Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Taming of the Self-Esteem

So for my 5Pillars class, we recently read Taming of the Shrew. Good play. Excellent play. Easily one of my favorites. (I once saw it at the Stratford, Canada's Shakespeare festival - Gilbert Blythe played Petruchio! His hair was exactly the same....)

We got in a discussion that I haven't been able to stop thinking about.

So Taming of the Shrew is actually a play within a play. It begins with a rich lord playing a trick on a drunkard, Christopher Sly. While Sly is passed out, the nobleman instructs his servants to treat Sly as the lord. Upon waking, he finds himself doted upon by stewards, who insist he has been severely ill. The more he rants for ale and insists he's a no-count-goodfernuthin, the more they fawn over him.

It doesn't take long to convince him that he is what they say he is.

Thus, they arrange to put on a play for his aristocratic enjoyment.

Enter Kate and Petruchio.

And - lo! - Petruchio wins Katherine over by treating her as the sweetest, most docile woman alive. Even as she swears like J. Golden Kimball, beats her sister like Laman, and breaks lutes over her tutor's head like ... Hercules. (Couldn't think of a better reference. Then again, how many people break lutes over someone's head?) 

But he adores her. Praises her. Lauds her gentleness and virtue. And she eventually becomes as she is treated.

In my class, we scorned the idea that someone could be convinced of a false identity so quickly. It does seem rather far-fetched. A fine idea for the theater - but silly in real life.

If I found myself waking in a mansion, surrounded by strangers who insist I'm really a Trump, would I believe them? It's laughable. My memories and experiences are too concrete, too intense for me to doubt myself.


But then again ....

if someone calls me fat, I believe them.
if someone criticizes my parenting, I doubt myself.
if someone even raises their eyebrows at my house decor, I'm ready to redo the whole thing.

I would love to get to a point where I am so sure of who I am, that no one - no one - can convince me otherwise.


Hel said...

REALLY like this post. I have nothing else to add... just wanted to say "brilliant".

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I just have to say that your last line was SO Anne Elliot from the end of Persuasion, and I could totally see you saying it with the same passion and such.


Anyway, yep. You're right. We tend to lean toward what we're told about ourselves, and THAT is why learning to listen to the Spirit is so important. It's the only way to know the truth about ourselves and become it.

gina said...

I like your thoughts on the matter, but it also makes me think about how teachers and parents treat children, how we are told children will live up to our lowest expectations. Tell a child he has no potential, and he will believe it. Tell someone they are smart and they will go out of their way to prove it. I have never read the play or seen it, but I am thinking I will now!

Rae said...

My very favorite book I've ever read on the subject of self-esteem also happens to be one that has changed my life more than almost any other book, so I recommend it all over the place. (Confronting the Myth of Self-Esteem, by Ester Rasband)

Jocelyn Christensen said...

That's so true. What's up with that? I might be too far on the other side of that coin. I have to make myself actually consider criticism to see if it is warranted. I must say though that when someone I love gives me praise or criticism...it holds a million times more weight...and can influence me much more quickly.

Rocketgirl said...

Who on earth called you fat, or a bad parent, or said anything about your home decor?? Seriously, I'll punch them in the face. SO HARD.

charrette said...

When I worked at UCLA I had a student intern who my staff said was completely incompetent and apologized that was all they had to offer. Christina stared at the floor and refused to make eye contact. I chose to believe she had something to offer and treated her like a professional, like I believed she could do it. And she transformed. By the end of the year, they were asking me if they could "borrow" Christina for a few hours to help with one of their projects. So I'm a believer.

That said, the book Rae mentioned is by the same author who wrote the book I just illustrated. Both books are packed with truth. I love the way she thinks.

Kimberly said...

Oh I love the way you think. LOVE. This is beautiful and I wish this message could spread far and deeply. How desperately we need it.

Marcia said...

Kinda Johnny Lingo-ish.

JBSquared said...

Amazing post. I have the same wish deep in my heart - maybe I'll get there someday.

Jamie said...

I've thought about this too (haven't all women?) but I think the object isn't to be as much self confident as it is to truly become one with Christ. Once we've done that, we identify with Him, we are an extension of Him and we love others like Him.

Now don't take offense, (none is meant) but I think even the very idea that we do anything to improve ourselves is kind of a mockery of Christ. "Consider the lilies." "We are eternally indebted to God to render to him all that we have and are."

The only thing we can really do is come unto Christ and be perfected in Him, everything else is just setting us up for failure because eventually we will fail. One day we will believe what someone says. One day we will eat that extra helping of dessert and think we are the fattest person on the planet, and one day we will compare ourselves to so-and-so.

Coming unto Christ is the only thing that will change us as it has other people (Mosiah 5:2)

Katy said...

Great thoughts Becky.

And I just love Taming of the Shrew...one of my all-time favorites. :)

Melanie Jacobson said...

If you discover the secret, tell me, because I struggle with this every single day.

Lara said...

And the thing is, we never believe the positive things people tell us. At least, I rarely do. But man, they say one negative and I am crushed, and I have a hard time getting over it. Mostly because I believe it must be true.

Excellent food for thought.

Caroline said...

I believe I was sitting next you admiring Gilbert's hair during that play... :)

I also wanted to leave a comment because I can completely identify with your post...and it looks like many other people can too. :) You're wonderful! Don't let small minded comments take away from that.


jojomynx said...

I know it works in Primary and Cub Scouts. It is empowering to treat another person with respect, regardless of age. My kids (Primary, Cubs and my own children) can do some amazing things because they've been given the opportunity. Adults I've met are the same - not believing they could do something then presented the opportunity and faith from someone else it was possible and VOILA! Success!

Lovely post!