A Brief Guide to Self-love

Saturdays With Shivani      

Just the other day I was having a conversation with friends about self-love and our need for external validation. Though our talk veered in other directions, as such conversations are wont to, this thought stayed with me. For someone who has struggled with self-love and still do, I think I am the perfect person to talk about it.

What is self-love?

Though the term is self-explanatory, comprehending and imbibing in real life is a daily struggle. I feel it is to allow ourselves to love ourselves unconditionally. We are often conditioned to seek perfection and beat ourselves up when we can’t achieve it. The day we free ourselves from that ridiculous demand, we shall be on our path to redemption.

Why is self-love so difficult?

I have a hypothesis on that. From the day we are born, we are introduced to family and friends. We are instructed to be kind and courteous to them and to love them (may be not in as many words but you get the drift). No one tells us we should be loving ourselves too or rather we should love ourselves the most. We end up judging ourselves the way others see us and carrying that perception of ourselves. Those who are blessed with a loving family are slightly better off but even they have a flawed perspective. Those who grow around critical and unkind adults pay a huge price in terms of their self-esteem and self-worth.

Self-love vs Narcissism

Self-love isn’t same as being selfish or self-obsessed. That doesn’t imply being blind to our faults but to be kind to ourselves when we falter.

Why bother with it?

We owe it to ourselves and to our creators. If we don’t seek it, like unrequited love it’ll become a festering wound that will give us nothing but pain and agony.

How does it help?

Like a detox regime, the day we choose to pursue it we experience the cleansing and the withdrawal symptoms as well. It’s not easy but coming from my experience, it helps us rid of our inhibitions and to live to our fullest potential. Our ability to love others unconditionally increases in direct proportion to the unconditional love we give to ourselves. When we make time for ourselves, strangely enough we stop resenting the time we make for others.

Isn’t it too late for me?

Jab jaago tabhi savera (better late than never). The day we make up our mind to is the best time to do it.

So, get to work and clean up that mirror inside you. It’s a lifetime of grime from the numerous judgements and criticisms that you may have accumulated. I know it’s hard, I struggle myself so I know but you are worth that effort.

I also want to add that those of us who have come to this realisation, ensure that you pass it on to your children or those who look up to you. Teach them to love themselves, to embrace their real selves with unprecedented kindness. Remember Kathryn Stockett’s lines in The Help where the nanny makes the child repeat after her,

You is kind.

You is smart.

You is important.

I was a pre-teen when I had read this line by Eleanor RooseveltNo one can make you feel inferior without your consent, but it took me years to understand it. Now that I have, I am not turning away from the pursuit. I want to echo May West when she says- I don’t like myself, I’m crazy about myself. Don’t you like the way it sounds?

Dr. Shivani Salil

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