Chapter 9 – The Importance of Self-Worth

One of the more subtle, yet important themes in Chapter 9 is self-worth.  The idea seems to be that one’s self-worth can be deeply affected by the actions and words of those around us.  If one is told that one is worthless, then one will feel worthless.  We see this through both Eleanor’s and Michael’s story.  Michael allows The Bad Place representatives to walk all over him.  Those from The Bad Place make fun on Michael – which he sometimes agrees with to please them.  At one point, he tells Tahani that if “he gives into all of their demands; they will have to respect me.”  Tahani, however, tells Michael that he must stand up to them, even though the bullies from The Bad Place are the only things in the universe that scares Michael.  At the end of the episode, Michael finally stands up to the representatives from The Bad Place.

Elanor, on the other hand, plays third wheel to Chidi and the Other Eleanor.  Eleanor becomes jealous of the seemingly strong bond of these two have.  Meanwhile Trevor, the head representative from The Bad Place, spends the time trying to convince Eleanor that she deserves to be in The Bad Place.  One of the key methods Trevor uses is depersonalization.  He needs to get Eleanor to stop viewing herself as a person and instead to view herself as an object.  Immanuel Kant argues that every person must be treated with dignity in virtue of being a rational creature.  They cannot be used or mistreated.  Objects, on the other hand, are intended to be used.  If Eleanor views herself as an object, then she admits that she has no worth.  If she has no worth, then there is nothing wrong with her going to The Bad Place or being treated poorly.

Trevor tells Eleanor that “if someone made a person out of mulch and leaves and dead slugs, then that is you.”  Trevor, like many others, refers to Eleanor as “Fake Eleanor” making her feel that she lacks her own identity and that the identity she has is not real.  After attacking her self-worth and playing on her insecurities, Trevor was finally able to convince Eleanor that she deserves to be in The Bad Place.  He points out that she would fit in better with people in The Bad Place and would no longer have to pretend to fit in.  In doing so, he undermines the personal progress that Eleanor has made.  However, like Michael, she does stand up for herself at the end of the episode.  While she admits she does not deserve to be in The Good Place, she does want to be the type of person who does.

The reason why Eleanor and Michael are both able to stand up to the bullies is because of those around them.  Just as the people you are around can bring you down, they can also bring you up.  Having the appropriate people around oneself is important for developing self-worth.  Having self-worth is important not only for moral health, but moral development.  Eleanor must spend time and resources developing herself morally.  At this point, we see Eleanor start to move away from a purely selfish motive – simply wanting to avoid being in The Bad Place – to one where she wants to become someone who deserves to be in The Good Place.  Being worthy of The Good Place requires that she has self-worth.