I’ve just re-read an essay by the American writer Joan Didion on self-respect.
The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others — who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something people with courage can do without.
This is a bit of a problem. The world is shouting very loudly that we should make ourselves unique, work on our #branding, tell our story and build our reputation. And indeed this seems to make sense. There are a lot of us about.
But if we Gen Xers and Millenials are intent on building our brands and telling our stories, Didion warns to at least not get trapped into it too early. On the 24 year old singer, Joan Baez:
Baez was a personality before she was entirely a person. And, like anyone to whom that happens, she is in a sense the hapless victim of what others have seen in her.
It’s heartening to know that it would be disastrous to be too good, too soon, and that it isn’t actually necessary to have a reputation at all.