Yesterday, we established self-sacrifice as a strength, but identified the same characteristic as a weakness. Natural self-sacrifice is truly a strength which furthers humanity. Self-sacrifice as a weakness is not an instinct, but instead, is learned behavior.
Out of the Bubble
Outside the vacuum we are exposed to societal expectations and contemporary norms. Over time both change, just the way fashions, laws and personal attitudes do. Looking at the influences themselves shows how the instinctual strength turns into weakness.
Home life is one of the smallest social circles but the largest influence on our attitudes toward gauging ourselves as important and establishing healthy self esteem. Two major influences are our parents’ example to and their opinion (perceived or stated) of us. Parents are a perfect example of how to handle oneself or a poignant display of what not to do.
When the child is left to perceive what the parent thinks, assumption can lead down a rocky path. Actions speak volumes to the child whose parents do not validate his status as a person, in the family and in society in general. The values necessary to establishing good self-esteem are central to parenting a strong child. If those lessons are left to the child’s observation of the parents, often the strength dissipates.
Blatantly informing a child of the parental opinion is a two-edged sword. A positive opinion reinforces strength. A negative opinion erodes it. Children have a natural desire for parental approval. Lacking such approval creates a morass of self-doubt which produces weakness.
Peer pressure is not child’s play since it extends into adulthood. Peers are the next largest social circle which influences how we view ourselves in the context of society. Stronger people will withstand peer pressure more easily than weaker ones. It is of note, not all strong people will apply positive peer pressure. Within the earliest peer circles, the practice of self-sacrifice becomes a personal norm, unlikely to change direction, but likely to intensify.
The smallest social circle is where the weakness shows the most impact. The self-sacrifice in marriage can be mild, giving up belief systems, religious or occupational pursuits, or monumental, succumbing to emotional and physical abuse. When self-sacrifice within a marriage is strictly to maintain the status of the marriage, rather than to strengthen it through personal growth, it is an insurmountable weakness.
The Big Picture
Once exposed to the society as a whole, the largest circles appear. National, political, religious, occupational and fraternal affiliations broaden our scope of tenets and ideals. Seeking unqualified acceptance into circles this large requires a level of self-sacrifice which is weakness.
How did it happen?
In our desire to be accepted into society, we can sacrifice our own ethical character to garner approval. The moment self-sacrifice turns from helping humanity to furthering social standing is when strength becomes weakness.
Unlike nature, the weakness created by self-sacrifice is not equally distributed between men and women. While men are not immune, women fall prey to weakness far more often than men. Beginning with the initial examples of parents, women are met with more pressures which erode their self-esteem.
- Parental molding of what being a woman is
- Peer pressure of other girls and their parents’ ideals
- Society’s glorification of certain women/girls
- Society’s disdain for certain women/girls
- Stereotyping of beauty
In terms of abusive relationships, women are more often the physical victims, but men are just as likely to be emotional victims. Both sexes withstand the abuse to maintain the affiliation based on both familial and societal norms. They sacrifice their own health and well-being to meet someone else’s expectation of what they should be. If children are present, they become the parental example.
If you have missed the beginning of this series, visit the following links to catch up. The comments are important to understanding how we got to this post.
Which influence do you think is the most powerful? Which one is the easiest to overcome?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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