I always think it’s weird how people keep telling other people to be more confident. To have more self-esteem. As if regarding yourself highly will solve your problems. Maybe you are not at the point where you can think highly of yourself, and when you do it at that point it might have disastrous consequences. I think what people mean when they say: ‘you should get some self-esteem.’ They are saying, you should love yourself more. You should respect yourself more. Not in a narcissistic way, but in a way you love someone else. The way you want to take care of that person.
I think that you gain self-love when you start to respect yourself. I see self-love and self-respect as almost the same thing. Or at least one thing flows from the other. But what does it mean? What does it mean to respect someone?
Respect, I would say, is not something you give people easily. To respect someone is to put them as an ideal to strive towards. To say: ‘To have that would bring value to my life.’ Hopefully you respect your friends. But why do you? Not merely because they are your friends. It is because you respect them that they are your friends. And why do you? Mostly because they add value to your life. If they would make your life miserable, they wouldn’t be your friend, unless your trapped in nihilism and think you deserve ‘friends’ who betray you, because you’re not worth anything. But where does that get you? Just getting betrayed and that’s not very helpful.
Respecting someone is acknowledging that they have a part of the ideal you want to strive towards. You can respect Barack Obama or Bill Gates without knowing them but respect them for the values they have and the things they have done. They have something that you also aspire to have. They are part of the ideal you want to be.
But to have self-respect is to see yourself as an actor in attaining that ideal. And this ideal is different for everyone. We are a plurality of people and we all have different goals in life and values and that’s okay. But everyone wants to respect themselves. When you respect yourself, you see yourself as valuable, as part of an ideal you’re striving towards.
I think this is one of the biggest things that people do meaningful things. Because they have an ideal of values and goals and respect themselves enough to do everything, they can to attain that ideal. And while you’re doing that, that’s when you experience self-love.
When you try every single day to try to attain your ideal, because you respect yourself, because you see yourself as valuable in the world, because you see yourself worthy of your respect, that’s when love comes to fruition.
I think that many people fall into nihilism and cynicism because they don’t see themselves as valuable. Because they are doing things wrong and the world is against them. Well, I would say: you’re not alone. Everyone does things wrong. That’s the whole basis, you will mostly do things wrong. But it’s actually very optimistic, because, because you do things wrong, you can fix them. One wrong thing at a time. If it is you doing the things wrong, then you are able to make them right. If you can identify the problem, you can fix it.
If the world is dragging you down, all you can try to do is endure, because you are nothing against the world. But you can have the respect for yourself to try to endure, to still strive towards your ideal. Your ideal might shift, but it’s still an ideal. If your leg was cut of by a car accident, chances are you won’t be the best basketballplayer, but you can become other things. One door closes and another opens. Cut of the head of a hydra and five more will sprout.
I think that’s what Nietzsche meant with Amor Fati, or love of fate. You can’t escape the things the world will do to you, but you can endure them, want them and grow from them.
To achieve this, I would say is to put responsibility on yourself. To strive towards an ideal is hard. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do and you’ll die probably before you attain it. But is it something worth dying for? Because you’ll die anyway, at least you get to choose what you die for. Socrates, the famous Greek Philosopher, was prosecuted because he corrupted the children and introduced new Gods. They gave him three months before the trial, which basically meant that they wanted him gone. He could have escaped if he wanted to. So he contemplated if he would leave or not. He talked with his inner voice, which he called his Daimon, and came to the conclusion to stay. And die for his ideal, which was philosophy.
Now, the probability that you will have to drink hemlock because of your values are very low. But you’ll die of old age. So you might still ask yourself: is what I am doing, what I am striving towards, worthy of dying for (of old age).
Responsibility is saying: you have your ideal, which you have to find first and that’s hard, now there are things you have to do, to achieve that ideal, and do them. And be persistent in doing. If your ideal changes, change whatever you have to do to reach them. If you want to become a pro soccer player, you have to do different things, than if you want to become a philosophy professor.