Self esteem is essential to the feminist movement. Two of my favourite writers, feminist Gloria Steinem and philosopher Ayn Rand both wrote extensively on the importance of self esteem. In this short blog post I can hardly do justice to either of them, but I wanted to mention a few points.
In her book Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, Steinem writes about the Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem that was established in 1986 in California. The legislator responsible for it believed that self esteem would be a “social vaccine” against an epidemic of seven major social problems: crime and violence, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, child and spousal abuse, chronic welfare dependency, and failure to achieve in school.
When the results of the studies and public hearings came in, low self esteem was found to be a “primary causal factor” in each of those seven social problems. As a result, the Task Force implemented self-esteem programs in schools, prisons, drug treatment centres and battered women’s shelters. They found that even simple efforts such as holding discussions about self esteem made people feel empowered.
The cost of this entire three-year effort was $735,000. In 1986 that was less than the price of keeping a 21 year old in prison for a life sentence. Incredible.
Ayn Rand believed that self esteem was absolutely essential to living a happy, virtuous life. To Rand, self esteem is the absolute certainty that you are fundamentally able to succeed in life, and are deserving of that success. You know you are worthy of happiness, which means that you are worthy of living.
Self esteem is not just about “feeling good.” It is deeply interconnected with everything else in your life: relationships, jobs, family, and your health. People who work in dead-end jobs when they can do better, people who stay in abusive relationships, and people who are addicted to drugs, video games or food ALL have one thing in common: a lack of self esteem.
I fear that most governments do not place enough value on the self-esteem of their citizens – but why should they? A population of miserable, dependent people who think they’re unworthy are much easier to control and manipulate than a confident, self-assured group.
My advice to all feminists in particular, and to all people in general, is to work on your self esteem. Without it, you’ll never believe you’re worthy of the life you deserve to live.
“Self Esteem isn’t everything; it’s just that there’s nothing without it.”
- Gloria Steinem