To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent.
Joan Didion wrote those words in the essay On Self Respect published in Vogue in 1961, perhaps you already knew that. I read the essay a few weeks ago, and am wiser for doing so.
A couple of years ago during a month long sojourn in Mexico, I got a tattoo on the inner side of my upper right arm. It reads:
I don’t care.
I chose to have it done in my own handwriting and to include the full stop, so you could say I do care. And I do, about many things, which have nothing to do with the tattoo.
What I don’t care about has everything to do with the tattoo: those things I said to someone I hardly knew; that beautiful young woman talking at length to my lover; that widening grey strip of hair, those lines near my mouth, my beautiful mouth losing its beauty.
I don’t want to care, it’s not good for me.
Not caring isn’t always that simple, but it can be. I imagine the woman I aspire to be, I then ask myself, ‘would she care?’, she never does.
Knowing when to remain indifferent: therein lies the art of self-respect.
If you’re interested in the essay, you can find it here: