a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.
“a boost to my ego”
In our modern world, we are obsessed with our egos. Simply google “boost ego” or “improve self-esteem” and you’ll find thousands of articles, self-help books, and videos to assist you in making yourself feel better about… yourself.
Many of the articles and self-help books seem to have a common theme, and it’s not to make you feel better about yourself as a human being so you can live a happier, more fulfilled life. Instead, in most cases, the aim seems to be to boost your confidence to help you succeed in a cutthroat society and in an economic environment where many of us are being left behind.
Another way to look at it is that they are attempting to convince you that the reason you feel insecure or insufficient in tackling life’s modern problems is because there’s something wrong with you.
But is there?
Nowadays, social media is the common answer to that question. Studies have shown that social media addicts often have lower levels of self-esteem than people who are not addicted to social media. They also are more likely to be narcissists.
But since we live in a system that encourages selfishness, individualism, and monetary success above all else, I’m not sure how that information is surprising.
Is it really social media that causes our narcissism? Or is it that social media is popular because we have narcissistic values as a society? Maybe it’s the narcissism, that rampant individualism that is thrust upon us all, that leads us to place all the blame on ourselves for our mental health issues.
In the United States, over 18% of our population suffers from an anxiety disorder, according to pre-COVID statistics. That’s about one in five of us.
Additionally, a 2018 survey showed that one in 12 U.S. adults suffer from depression. Also pre-COVID.
Unsurprisingly, recent research shows a rapid increase in global rates of anxiety and depression, with the United States easily leading the pack in its number of depressed and anxious citizens.
“According to the analysis, the United States has the highest number of stressed, anxious, and sad people in the world, with 33 percent of its population reporting mental health issues. The United Kingdom and Canada share the second-highest percentage, with 26 percent of people suffering from stress, anxiety and depression.”
Vancouver News, January 21, 2021
With numbers like that, it is hard not to admit that our problems must have origins outside the individual. As a society, we are doing something terribly wrong.
“A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.”
-Kurt Vonnegut, Welcome to the Monkey House
A case of child abuse is reported every 10 seconds in the United States. One in four women and one in six men are sexually abused in their lifetime. One in three women and one in four men have experienced a form of physical violence from a partner.
That’s just physical abuse. Not emotional abuse. Economic abuse. Gaslighting. Lies. Workers are demoralized to prove they are not worth their wages. Customer service members are verbally, and sometimes physically, abused for sport. Children are chastised for not living up to their parents’ standards, which become loftier all the time, even as the education system those children rely on is gutted. It goes on and on.
In a culture of domination everyone is socialized to see violence as an acceptable means of social control. Dominant parties maintain power by the threat (acted upon or not) that abusive punishment, physical or psychological, will be used whenever the hierarchal structures in place are threatened, whether that be in male-female relationships, or parent and child bonds.”
― bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics
In modern societies, we heap abuse on one another like we’re shoveling coal into a steam engine, and we keep chugging along. In fact, sometimes we happily take our turn with the shovel.
It seems normal, right? And if you have a problem with it, it’s your fault. Your weakness.
Taking a panned back view, it seems obvious that our anxiety and depression, our narcissism, our domination and violence, and the shape of our societies are all connected. They are not separate issues.
No wonder our egos need a charge! No wonder we need to bolster our self-esteem. Maybe a few likes on the Instagram post will give you the boost you need to get through your day. Overinflated egos can act as a shield, keeping the pricks of your day from bursting your bubble. But we will never create a successful society, or even achieve happiness, with Facebook likes. And you’ll never find happiness by following ten steps in a book.
The self-help books that try to tell us how to live our lives, our yoga and meditation programs, our weighted blankets, our anxiety-reducing herbal teas, and our medications can only do so much to band-aid over the fact that we need alterations at the core. We need tangible changes in the way we operate as a whole.
It’s time for us to turn the spotlight on our real problems, which are societal, instead of struggling alone as individuals. It’s time for us to join together and face our problems as one, not just nationally, but internationally.
Instead of tearing each other down, let’s build each other up. Instead of wallowing in our own egos and believing the lie that it’s all on you, let’s recognize the truths around us and work to change them.
Mark Fisher said it best:
“Capitalist realism insists on treating mental health as if it were a natural fact, like weather…In the 1960s and 1970s, radical theory and politics (Laing, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, etc.) coalesced around extreme mental conditions such as schizophrenia, arguing, for instance, that madness was not a natural, but a political, category. But what is needed now is a politicization of much more common disorders. Indeed, it is their very commonness which is the issue: in Britain, depression is now the condition that is most treated by the NHS. In his book The Selfish Capitalist, Oliver James has convincingly posited a correlation between rising rates of mental distress and the neoliberal mode of capitalism practiced in countries like Britain, the USA and Australia. In line with James’s claims, I want to argue that it is necessary to reframe the growing problem of stress (and distress) in capitalist societies. Instead of treating it as incumbent on individuals to resolve their own psychological distress, instead, that is, of accepting the vast privatization of stress that has taken place over the last thirty years, we need to ask: how has it become acceptable that so many people, and especially so many young people, are ill?”
― Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?