(Firstly, an apology/excuse: it is now a full ten days into Aries season and I’ve only just sat down to write the season introduction. I’ve actually had this theme settled on for a couple weeks now, but the seasons switched while I was actually in Amsterdam and had no access to my computer. What a bummer amiright)
Something that has always struck me about the Aries sign is the assertive aura that surrounds these natives. Regardless of how sensitive or insecure an Aries actually is, their demanding, fiery, assured natures completely dominate their public images and perceptions.
There has always been a tension between self-confidence and the appearance of being confident. While it is usually heralded as great advice to, in the words of Elle Woods, always have faith in yourself, it doesn’t usually shake out like that. This is especially (if not exclusively) true for women. The moment you radiate a sense of certainty or dare to project your inner purpose, you’re condemned. Women are punished for acting with the knowledge of their own beauty or self-worth, while simultaneously told that our entire existence hinges on whether or not we are deemed attractive by men. You have to look good but only under judgment of the male gaze (which, spoiler alert, is usually objectification and not appreciation), “self love” is encouraged only insofar as self knowledge is policed.
Take the recent Kim Kardashian nude selfie scandal: celebrity nudes are shared, celebrated and gawked at as long as they’re leaked and nonconsensual. As soon as a woman turns the camera on herself, she’s vilified. She is called narcissistic and self-centered. When it comes to Kim, "America's leading entrepreneur of the self," even her motherhood is constantly under fire, as if her body positivity has anything to do with her parenting skills.
For many, selfie culture and other methods of public self-celebration are means through which they can reclaim their own bodies that are constantly under threat of scrutiny, or even abuse. The consumerist media thrives off of telling women they are not good enough, telling women that they need to strive for certain type of ideal. Looks become commodified but this culture depends on fostering a continuous cycle of self-loathing: if you begin to realize that it’s bullshit and that it’s not your job to be visually appealing to anybody ever, then they lose.
Now don’t get me wrong, this subject has been written on many times, including and especially by yours truly. But it saddens me to see how prevalent it still is and how necessary to talk about—that is, how quickly a woman can be torn down for becoming a human Self Help Book, however she may choose to do so. Just the fact that we’re still talking about abortion rights in 2016 illustrates our culture’s resistance to letting woman—radical idea alert—be in control of their own bodies.
Santigold recently released her third album 99¢, spearheaded by the excellent single “Can’t Get Enough of Myself.” Now, much of this album plays with the tension with people as products and our culture’s obsession with consumption, hence the name: "You work so hard, and it's just interesting to put yourself out there as a product: to put a price on all of your hard work.” Santigold has also said that this single in particular is a satire, designed to turn the magnifying glass on marketable narcissism. But I can’t help but be drawn to and empowered by the lyrics: “if I wasn’t me, I can be sure I’d wanna be / I’m pretty major and I’ll say it out loud.” Even if it’s dripping in irony, I’d bottle that excess and unapologetic vanity any day. After all, as Santigold sings, “my brand of vainglory is much better for your health.”
I spent so much of my adolescence romanticizing the ideas of sadness and self-loathing (not in small part due to the literary tropes of ‘manic pixie dream girls,’ Death Cab for Cutie songs and early Tumblr) that I never realized how unhealthy it was. I relished in it, fed by a culture that fetishizes low self-esteem, listening to adults preaching individualism as the decline of civilization. Once I made the decision to wake up every day and actively like myself, everything changed for me. Everything.
It’s incredible to realize just how much brainpower is robbed by disliking yourself. Weaning myself off of constant self-monitoring and self-questioning allowed me to open up whole undiscovered national park-sized spaces in my head, capable of focus and attention and, best of all, altruism and compassion. I unlearned how to exhibit and learned how to inhabit, how to be alive in the In Between Moments and not just the Catalyst Moments.
In a weird but totally-makes-sense-if-you’ve-gone-through-this-process way, becoming confident allowed me to become far less self-absorbed. Sure, a big part of my movement towards vainglory has been realizing that my needs come first, that the only person I’ll always have is myself, etc etc. But once I stopped comparing myself to every girl around me, my jealousy eroded into a real appreciation for women, something that I had never had before. Once I stopped convincing myself that everyone was judging me, I was able to pay far greater attention to the woes and ills of others. Vainglory is not about thinking you’re better than everyone else, but about realizing that nobody is better than anybody else, or worse. Ideally, if we can foster and encourage self love in the right way, we’ll all be able to land at a happy medium between the two extremes—but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’d take vanity over self-loathing any day.
You’ll never be able to convince me that vainglory isn’t better for my health. I will wear the label "self-centered" like a pageant sash where I am the only contestant (um, who else am I supposed to be centered on?). I have been through too many personal rings of hell to think that Dante’s paradiso is anything but a sense of personal satisfaction. And I’d like to kick off the new zodiac cycle with that reminder, because I remind myself of it every day anyway as I look into the mirror and give myself compliments (seriously, do it).
Photos found on Tumblr.