June 19, 2017

How to Overcome Objectification in a Few Simple Steps.

It’s easy to be reactive and point a finger at society, the media, and the patriarchy.

Yet, is that really the most efficient and effective use of our energy? Where might we have the most direct impact and highest potential for freedom and empowerment?

Have you ever stopped to investigate and reflect upon the roots of objectification within your own psyche?

It could be likely that this dynamic is also at play within your own conduct and action, thus you could be objectifying yourself and subsequently, those you relate to.

This is a really important thing that gets overlooked, because too often, many of us respond out of anger, bitterness, and resentment, thus perpetuating small-mindedness and inhibiting any real dialogue.

We have to check in and ask ourselves where we have the most influence and the most direct sense of empowerment.

We can’t really expect change from the world if we are haven’t already made the change within our own life. Moreover, maybe we don’t necessarily have the right to tell other people what they should or shouldn’t do because maybe that is just repeating the same pattern that we are trying to be an alternative to.

For example, maybe we publicly claim to be a feminist and be all about equality and treating people humanely, yet we also support archaic and barbaric actions like circumcision. Can you see the apparent hypocrisy and a total disconnect with what we believe versus what we do?

Another example of this would be: We don’t believe that our inherent value is connected to our physical appearance, yet we still stress and worry, and experience anxiety over this, while also maintaining a directly competitive nature with other women. Because, the reality of the situation is that many men don’t notice or even care about physical appearances past a certain basic level, most of the time it’s women competing with women, obsessing and having anxiety over details most people wouldn’t even notice, unless they were operating at a comparable level of insecurity. For example, it’s a cultural meme that being a man and having a nice car will somehow attract women. The reality is that the majority of the time this behavior only attracts the attention of other men operating at a similar level. I believe a similar dynamic exists with women obsessing and fixating on their physicality. We also have to acknowledge that there is a basic satisfaction  in having possessions that you enjoy, pleasure in rewarding yourself for hard work, and taking pride in how you look. These are all normal and healthy attributes.

it’s also a bit presumptuous and ignorant to assume that a person is a certain way with out ever actually giving them a chance. Like, that guy really likes his car, he must be an idiot, or she really takes care of her appearance, she must be insecure or addicted to validation. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but we’d never know if we didn’t look. We have really be willing to see our own role in things and be responsible for our half of the equation. Meaning if our general approach to another is based in presumption and entitlement then the dynamic is polluted from the get go. If we can see our own approach more clearly then we are able to see the others as well, thus we can discern whether or not it’s a fit or if it’s going to work. We also empower ourselves by accepting our own limitations while also respectfully allowing that for other, meaning we realize where we actually have a right to be responsible and where we do not, thus establishing healthier boundaries.

By the same token, I see a lot of women who claim to be against objectification, yet, still treat men as if their value is connected to their physical appearance, financial status, duty to provide security, or to be somehow emotionally responsible for the woman. Again, there is a deep disconnect between belief and tangible action.

Freedom and empowerment in relationships is a two way street—we have to be able to give that which we want to receive.

First, we have to be able to give these things to ourselves by investing the time and energy to reflect on and study our own conduct, otherwise we are still at the mercy of unconscious patterns and in a purely reactive state, not free or empowered.

An important aspect to consider if we don’t want to be seen in a purely physical way is to see how much time we are putting into our emotional intelligence as well as our intellectual/mental intelligence.

We can connect in three basic ways—physically, emotionally, and mentally. We can’t really be upset if we never invest time in our emotional intelligence or in our mental faculties. Without these things—what is left? Just physicality.

Emotional intelligence:

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).

Intellectual/mental intelligence:

The ability to start and carry on deep, thoughtful, and stimulating conversations.

The ability to form and discuss our own opinions in an emotionally neutral way.

The ability to see and understand a variety of perspectives.

Having one or many intellectual interests, being curious, and having passion for something.

Simply put, interested people are interesting. Inspired people are inspiring.

Both of these types of intelligence require time, energy, and work to cultivate and build. Unfortunately, it seems that many people are unwilling to embark on the journey of individuation and, instead, remain confined to the realms of reactivity, emotionality, or superficial parroting of slogans, placards, and catch phrases, thus inhibiting any type of deeper connection or relationship with other people.

So, if we engage with someone in an intimate way and they are unwilling or unable to connect and engage us on anything other than a purely physical level, then we have the innate right to move on. It’s actually a more compassionate approach in the long run because we are able to understand, in the short term, that the relationship will likely be unsatisfying and frustrating to both parties.

It’s hard to give what we don’t have. So, if we’ve never taken the time to develop intimacy within ourselves, then we will be hindered in our ability to relate deeply in our relationships.

If we are actively objectifying ourselves because we are unwilling to acknowledge our own darkness, then we are likely to stay disempowered and thus bound to the feelings of guilt, blame, and shame.


Author: Brandon Gilbert
Image: Henadz/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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