Let's Take Ourselves Where Self-Love Begins

Updated: Jun 17

Sometimes I wonder how people define the true meaning of love. The surety with which people can say what they are feeling is love has always left me befuddled.

If I were to answer what love to me is I would only be able to offer a strange sensation in my chest that I cannot fully explain. Despite that our entire journey of life begins with being cradled in our mother's lap to our eventual departure leaving behind only memories of loving and being loved, every phase of this journey revolves around love, yet we somehow fail to articulate the feeling and the concept of love.

You may have come across poetic versions of obsessive love, the romantic kind from movies or philosophical definitions of love, but I believe love is something unique to everyone. A lesson we all get to learn since our childhood is to have feelings of love and affection only for others. This is something we often interpret as our expression of love for others. We are accustomed to showing empathy, love, and affection towards our family, our friends and even celebrities that we do not personally know.

When we fall in love with someone, it makes us vulnerable to do whatever it takes to get them to reciprocate, acknowledge and celebrate.

The virtue of being appreciated or acknowledged for our feelings serves as validation and feels like success. It makes us feel worthy of affection, that we matter or have some reason of being.

The point is whether that love is enough for self-growth? What if people don't reciprocate the same amount of love as we have for them? What if after giving in all the love you have, fulfilling their desires, and making the required sacrifices, you still end up hurt, frustrated, alone, and tetherless? To love someone does not make them responsible for making us feel valuable or even loveable.

Somehow, we all have been through the phase where we regret prioritizing people who give us nothing but agony. When I was writing on self-love, I had mixed emotions as this is something I’ve personally experienced and have been struggling with. I was the one among all who got bullied for being an odd child and ill-treated mentally and emotionally by my loved ones just because I wasn’t the model of expected behaviour and yet I strived to be their prejudiced version of what I should be rather than who I was.

Growing up, I began to ignore my virtues, thoughts, and personal choices to make people happy. I had started calling myself a failure for not meeting their expectations but then I realized that being so hard on myself didn't make sense or as Dr Suess puts it “Do what you want to do, say what you want to say, because those who matter don’t mind, and those who do mind don’t matter.”

People in our society believe in their perceptions rather than the truth so there was no point in making myself miserable simply to please others.

This became my eureka moment, the turning point of my life, to start my journey towards self-love and give respect to myself because I am worthy of it just like others. One thing about self-love is the unconditional and unapologetic self-acceptance of who you are and not being ashamed of how others perceive it. This makes you accept yourself, flaws and all.

I will not dismiss this divine perspective of selflessness and altruism for those who are important, but is loving others alone enough for yourself? It's great to become a source of happiness for others, but what about one's happiness? Who will take care of that? Isn't it quite irrational to think of giving something to others which we don't possess for ourselves? To love others, don't we need to love ourselves first? Don't you feel that our love for ourselves fades away in compliance with this moral duty of loving others? Our obsession with the idea of loving others makes us forget that we need to love ourselves too.

Whether we admit it or not, oftentimes we unintentionally make others our sole source of happiness and love and this codependency often puts us at the mercy of others. It gives them the power to manipulate us emotionally, physically, and mentally which is not only toxic to us but to them as well. Our apologetic and people-pleasing attitude has eventually made this an awkward thing to prioritize ourselves.

Unfortunately, we consider self-love taboo and always malign it with the false idea of being selfish. Although self-love and selfishness are two completely different terms with different meanings, we have witnessed self-love being the flipside of the coin with narcissism, ego, and arrogance. This is what seems to be a problematic view of self-love portrayed by society. The non-existence of self-love eventually deprives our lives of satisfaction and inner peace.

People do not like this concept because loving oneself would prevent you from loving others, but that's not true. When we talk about self-love, it's neither about claiming oneself as perfect nor seeing others as inferior. Let’s suppose if you looked at yourself in the mirror and sensed a kind of affection towards yourself, does it sound selfish to you? Does loving yourself keeps you from sharing your love with others coming your way?

Arrogance or selfishness always comes as only caring about oneself regardless of its consequences to others. While on the other hand, self-love is the unspoken feeling of peace within yourself, resonating positivity and love for others too. Self-love means to realize your worth on your own and live a life at your fullest potential. Self-love means being happy for yourself and repossess that cup of love you once dropped only for others.

People often believe that love is bound to occur spontaneously without any effort or intention. Love is something destined to be for all of us but does it makes us capable of recognizing love at the right moment? Certainly not. It is because not everybody grows surrounded by love, which makes them incapable of realizing or sharing what love is. This is why loving yourself will make you understand and experience the love of people who came across your path. Once you learn how to love yourself, it lets you express love for the people you care about most. Self-love allows one to bring out the most positive energy of ourselves, therefore enhancing our inner strength, bravery, optimism, and determination.

For someone, self-love could be buying an expensive fancy dress, or a vacation trip all alone. For others, it could be lying down on their bed reading a book, listening to music, or nothing but a sound, peaceful sleep. Self-love is to wake up early in the morning after a heavy, sorrowful night, looking in the mirror, and reminding yourself, "I am not going to let one horrible day overshadow my high spirit. I will continue to show love and empathy towards myself. I am enough for myself."

Self-love is that ambience of courage and serenity by which others get inspired. Self-love is to be appreciative or optimistic towards everything that comes your way, no matter how small and irrelevant it seems to others. Self-love is about letting others know your ability to create happiness on your own without expecting others to appreciate this.

Self-love gives you the freedom to do every crazy thing you resisted before, just because of the fear of being judged or criticized. It’s that endless session of laughter after every silly conversation you had with your friends and family. It lets you create a healthy boundary, not to offend people but to honour yourself, your intuitions, growth, and healing. It reminds you of that charm you lost by falling into the darkness of sorrows. You can change the way people treat you just by changing the way you treat yourself, and that you can only achieve through self-love.

To whoever reading this, unless no one told you, I am here to tell you that you are enough for yourself; you always have been and you are already what you have been longing and searching for. You carry within yourself the love you have never received from others. So, if someone dislikes your idea of loving yourself, take a deep breath and remember this mantra:

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Aatqa Ali is an in-house writer at Perspective.

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