Self acceptance and self critique as ethical precepts

Since about January of this year, I have had an embarrassing worry. I am worried that, at the age of 25, I may be losing some of my hair. I’m embarrassed about this because it feels like such a personal thing, also, it’s a very vain thing. I am a man with thick medium length hair and it has been the envy of many women and men. There’s a high attraction to the cult of personality, not just with political leaders but with ourselves. In that way, image seems to matter so much these days. My other worry is also that January is around the half way point between my two birthdays, so I’m 25.5, I’m no longer ‘early 20s’ or ‘late early 20s’ or ‘early mid 20s’. I’m getting older and life brings associated changes with that.

I think perhaps the main worry about the symbolic loss of hair is a journey of acceptance. Accepting myself, and accepting a sense of place in my place in the world. In fairness, there’s a lot of unstable stuff around in the world to make me feel like I don’t have a place, but my hair is the one thing that I can (or I thought I could) control. Perhaps even more generally, one should find some form of acceptance of their mortality and that they will ultimately die. Many philosophers from the past and even the present seem to accept this. As a man of a quarter century, I don’t really have a comprehension of this, but I’m trying.

Be yourself and be happy

I think self awareness is an important ethical precept. Lately I’ve come across this notion in perhaps unexpected places. I was watching a television show earlier today featuring Boy George and Milo Yiannopoulos who identifies as a ‘Gay Catholic’ (I must say I’m impressed at which ever producer found an openly gay catholic, I didn’t personally realise they existed!). The discussion was concerning a recent public discussion on the legitimacy of a proposed legalisation of gay marriage, which is argued by Yiannopoulos as a popularity defusing device for the unpopular economic and social poverty bomb that is exploding around Europe. One point that Mr. George made to Mr. Yiannopoulos was that whether or not homosexuality is a choice, it is key to one’s happiness to accept themselves. It’s true of sexuality as well as a great many other things, that self acceptance is key as some kind of contingent condition to wellbeing.

Self acceptance and self-critique

Linking my baldness worries, with what I saw on TV to what I’ve lately been reading on feminism, I’ve found that feminists often poise the importance of self-awareness and the prejudices that women themselves have in contributing to patriarchy. Self-acceptance may also have a critical dimension, in challenging the prejudices you have about other people that you reflect in yourself, in my case that seems to be some kind of Larry David fixation on the hair on a man’s head. Self-critique in relation to self awareness makes one of aware of social prejudices. bell hooks, in ‘Feminism is for Everybody’ pointed out for instance how the greatest patriarch she came across was her own mother. I also find it interesting how in cliche period novels of the 19thC, older women often seem to be the propagators of patriarchy. Self awareness, following the Adornian, makes one aware of how much of the culture industry we imbibe and accept. Although there is an extent to which we cannot escape the power of consumer capitalism, there are ways in which our choices, whether that’s to purchase a steak at the supermarket, or getting a coffee at lunch, has social and economic ramifications to the wider structure of society.

Sometimes being self aware also makes us realise our flaws, and in this way provides a forum for self critique or improvement, but even so, there does seem to be an onus on reflection with the self as a prism as an important part of reasoning our place in the world, and the wellbeing (or lack of) that comes from it.

Michael

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