“Self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth. It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with one’s head in a Food Fair bag. There is a similar case for all the small disciplines, unimportant in themselves; imagine maintaining any kind of swoon, commiserative or carnal, in a cold shower.”  

– Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

the agenda

This discussion is not a how-to seminar. There will be no grand postulations on how to love yourself, become a better you, raise yourself above the rabble, or conquer your tendencies to self-deprecate. (that said, if anyone knows of such seminars which actually work, please feel free to share) (unless you are being somehow financially sponsored by these endeavours, in which case sod off, this isn’t a marketing platform.)

More to the point, we’ll be pondering a few questions: where does self-esteem come from? What are its influences (social media of course, but also how we interact with each other and how that affects us), what are the different elements in life that tend to reflect us back to ourselves, and play a role in what we do and how we see ourselves think friendship, romance, family, culture, work, religion, the Internet…

recommended reading, listening, and other cultural output

(please consider supporting independent bookshops instead of buying books on amazon, write to me if you need a list of them!)

  • Ich und Du | Martin Buber (book)
  • All Quiet on the Orient Express | Magmus Mills (book)
  • The Red Book | Carl Jung (book)
  • God is an Astronaut | Alyson Foster (book)
  • The God Delusion | Richard Dawkins (book)
  • Outgrowing God: a beginners’ guide | Richard Dawkins (book)
  • Poetics | Aristoteles on why we read (book)
  • Epigenetik: Brücke zwischen Erbut und Umwelt (English edition: Epigenetics: Bridge between genome and environment) (graphic novel)
  • Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience | Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (book)
  • The Evolving Self: a Psychology for the Third Millenium | Mihaly Csikszentrmihalyi (book)
  • Kriegsenkel / Die Vergessene Generation | Sabine Bode (books on the experience of trauma by Germans during WWI and WWII, and how this trauma has passed on to their children)
  • Midjourney (computer-generated cultural creation)
  • Cambrian Explosion (algorithmic cultural creation)
  • Dalli 2  (open AI cultural creation)
  • Hidden Brain: Relationsships 2.0 | the power of interactions (podcast on the subject of talking to strangers)

COMPLETELY UNRELATED BUT MENTIONED IN LAST NIGHT’S DISCUSSION: A few people mentioned they might want to beta-read my graphic novel re: online dating.  I won’t post it here but get in touch if you want and I’ll send you a PDF of it. Would be very chuffed at any beta-readers and feedback people might want to give…

collected thoughts and tidbits from the evening's discussion (both related and random)...

potential definitions of self-esteem:

  • determination of individual values
  • belief in abilities |confidence in the result of an activity: “ i can do”
  • conscious/unconscious beliefs about yourself
  • when the challenge meets the skills

self-esteem as opposed to value:

  • value is not the same as confidence, in that value is permanent
  • self-esteem and context (is self-esteem context-dependent?)

self-esteem in life vs. self-esteem in job (the latter does not presuppose the former)

  • fundamental self-esteem vs. confidence due to a specific skill
  • assuming skill in one area counts for everything in life
  • the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ phenomena
  • would we have self-esteem if we were alone on the Earth?
  • self-esteem is good for socialising

self-esteem vs. doubt

  • fear of rejection is connected to self-esteem
  • are doubt and self-esteem related?
  • doubt- leads to innovation – opens you up to self-reflection
  • doubt opens up to questioning (therefore not that bad)
  • doubt is healthy UNLESS IT INHIBITS action
  • doubt/ bad self-esteem can also be “good” for society (that is, for the people in power in a society – those with bad self-esteem are easily manipulated)

not directly related to self-esteem but a fascinating notion nonetheless 🙂

  • I and you =  an encounter
  • I and it = an experience (digital ‘encounters’ with people fall into THIS category)


  • To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent.
  • To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that deals with one’s failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening.


  • reasons we follow passively (instead of trusting ourselves) in democracy – the majority tends to have ‘right’ on their side. Except do they?
  • why we tend to appease the boss – because s/he pays your rent
  • people decide what is normal and what is abnormal and persecute those that don’t fit.

SOCRATES’ LOGIC ON TRUTH (might be helpful for us in understanding and evaluating our own selves)

  • look around for statements that make common sense
  • try to find an exception in this statement
  • if an exception is found, then your statement is false or imprecise
  • nuance the original statement so it’s more accurate
  • try to find exceptions until you can’t any more
  • TO WIT: the truth lies in statements that are impossible to disprove


  • 3 main areas of inadequacy
  • bodily inadequacy
  • the inadequacy of being judged and disapproved of
  • intellectual inadequacy

(according to Montaigne having a mind is not helpful because:)

  • it makes for awkward relations with our bodies – we process outer stimulii with our minds that don’t jive with our bodies.
  • having brains leads us to feel arrogant and to want to impose our views on others
  • intellectual – the painful sense that we aren’t as clever as we should be.
  • Trying to think of yourself as a good person – or encouraging children to think that way – dramatically raises the stakes of every action taken, as each one gets taken as evidence for or against that belief.

continuing the conversation...

2 Responses

  1. Hey STEFF, hope you’re well. It’s been a while. I CANT WAIT TO DO THE RECOMMENDED READING ON THIS TOPIC AND ALSO ATTEND THIS session. Good that I managed to land on your website again, and I will try my best to get to know of the taboo symposium through here 🙂

    Thank you for the recommended reading list, and as always fantastic artwork along this line 🙂


  2. We have jumped the first-non-social-media-based-comment hurdle. Yippee!!! Thanks, Rajas, hope to see you on the 24th!