The Soft Power of Being Oneself

It can be very hard to respect oneself when one admires other people who seem to find one lacking precisely because of one's dissimilarity to them. One's admiration of the other person turns into a weapon against the self because it is received by the other person without being returned. This is the most challenging thing that we (routinely) experience on a social level. In Nietzschean language, it is a case of saying Yes to another person, and therefore No to ourselves; whereas the other one seems to begin with the Yes they give to themselves, and follow with the No they give to you. Once one has internalized the sense of No-to-oneself, the first step of healing may be to at least see that one's shortcomings are not essential to who one is, but may be the consequence of the way one was raised or one's disadvantages in life (compared to the other one's "privilege"). Maybe one had unsupportive or absent parents, or maybe one didn't have strong role models; or maybe one didn't have the money or cultural capital to be able to achieve more. This analytical deconstruction of the makings of oneself can help one not to essentialize the idea of oneself as being deficient as such. It puts the responsibility for one's deficits onto other, circumstantial things. But it does not yet provide a source of power or self-affirmation. In the end, the only solution is to find the way one most wants to be for its own sake and be that. The great fear is that the things we instinctively want to be for their own sake are small things rather than large. But to be whatever one is most authentically is perhaps already something spectacular and illuminating in the world. The real question may be whether it comes with the power of self-assertion or not. Perhaps if nothing else, it may come with the "soft power" of seducing others into providing support and protection through being moved by one's sheer naked, open way of being - rather than the "hard power" of being able to impose on or intimidate them. And maybe this is enough. Maybe the faith in the power of soft power is already a beautiful thing - a spiritual thing.


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