It’s hard to feel good about yourself all the time, although the TV ads tell you: ‘You’re worth it!’Life events have a way of knocking you sideways and making you feel bad about yourself, even though you may have a strong centre, most of the time. The smallest thing can do it. One nasty sentence from someone you love can wobble you, and although you thought you were resilient and had broad shoulders, you find yourself deeply hurt and unable to shake it off.
Sometimes, you feel bad simply because you cannot resolve a difficult situation. You feel trapped and can’t see a way out. You want to make a difference; make life work better, but you can’t. That makes you feel bad about yourself. Those you love can have a huge impact on how you feel about yourself. I know we should never need approbation, never need to feel good only because others think we are good, but that’s not how it works. We do need others to bounce off. We need to know we are loved and cared for. No man or woman is an island.
In our celebrity society, this has never been more obvious. Young women hate their bodies because they do not conform to a set design – thin. Three year olds want to want to wear make-up and are dressed in provocative clothes marketed by companies who think it’s okay to exploit children as sex objects. Kids see being famous as a legitimate goal in life and famous female pop stars are shown in sexually explicit videos that leave little to the imagination, yet their audiences are often as young as 10 years old.
We are falsely led to believe that individuality is important. Then, why do people act like sheep, smoking and drinking, taking drugs? Because everyone else does. Peer pressure. They live in a fantasy that they are being ‘cool’ and ‘different’ but in fact, they are boringly the same as everyone else. Why can’t we teach kids to really be individual and unique, for that is what they are.
Why put money into the pockets of the tobacco companies, the drug pushers, the cheap booze suppliers? Perhaps you have some altruistic view that spending money on these commodities will keep the economy buoyant? Joke! Buying into the drug, booze, cigarette fuelled roller-coaster does not make you feel good about yourself. Refusing to eat so you become a version of the airbrushed photos of women you see in magazines, does not make you feel good about yourself. Making spurious accusations about others that have no basis in truth, does not make you or others feel good – yet some newspapers do it all the time and they make money, because we read and like the trash.
Today, everything can be thrown away, even people. You move on from one relationship to another and drag your kids after you – they have no say in the matter, until they become adults and repeat the same behaviour as you. Rejecting family, cutting yourself off from those who love you, everything is disposable. The mind set is you can always get another one. But, of course, this is increasingly becoming less and less possible. The world’s resources are running out. In some countries, women are refusing to have babies – Italy has the lowest birth rate of any European country.
Feeling good about only yourself is a selfish survival strategy. Doing what will makes others feel good, may be a way to save the world. Something has to change in the way human beings interact today. Wars have to become obsolete. Dictators have to realise they are not making people feel good by their behaviour – that’s bad news for them! There has never been a dictator who ended up feeling good in front of a war crimes tribunal.
Making good decisions in favour of those you love, of your mates, of the world at large, makes you feel good. Making bad decisions to assuage some inner sense of resentment, makes you feel very bad in the long run. But I guess you have to be able to differentiate between good and bad, as a starting point, and maybe some people can’t do that?
It was clear watching the TV coverage of the riots in London in August 2011, that those taking part did not feel good about themselves, and the behaviour of the rioters made everybody feel bad. There were explanations: some young people made the argument that their lives were impossible, they didn’t have jobs, they were living on the bread line. Yet what was stolen? Food? Bread? No, most of it was TV’s and other ‘stuff’ that would only succeed in perpetuating the feelings of being no-one, having nothing and feeling very bad about yourself in the long run.
It doesn’t need the rules of a religion to understand any of this. Sadly, to my mind, religions have always divided people and have used guilt as a way of controlling the masses. You do not need rituals to do what you instinctively know is right. Even if no-one has taught you the rules, you will soon find out that by doing bad things, you do not feel good. And we are all motivated by a desire to feel good; to be happy.
Could it be, that today we think only the acquisition of more and more ‘stuff’? Yes, we all need a comfortable and secure home, we all need enough money to buy food and clothes. We need to work. We have to make our lives work and to do this, we need to feel good. However, we have to make others feel good, too.
PS In Italy, feeling good is called Bella Figura!