January, the Month of Self-Love
What a great way to begin the year. Genuine and healthy love for self is the root of self-confidence, resilience and authentic joy. Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde once said "To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance." And life-long peace, no doubt.
Self-love, it’s easy to urge people to love themselves. Because isn’t it the sound thing to do? But self-love doesn’t happen easily. Loving ourselves comes nearly automatic when we get a raise, have a new lover, accomplish something important, etc. But what about the days in-between? Does anyone actually intentionally start the day saying, I love you, self. No matter what?
Sure, an occasional evening binge of popcorn and Netflix are fun and arguably, important self-care activities. And we will explore more ways to care and pamper ourselves on next week’s blog article. But realise that self-care is only part of self-love. There are other ways that we love or sabotage ourselves.
What is the part self-talk plays in self-love?
We all would probably agree that we are our harshest critic and worst enemy. "Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine", said Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher of the 1800s.
People often find it difficult to say something mean to others, especially to someone they love. Harsh words are apparently only for the ears of their arch-enemy, but probably not even then. At least, not to the enemy’s face. But these same people who can’t verbally hurt others are quick to disapprove and disparage themselves. Sound familiar? So many people treat others better than they treat themselves.
By being conscious first and foremost of our inner voice, that inner critic, can we truly begin our journey to authentic self-love. Yes, you talk to yourself all the time, we all do; though we aren’t always conscious of the interaction. Take the time to notice what kind of self-talk do you often tell yourself.
How many negative pep talks do you give yourself throughout the day?
• You need to work out more, you barely fit into your jeans.
• Who do you think you are to deserve that nice thing?
• You can’t pull something like that off, stop trying!
Surely, you can think of many more examples. It’s so easy to get trapped into being your grumpiest naysayer but it takes determination to be your loudest cheerleader.
Watch what you say to yourself when you do something wonderful and even more so when you fail miserably. Are you still caring and forgiving to yourself during the latter moments?
Here are some examples of situations when you should notice what kind of self-talk you tell yourself.
• When you look at the mirror first thing in the morning
• When somebody says something mean to you
• When you are angry
• When you seem to put on weight
• When you look just the right shape
• When you commit a work mishap
• When you eat unhealthily and don’t work-out
If you have to talk to yourself, why not say something empowering? Or how ‘bout even just something nice? If you still can’t say something positive, try not to dwell on the negative.
Other people already say hurtful things to you. Will you join them and do the same as well? If so, who then is on your side? You, you have to be on your side. You have to support yourself and be the support you long for. And this time, be your best friend.
"Do you want to meet the love of your life? Look in the mirror." - Byron Katie
Is self-love an act of selfishness?
In short, no. Self-love is akin to putting on your oxygen mask first in case of an airplane emergency. It’s the means of remaining conscious and therefore helpful to people around us. A person with so many mental and emotional baggage cannot truly care for another when they themselves need help.
According to psychologists Murray, Homes and Collins, loving oneself allows one to act lovingly, without hostility to their partner. Other studies found that people who do not have self-compassion are not trustful of their partners. Moreover, they are unhappy in their relationships and have trouble becoming emotionally intimate. Texan psychologists Neff and Beretyas found that people who have self-love and self-compassion enjoy healthy relationships. They care more for their partners and attempt to control of their partners less. These people who’ve somehow learned to value and love themselves live in happier, more satisfying relationships.
True self-love is indeed the opposite of selfishness. Is there never really a time when self-love is selfish? Self-love becomes selfishness if you are only looking out for yourself and don’t care about the welfare of the people around you.
"Self-love is the source of all our other loves." - Pierre Corneille
Hang on, if I love myself in all aspects, does that mean I shouldn’t strive to improve myself?
Self-love actually encourages the improving one’s self. Self-love means you love yourself so much, and can’t bear to deprive yourself to be your full potential.
It’s like you are this tiny seed. It has all the capabilities of becoming a large tree, in and of itself; but it’s not yet a tree. The seed won’t say, I just want to stay a seed. No, whether we like it or not, the seed will bloom and grow into what’s it is meant to be. But it needs improvements like: a fertile soil, adequate rain and sunlight, protection from rodents, etc.
Evolving into that ‘tree’, requires loving the self first. It sets the foundation for all things wonderful in life and that includes health, hobbies, career, and relationships.
"I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become." - Carl Jung
With masterful years of unintentional self-abuse from lack of physical, mental and emotional self-support, self-love doesn’t come in a snap of the fingers when you finally decide to fully embrace yourself. It’s about developing and committing to be conscious of the things that you feed yourself to support your body, heart and mind. In doing so, overtime, you will create a greater and greater capacity for self-compassion, which in turn enhances compassion for others. Thus, bringing balance and peace in perhaps all aspects of our lives.
To live a positive life, you must love yourself first. All else will follow. Self-love will encourage you to live a healthy lifestyle, leave an abusive relationship, and acquire skills and knowledge to better your career. And there’s no better time to start this journey of loving yourself than now. At the end of the day, whether you’re happy with yourself or not, it will be you who you’ll end up with. Even your shadow leaves when the darkness comes.