How many times have you been told “you need to love yourself!”, or “you can’t expect someone else to love you if you don’t love yourself”? Judging by the widespread agreement on these ideas, it seems rather simple, doesn’t it? We need to love ourselves, just like we would love anyone else. But why is this “love” so hard to pursue?
Moving Beyond Materialism and Physicalities
In the name of self-love, you’re convinced by a beauty brand, that using their expensive moisturizer is the path to self-love. You buy into it, and it brings you some gratification momentarily. But is that all there is to self-love? Or rather, the question we should be asking, you know the one we absolutely dread in any relationship- is this really love?
In recent times, with the advent of social media, companies have orchestrated something called ‘self-love” as a way of promoting their products.
This idea of self-love has come to our attention only recently, though it has been around for a long time and is being practiced by so many of us in ways that are not recognized because, in today’s time, we are guided more by social media trends than our instincts. Being a certain way as portrayed by social media is not conducive to self-love because materialism doesn’t foster self-acceptance. What social media teaches us is how to “like” ourselves. Losing a few kilos, taking vacations, reading a really hyped-up book that may not even interest you are a few of the standard ways to love yourself set by social media. But what if you gain a few kilos? What if you don’t like reading at all? Does that imply that you don’t practice self-love?
What we often mistake for self-love is the conditional liking of the person we are. Instead of love, we give ourselves judgment and evaluation. If we do something right, we love ourselves, if we don’t, we punish ourselves and spiral into guilt.
What is “self-love”?
At its core, self-love is a commitment. A commitment to show up for yourself- on days that you deserve it, and especially on days that you feel like you don’t. This does not mean that on the first try itself you gain an unshakeable state of being. It doesn’t mean that you don’t doubt yourself or feel insecure. Self-love simply means acceptance. It is believing that you are worthy of love, respect, acceptance, and belonging. It is honoring your own boundaries and needs- the simplest, yet the hardest measure of self-love.
An important aspect of self-love is to protect your sense of self. It is refusing to adopt definitions of who you are from anything or anyone, but your own self. A lot of us begin to identify with the work we do, or how others perceive us. While owning your work is important, it is equally imperative to view oneself outside of these roles. It is important to distinguish between who you are and what you do. When we separate the two, we create space for individuality, we learn to maintain respect for ourselves and others in equal measure. However, more often than not, we are only able to manage either of these. We end up inflating our own needs with entitlement or become extremely influenced by how others see us, often to our detriment.
In this sense, self-love is also about developing an unwillingness to allow others to invalidate our worth and developing a willingness to show respect and accept our inherent worth.
Delineating Self-Love and Narcissism
While the common notions of self-love might lead us to believe that it is all about picking “me” over everything else, and while at times that may be the best form of self-love for us, it is not always about a sense of entitlement. Self-love is unapologetic acceptance and love for oneself. But there must be a line.
At times, we may go overboard and view ourselves with a narcissistic perspective.
Here, we must understand that self-love is not just about favoring oneself, even when one is wrong, but having acceptance for oneself even after making a mistake and striking a balance between regard for the self and others.
How to “self-love”?
Ask yourself- are you sleeping enough? Are you saying yes when you absolutely want to say no? Are you working overtime more than your paycheck accounts for to the detriment of your wellbeing?
A very simple way to measure your self-love is to maintain a mental list. Here’s how it goes- picture two columns- one that says “Me” and the second says “Others”. Under the “Me” column picture, let’s say,you get six stars per day. Every time during your day you do something that you would rather not do, take one star and drag it under the “Others” column. At the end of the day, count the number of stars under each column, and see if they are equal.
While indulging in this, remember that self-love is not a euphemism for selfishness or extreme entitlement. Self-love doesn’t teach you to ignore your responsibilities or turn your back on people. It is about striking a balance between choosing yourself and choosing “Others”.
Self-love can be difficult to practice. Childhood trauma, neglectful parents and partners, and low self-esteem are some of the most common barriers in treating ourselves with love and respect we deserve. In this sense, self-love means showing up for yourself no matter how unworthy you feel. Bad relationships, parental conflicts, and belonging to a marginalized group can give us wrong ideas about ourselves and hamper our self-respect as the environment around us provides us with negative evaluations of ourselves.
Ultimately, self-love means that you decide and commit to improving the way you feel about yourself. Many of us have not been taught to adopt behaviors that are conducive to self-love. This is where therapy and counseling can be incredibly helpful.
Despite having an understanding of self-love, it can be difficult to apply it in our lives. We have things that hold us back or challenges that make it difficult to put ourselves first. Habits are difficult to maintain, and that of self-love are no exception.
At UpLife we believe that every person has the potential to attain well-being, and we emphasize individualized services that are tailored for every person. Change, although difficult, is always achievable. Self-love is a journey, but not one that you have to embark on alone.