love, Ruth Nineke

For My Betterment

Post Published: July 3, 2024

Nobody wants to think that they’re selfish because being selfish is a bad thing and nobody wants to be a person with “bad” traits. Or, more accurately nobody wants to be perceived by others as a person with bad traits.

People do bad things all the time. Each of us has bent our morals or done something in secret that we know opposed the values we were taught. But it’s the secrecy that gives us confidence.

That’s why people who do so-called “bad” things outright, in the open, matter-of-factly, and unapologetically, are viewed as outrageous.

How dare they do whatever they felt like right there in everybody else’s faces, while most of us keep all our selfishness inside the shadows, inside of the figurative chest of secrets we stand upon our entire lives.

We stand upon our secret chests from which emanate the whispers fueling our facades: “I hope no one ever finds out who I really am or what I really think, or what I would really do if there were no consequences for following my own inclinations.”

There is no moral high horse anymore. We’re all saddled with lies.

Or if the high horse still exists, its height is an illusion crafted by what we tell ourselves about who we’re supposed to be. And it rises higher still on our need to cleverly keep reinventing and repurposing our personas.

We must present ourselves acceptably. And what is acceptability? It’s whatever the group says, that makes us feel safest. We must adhere to the group’s ideas of what’s allowed, because only inside of the group are we safe. We can hide here. We can tend to our secret chests in camouflage.

We look to our peers for approval before we can accept ourselves: Once we can convince others that we’re good, we have cover enough to indulge our badness in private. Will this version of my horse (where horse is morality) get by, we ask ourselves?

Are my opinions correct? Are my words inoffensive? Did I make the right choice in other people’s eyes? Are they mad at me? If I say this thing will it endear this person to me? We project our need for approval onto others and we will create whatever version the group has projected as acceptable.

Somewhere in all of this moral socialization there is an ideal. And somewhere in all of this performance the truth is accepted by only a few actors: I want to smash the chest. I want to get off of the horse. I want to be daring and brave and strong enough to stand alone, brightly blinding others perceptions.

Horses are expensive. They demand lots of upkeep. And the ones who can’t be fucked to do the maintenance, to ready their horses for the races, for the show, they’re the envied and hated receivers of all the collective’s projected complaints.

“But you should this,” and “it should be that” and on it goes. Half-baked ideas and uproarious whines, commanding outwardly on what’s right: the behavior that would make others comfortable.

It’s nobody’s job to make you comfortable in your own self deception. Make your own peace with the role you choose to play. It’s on the Individual to make up a story for its identity and its life that it doesn’t need to hide.

And what a challenge! To feel confident enough not to hide yourself, your desires, your ideas. It’s  some undertaking to liberate yourself to imagine more, to push your mind beyond its limitations and envision things that don’t fit into chests, that don’t belong on horses.

The challenge to expand, to dismount the horse and empty the chest, is an individual one. The group can not give rise to the occasion because the group exists for avoiding challenges, for minimizing and simplifying the nuances of this versus that. It’s here to reduce the risk of moral exposure, by enforcing presentation and collective comfort.

It’s unnerving for many people to consider exploring a morality that isn’t given to them, but self-defined instead.

The responsibility of daring to live outside the collective perception of comfort, of creating and honoring your own values, is daunting. It’ exactly this weight which  makes it a worthy thing to do.


 

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