bootstrap / boot up

A self-made person is one who lifts or pulls oneself up by one’s bootstraps. The phrase is used unironically nowadays, despite the fact that the laws of physics make it impossible for one actually lift oneself by one’s bootstraps. The phrase was originally ironic, recognizing that such a feat is impossible, but as the myth of the self-made man grew (and it is a myth; no one succeeds in life without help), the phrase became unironic in its application.

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