and wasted privelaged in relation to everybody else: we can only change society for the better if we self sacrifice,
You see, when it comes to conversations around the self (the character, personality, that emanates from the living piece of flesh we must call our own) in relation to society (the external circumstances, who’s culture and power dynamics are imparted onto our body from cradle to grave), it’s a little like thinking about a babushka doll: you think you’ve identified the core source of the entity, only to realise that there is another core underneath, and another underneath that too.
However, after beginning to recognise that my adult life has been one of running away from a self I couldn’t quite begin to like, I now understand we have to try to take affective leadership of ourselves, not for the benefits of others, but for ourselves.
To some people I was a class (pub) clown, to others I’m this artist who makes ‘craaazy’ projects, a political artist to others, and to others I’m the man who comes across all negative, overflowing with excuses as to why I haven’t lived me life yet. To all of them, I’m seeking the impossibly of external validation, to grant me freedom from the self I learned to hate. I would get so hung up, because I was a different person for everyone I encountered, and I felt like such a fraud. However, I wasn’t being a fraud. I was dependent on being liked by everyone for my own existence.
But I had [still have] to be liked by everyone, because if they knew who I really was underneath this vast shell of artistic projects, they wouldn’t like me. But who am I? Truth be told I don’t know because since my teens I’ve ran away from developing a self I could inhabit. I started obsessive running and walking to avoid having to make these choices, as the obsessiveness became a disorder. I clung to art-making to eternally vent and started depending on nights out drinking to externally chase the life I was actually running from (imagine a scooby doo style chase, between myself and my ghost self).
I hit my 30s and, bang, I’d found myself lost, without a life to support my body. I’d made some exceptional art work (others have told me..), I’d made many people like me (so they told me...) but I hadn’t made a life for myself, I was still wearily running away, until recently, I have found it almost impossible (literally, my knees are part fucked). I still felt like there was nothing redeeming about my character once I stood still.
I began to find the divisiveness of our past half decade very hard to take, when the self hating self internalises so much as an indicator of their pathetic-ness. My failure to achieve one step onto the first ladder of adult life (house, girlfriend, child etc) meant I increasingly identified with a lot of the slurs aimed at self-identified incels, even though I neither indentified with or believed in any incel ideas. I felt incel as charged on the grounds of having “failed”, even though it was myself failing myself.
I recognised a lot of myself in Rosie Leizrowice’s personal accounts:
“Looking around, seeing people calmly going about their lives, seemingly unruffled by the fact of their own existence, bothered me. The idea of giving up felt like weakness.”#
Of course, how do we know these people aren’t thinking the exact same about us? We don’t. What I do know is that there’s nothing gained from resigning oneself to living miserably. I’m trying to teach myself my own guides, and if it means you have to turn the volume down on those internalised voices that tell you to feel bad if you aren’t doing enough for a political cause, then so be it. Politics sounds a lot better when it’s spoken by somebody who truly feels ok with who they are.
- Learning not to compare yourself to others because what you feel you’re doing, wearing, feeling isn’t a good enough example of what a human should be.
- Learning to overcome desperation. Or at least not to feel the desire for escape all of the time: the desire to challenge social conditions can easily morph into a desire to be anywhere but in your own life.
- Learning not to feel rushed. Unless there’s a car or rabid dog coming your way, haste usually informs desperation.
- Learning not to criticise yourself because you’re not confident, at ease, enough: criticising yourself for still disliking your self, will only mean you carry on disliking yourself.