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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Loving Yourself - Necessary for Happiness or Decadent?

In time for Valentine´s day I raise the subject of self-love. Maybe this is where love starts, or maybe this is where it ends. It depends on the dosage and on the definition, in part:

Self-love is a term I don´t hear so much in the psychological field as more in the self-help arena. To me it comes mostly down to definition, which is often a good place to start. Translated into psychology I would say that self-love contains self respect, having good self care in place, exercising healthy boundaries, as well as feeling worthy of and going after the raise, starting a family, making room for a hobby (whatever is meaningful to the individual), being the center of attention and such things. These are all components of a balanced life.

The term self-love is interchangeable with all these behaviors, which are building blocks of leading a self designed, conscious life, living with a purpose, being an integrated member of society and dealing with whatever challenges show up in the course of a life time. Self-love is visible as charisma, a sense of calm about oneself, a glow in the eyes, a curious presence when interacting with others.

Then there is another kind of self-love - the one that is excluding and stifling anything else in life: the narcissistic love, of which the definition is "love of itself". It means the complete admiration of one self and blindness to any other aspects of life, like empathy, kindness, graciousness, or even self-reflection. It is often what is talked about and studied in psychology. It does not serve the afflicted or his/her environment. It is not allowing development as a person or living up to a higher moral goal in life. I think this is the kind, for example, Dr. Laura Schlessinger talks about, when she states in her outspoken ways that she never gets up in the morning and says to her reflection in the mirror "I love myself!", that this is counterproductive to being a caring and contributing member of society. It is more self-respect that she strives for and suggests to her callers on her radio program to do as well. To me, self-respect can be interchangeable with self-love.

For many people, who grew up being taught to perform, to not boast, to not take themselves too seriously, to not stick out in the crowd, to be giving selflessly, self-love is an important process of self-discovery. Being gentle with oneself and getting to know ones likes and dislikes, strengths and hopes can lead to a life that is very strong and fulfilling, and contributes much more to a society than self-loathing.

To sum it up, I want everyone to make sure they are conscious of their own definition when talking about terms like self-love, and also make sure to understand the definition of others. Also, please find the kindness of self-love inside and cherish it, making it grow into a healthy self and sharing the goodness of what comes from it.

Happy Valentine´s Day!!

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