Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect”

I found an enormous amount of food for thought here tonight. Thank you to the wonderful friend who sent it to me at just the right time!

coldhearted scientist وداد

Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself. Although now, some years later, I marvel that a mind on the outs with itself should have nonetheless made painstaking record of its every tremor, I recall with embarrassing clarity the flavor of those particular ashes. It was a matter of misplaced self-respect.

I had not been elected to Phi Beta Kappa. This failure could scarcely have been more predictable or less ambiguous (I simply did not have the grades), but I was unnerved by it; I had somehow thought myself a kind of academic Raskolnikov, curiously exempt from the cause-effect relationships which hampered others. Although even the humorless nineteen-year-old that I was must have recognized that the situation lacked real tragic stature, the day that I did not…

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3 thoughts on “Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect”

  1. A fascinating read, Laur. I recalled right away my own conclusion at some point that we should each really be the person we most like in the world, since no-one else shares exactly the same beliefs, tastes, preferences, places the same emphasises, aspires to the same goals. Instead we focus on our failings to reach the goals of perfection, what we didn’t get right. I had my own realisation that lifted me up the other day too – that the point of life for me is happiness, not perfection. With that in mind I could let go a little on my failings and start enjoying the ride again. Until the next moment of self-doubt.

    1. Hey sis, I must say I’ve been SO enjoying ‘hearing’ your thoughts in your comments – it makes me realise that living so far apart from so long has meant that when we do see each other, we spend a lot of time catching up on what’s been happening in our lives rather than having the opportunities to just ponder on life, the universe and everything 🙂 You’ve made such an effort to connect this year, and I can’t begin to express how much it has meant.

      I love that thought – yes, we SHOULD be the person we most like, absolutely, and that’s a lovely thing to remind ourselves of in tough times. I’m so glad to hear that realisation helped you, and HOORAY for enjoying the ride!!!!!

  2. Dear Lauren’s sister,
    May I elaborate on the statement you made to Lauren:: We should be the person we most like….”. In the course of living our lives, it’s a journey. The self-respect trip is a compalation of knowlegable choices. It’s the most expensive trip to commit to. I don’t know how anyone could enjoy the ride.

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