The Self in Self-Love Needs To Come With A Disclaimer

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I see the term self-love doing its rounds on social media and advertisements, in fact, it’s everywhere around us. It’s telling me that if I loved myself I would get myself that new face-mask, or buy that fancy car, or maybe go on that vacation everyone’s been harping about. See, we know it is important to care for ourselves.

But does self-love only mean buying myself things? Is spending money proof that I love myself? Who am I proving it to? I’m sorry, but it makes self-love seem like a lot of pressure and almost like a competition. 

I’ve heard people say that you must/have to love all of you. The “must” and “have to’s” feel further pressurising. It seems like we have to be perfect even in our self-loving. See, we ourselves are complex beings, composed of several parts. I have parts of me that I love and parts that I dislike. Those parts (and the way I feel about them) sometimes change from time and experience. What does it mean if I don’t love all those parts? I certainly don’t love the critique in me. 

I also see a lot of terms that imply only the self being involved used a lot, terms like selfie, self-care, self-made, or my personal favourite, the solo-trip. I wonder why there is so much importance and emphasis on the self doing and experiencing things without anyone else involved. Is anyone truly doing things in complete isolation without the help of other people? In all my life, I don’t ever remember doing anything in complete isolation because thankfully, I haven’t been shipwrecked on an island.

Esther Perel (A popular couples therapist) says that the self is entangled with social, economic, political structures and connections with people around us. She says and I quote “We don’t just learn to love ourselves by ourselves.” Think about it, poor or negative self - esteem, in some part, is a result of messages from society of who can be deemed loveable, likeable, laudable, laughable, or loathsome. 

Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing to spend time in solitude, to apply a face mask, to read a book, to cook for ourselves, but I don't think that is self-love, it’s more self-reliance, self-care and self-sufficiency.  

Self-love is not about how adept we are at bearing loneliness or being autonomous or independent. We can be self-reliant and dependent at the same time. Terrence Real (family and couples therapist) says that self-love is the ability to see ourselves as a flawed individual and still be fond of ourselves. Self-love is the capacity to not berate ourselves when we screw up, to fail without thinking of ourselves as failures. It is about letting, listening to and feeling others love us when we feel unloved. 

To turn to ourselves with compassion and take this self-compassion into the world.


Meet The Author

Zahra is a mental health practitioner with a specialisation in clinical psychology. She has completed her training in Mumbai and London. Zahra is experienced in working with children, adolescents and young adults in various clinical setups. Her research interests lie in adapting therapeutic techniques to individuals with neuro-developmental disorders. She also volunteers for NGOs aimed at social change. She believes addressing both the psychological and social aspects of an individual.
Zahra Diwan, Psychologist


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