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July 10, 2000 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

Summer sun's at full blast, and for BG that means one thing: can't talk to Breakup Mom without being reminded to "wear a hat." ("Ma! I do! It's part of my 'outfit!'") ("Well, couldn't you wear a helmet when you fly?") She doesn't miss my off-duty moments either; the following is pasted from a e-reminder to bring a chapeau to Paris: "Don't forget a sun hat. Frankly, the one you came to Spain with, while useful, was definitely not flattering--as opposed to the one you borrowed from me. Do you want me to send it to you?"

Make no mistake: I love hats. Hats and other accessories are my favorite clothes the way hors d'oeuvres and condiments are my favorite foods. But why I sometimes resist them (while applying several coats of SPF 7,000,000,000) is, well, you know the truth about caps and hats: once you put 'em on, you can't take 'em off. I'm not talking about Paul the Internian identity issues; I'm talking about...Hat Head. Which, it turns out, is no minor vanity thing. As BG reported here, researchers at Yale recently concluded that bad hair days "affect individuals' self-esteem by increasing self-doubt, intensifying social insecurities, and becoming more self-critical in general." It's not all in/on our heads! Breakup Mom, we are talking about self-esteem!

But when you guys write and , "BG, how will anyone ever LIKElike me if I don't like me?" I can't just say, "Do you want me to send you a flattering hat?" So:

"You Have To Love Yourself First"
Self-Esteem 101

Here, I present the last in BG's summer mini-series of Do Tell retells (previous: Interracial Dating. Teen Sex, and Fashion Crisis -- and they'll be back! You'll see what's on the Do Tell table on the next page.).

But first, let me say this: you know BG thinks buzzwords are a huge buzzkill. If I am forced to use overused words I tend to prefix them with disclaimers like "forgive the flabby term..." or "Warning: After School Special words ahead!" That way you know that when I say them, I really mean them; because I believe that the problem is, all too often, we stickie on diagnoses like "insecure!" and "afraid of commitment!" and -- yes -- "low self-esteem!" when sometimes what we're really doing is pathologizing what really just is the human freaking condition and buying books we didn't need until we...did.

Turns out "self-esteem" itself is even held in lower, um, esteem than it used to be -- as, that is, the magic boost-all for achievement, equality, happiness, and date quantity. As Kirk Johnson wrote in the New York Times, "The idea that high self-esteem is the exclusive province of those with admirable achievements has been rejected as simply wrong. Studies of gang members and criminals found their self-esteem -- reinforced by peers or lawlessness -- to be as high as that of any overachiever. Another study crushed the idea that welfare mothers became pregnant to boost their self-esteem...Some people achieve great things in life while gripped by feelings of worthlessness. Others set low standards and feel great."

Where does that leave our esteemed selves? Duly reminded that the grades and the accolades and the arm candies are neither -- necessarily -- source nor proof of the big S.E. Still, if I say the bottom line is that your beaux and belles must think -- and act like -- you're the bomb, then there's a line below that: Do you think you're the bomb? Doesn't necessarily matter how you show it. There's no "in order to" here; digging yourself is an end in itself. The rest is gravy (a deceptively difficult recipe, so we'll work on that too!). Main thing is: I want you to like the sound of those voices in your head. Hat, or no hat.

And now, some Pro Tell from our own Belleruth...



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