LOW SELF-ESTEEM: AN INSIDE JOB

 

 

Remember the doll experiment spoken of in Chapter 2 which summarized a sort of self-hatred black women exhibited towards themselves. Since that experiment was conducted a few decades ago when sistas were not quite as liberated or educated as they are now, it stands to reason that the unique attitude expressed then should no longer exist. Wrong?  Not long ago, a young sista from New York who was 17 years old at the time learned of the doll study, and decided that the results would be blasé and passé given the social and political climate of  today, so she conducted her own study based on the Dr. Kenneth Clark example of a few decades earlier. Supported by HBO, Kiri Davis produced a documentary (A Girl Like Me) on the study where she showed  young, black girls, all aged five, baby dolls. One was black. One was white. When asked which doll was bad, the overwhelming majority of the young girls pointed to the black doll! However, there was a twist to the study this time. When asked which doll they identified with, the girls again chose the black doll which they assumed was bad!

By seeing the black dolls as bad, and by extension themselves as bad, this will only reinforce an attitude of low-level achievement while supporting a high-level of low self-esteem because no sooner than these young girls begin to process this information than will they start on a downward spiral. Put another way, it would be that since these girls are so young, they could never actually be a downward spiral but what could more readily result as a consequence of this self-defeatist attitude is a upward spiral of personal self-destruction. The most important lesson to be learned is that once this self-reinforcing attitude is absorbed into the psyche of the young sista, it will exhibit and manifest itself quite early. The sista will start “acting up” when, in effect, she is not acting. She is simply “living out loud”, personifying the image she sees of herself in her mind. In all actuality, the sista has become or will become her own advertisement for self-destructive behavior. Low self-esteem will make her a poster-child for failure.

There is simply no way to motivate a young girl when she has become a ripe source for low self-esteem issues because how can you attract her to things which induce growth and productivity when her growth has been stunted? In the Holy Quran, there is a very instructive passage that insists that “tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter.”  What this implies is that it would be better to kill a person than to oppress him because when you kill that person, you put an end to him, but when you oppress him you stifle his potential to grow which is the greatest travesty you can confront an individual with. And it is no different with self-oppression because the outcome and reality are the same. An oppressed individual lacks the capacity to uplift himself/herself up because he/she labors under the illusion that he/she is worthless, and worthlessness is the ultimate calling card of oppression no matter if it is self-imposed or imposed by others.

What can be more tragic than when a woman, who is the human representative of life, fails to acknowledge how beautiful how own life should be? There are not many things on earth more tragic than this, but that’s what low self-esteem will do. It will oppress you, robbing you of the flexibility required to handle your daily affairs.

As if low self-esteem is not enough to keep black women polarized along a continuum of failure and misery, it is even more impossible to develop skills and habits that will foster a winning attitude when you come to grips with the reality that black women are also perpetual victims of what I call “the low-expectation syndrome.”

            Over a certain length of time in any black woman’s life, there is sure to come a wide variety of strategies and techniques to deal with the illness of low self-esteem, but on the other  end of the spectrum, how can you tinker with a woman’s low expectations? What has to be accounted for right now is the fact that expectations, for better or for worse, are the fundamental motivational activity by which a person will market themselves to the world. It makes no difference what you want out of life, nothing will happen without motivation, and lacking  high expectations, motivation cannot exist. Once more, let it be said that without motivation and high expectations, there is no way anyone, regardless of intent, will be able to implement a personal or professional agenda that will award any results other than abject failure. Remember that.

What now must emerge is the reality that life will require that you embrace a set of expectations that will help you navigate through the portals wherein your individual journey will take place. Whether these expectations are high or low will be dependent upon several factors, mainly those ideas that are accumulated in your environment. And of these, none is more emotionally crippling to the black woman than “The Cinderella Complex”, the penultimate expression of the low expectation syndrome.

You may be surprised to learn that in black America as elsewhere, women expect to find true love although in black America, it may take a little more than minimum planning. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen at all. Though it may be arguable, it may not be much off the mark to say that one of the very first dreams of any young girl is to be loved. All that precious time she invests in playing Mama is her youthful attempt to giggle her way into matrimony with a man who will sweep her off her feet, and to make her happy. And this Cinderella dream is every young girl’s fantasy, but in black America, the dream is crushed early because odds are good that the young sista hears it firsthand from her mother, aunts, and other female relatives that “niggas ain’t shit”, “that niggas are lazy”, “that niggas are good-for-nothing.”

At a very young age, these sistas become de-sensitized to black men, and find less to value in them as suitable mates the older they get. This premature black male-bashing makes it clearly obvious to young girls that they run the risk of choosing the wrong mate if they deal with a man of their own color. Therefore, their dream of finding a Prince Charming is left dead on arrival. This is the Cinderella Complex where black women are taught that dealing with black men is one of the most hare-brained schemes they will engage in over the course of their lives.

No other women on the planet are faced with a such an emotionally crippling dilemma when it comes to their men. In other cultures, men are held up as bread-winners. This is not so in black America where black men are held up to ridicule and scorn, and worse as criminals and dead-beats. Therefore, it becomes a no-brainer for sistas to realize they cannot enjoy a prosperous life with a black man.

So, right out of the gate, black women are handicapped emotionally as the first of their dreams, (to be loved by Mr. Right) is smashed before they even reach puberty. The one advantage, however, is great sex, and this is what the strategy becomes: to have sex. Marriage is no longer a priority.