Updated: Aug 28, 2022
In the world of efficiency and production, we often think of individuals as units of production.
Take corporate settings as a primary example; people are referenced as human “capital,” and described using system and machine-based vernacular.
Not a criticism by any means, I celebrate the literary artistry involved in describing life with elements of the tech and digital innovations that surround us. All to say, we have unwittingly reduced our lived experiences to systems, processes, and data glitches as a result.
Without intention, and as a byproduct of our tech-influenced analogies, we have adopted language that is scrubbing away at the essence of what makes us human.
That’s a tad hyperbolic, no?
It might seem like an exaggeration, but I challenge you to reflect on the language that you use to communicate your lived experiences. If you’ve ever described yourself as being on “auto-pilot,” that counts towards my point-of-view.
Rather than seeing ourselves through an existential lens, we are slowly adopting this “biological automaton” self-perception. Our very human experiences and general “raison d’être,” barely translates beyond our sensory experiences, or should I say, sensory input.
The school of linguistics speaks to the fact that language generally evolves with the technologies of the era. New technologies and innovations interweave into our figures of speech and playing into the tongue-in-cheek idiomatic expressions. Language also informs what we value and what we don’t. Sometimes what loses value is implicit rather than explicit, and is felt rather than spoken.
While I understand that in the work environment I am a valuable “resource.” A unit, headcount, staff, employee ID, unique identifier, you take your choice, we use any word other than human, individual, or person. Our language dehumanizes us to make the tough decisions easier to make. The tragedy in all of this is that subconsciously, our language creates perceptual distortions, and we begin to dehumanize ourselves inside and outside the office.
Don’t believe me?
4,000 Canadians die per year by suicide - an average of almost 11 suicides a day based on statistics from CAMH. This impacts people of all ages and across all backgrounds.
Despite the storm of alarming mental health statistics, the widespread “self-care” anthem is strongly and boldly sung, though for me it rings shallow. I can do a nightly mask and get a pedicure, and while I might feel good momentarily, it does not translate as me loving myself. Many people engage in beauty rituals and still are unable to shake off the self-loathing.
While self-loathing isn’t the by-product of dehumanizing oneself, it is quite often the effect. Devaluing one’s humanity is devaluing self. Loving yourself, means recognizing yourself as more than just nuts and bolts. Valuing self means valuing the essence of who you are and what you bring to the world around you.
I would personally argue, that self-love is very important. Having an intrinsic sense of one’s worth. Not based on external factors, just by being you. As you are, unique in your own right. Yet this concept is far from the norm, and is often viewed as the unattainable dream.
Don’t believe me? Some more metrics from CAMH:
First Nation youth die by suicide about 5 to 6 times more often than non-Aboriginal youth. Suicide rates for Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.
34% of Ontario high school students indicate moderate-to-serious levels of psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and/or depression). 14% indicate a serious level of psychological distress. Therefore 48% of our youth are letting us know that they aren’t doing okay.
Suicidal ideation and mental health issues don’t just manifest in adolescence, to think so would be an error. It is more likely that the thought patterns began manifesting in childhood and became more severe over time.
So what am I saying?
We need to begin celebrating humanity. All the beauty involved with being imperfectly human. This is the growth and the setbacks, the successes and the failures, the wins and the losses. This is moving back to valuing intellectual and character development so that people cultivate resilience and perseverance and recognize that their value is not based on what is seen, it’s about each person’s essence as a human.
Self-care is by no means a replacement of self-love, and I think that’s where most people are left confused. A beauty mask is not going to wash away the traumas and pain that life has thrown at you. If you focus on your self-concept, and on building a healthy self-view, you’re moving in the right direction.
Children learn the rituals of self love through observation. Sure, you can tell them to love themselves, but what does that mean, in actuality? Especially if a lot of your behaviours toward yourself are self deprecating?
If you tell your daughter or son to love themselves and that they are beautiful/handsome, but then look in the mirror and and call yourself an awful name… which action carries more weight in cultivating their self-perceptions?
I believe self-love is the medicine, the crucial step towards reclaiming our humanity. Not just for the children we are raising, but also for the parents who are raising them.
I’ll close with these words: Love thyself.
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