Self love: How to define self-love beyond the instant gratification
For all your money’s worth, there’s so much more to loving yourself than indulging in impractical habits.
It’s the end of a long week. You feel extinguished like a candle burned at both ends. So you decide to take a break by plopping down your sofa and turning the TV on. That ought to get you fired up again for another Monday... or at least that’s what they say.
As you yawn through a chick flick, you can’t help but wish that you could just chill. Find solace in your heaping platter of comfort food. Or maybe you’ll just have to dream of a holiday on some faraway island to escape your problems completely.
Yet here you are, sighing in resignation despite your best efforts. Your headache still looms like the deadline you’re trying to forget. You feel absolutely fucked, and not even in a good way.
The internet tells you that self-love is a ritualistic way of treating yourself: cooking something other than your usual instant noodles, splurging on luxurious items, and telling yourself that you are worth so much more. But is this really all that self-love is cut out to be?
Mind over matter
If it’s not about binging on your favorite television shows and comfort food, what does it truly mean to love yourself?
Self-love, for all its worth, is simply our mindfulness of who we are, what we need, and we can improve on. It’s about accepting our faults as we fully embrace our sense of values and integrity.
We familiarize ourselves with our natural rhythm through a gradual, lifelong process. We recognize our limits, but we also see opportunities to push ourselves outside our comfort zone.
Self-love teaches us resilience, nurturing our strengths to eventually become better versions of ourselves.
Self-love certainly isn’t a new, unfamiliar term for many. In fact, it’s probably a word that gets thrown around almost as often as bath bombs. Yet people associate it too much only with binging on comfort food and cutting off the world for a few hours of alone time.
They surely contribute to a better sense of personal well-being up to a certain extent. But these activities can’t be held as the be-all and end-all of self-love.
This attitude turns the quest for self-love into an unhealthy pursuit of perfection. You’re always on the lookout for shiny and new objects. Then what starts as a desire for affection quickly warps into something obsessive.
Do you know that perfection is bad for your health? In fact, it’s just as harmful as smoking or obesity.
You end up measuring yourself against increasingly ridiculous standards. You need more clothes to match the trends for the new season. You must spend more on that new coffee place on the way to work. You want another facial because you have to be more attractive. You have to jog more on that hedonic treadmill for a sexier you.
These ambitions are anchored on an all too familiar mantra: “You deserve it.” While this soundbite isn’t problematic on its own, it’s emerged as a justification for poor band-aid solutions. And not surprisingly, they don’t do much at all to improve your well-being.
Force of habit
You may not know it, but you might be constantly getting wired to develop habits that keep you hooked on instant gratification. Each new purchase conveniently lets you set aside your deeper need for introspection and self-actualization.
But you don’t have to express your appreciation for yourself as a luxury that only those with more income or extra time on their hands can afford.
That’s because the goal of self-love is to extend the same kind of compassion that you usually give to others towards yourself. It’s not to place yourself on a pedestal, making lavish offerings and expecting others to follow suit.
Despite its name, self-love benefits not only you. It can also affect your relationships with your family, friends, workmates, and significant other. What are some of the positive effects of self-love?
- Knowing yourself at a deeper level would allow you to better listen to your body and its needs. You’ll be more intentional about what you eat, how you work, and how much sleep you get.
- Self-love makes you ready and able to create deeper and more lasting relationships. People with a weak sense of self often fear intimacy and sabotage themselves as a result.
- It also helps you regulate emotions better. In a 2018 study, psychologist Tiffany Gomez established that women’s self-esteem is strongly associated with how they are able to evaluate their feelings.
- Cultivating better habits for yourself can increase your sense of meaning in life, which then brings you more happiness and contentment overall.
Treat yourself better
It’s easier said than done going from repeating impractical habits to having a flourishing relationship with yourself. But it’s not an impossible journey. Even little steps when made consistently will bring you to your destination.
Here are three psychological disciplines that can equip you with the right tools into building a healthier relationship with yourself:
We often see self-love as a conditional liking to the person that we are. That’s how we end up constantly pitting ourselves against unrealistic standards. When we do something right, we reward ourselves. When something doesn’t go according to plan, we readily blame ourselves by taking our self-compassion away.
Rather than acknowledging how we feel, we look for reasons— as if we can find an explanation for our sadness in faults that we have to fix to feel better again.
“Self-kindness entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than flagellating ourselves with self-criticism,” Profs. Neff and Germer wrote.
Finding its roots in Buddhism, mindfulness is a practice of letting ourselves become gently aware of whatever thoughts and feelings we are experiencing. We don’t form judgments about them or commit to them. We simply observe and accept that they are there.
Once you’ve picked up the art of self-love, it’s less likely that inconveniences and the emotions that come with them will trip you up.
We can easily go straight to thinking, “I’m stupid and that’s why I didn’t make the deadline,” when we refuse to process the emotion, “I’m tired and burnt out.”
It’s easier to claim temporary emotions, such as, “I feel insecure. I feel lonely. I feel jealous,” instead of self-deprecating thoughts that can leave long-term scars on our self-image and confidence.
All emotions are valid and should be acknowledged, but we need to learn to not equate our emotions with our reactions. It’s alright to feel down from time to time, so long as we don’t let this lead to developing unhealthy behaviors such as self-harm.
Self-esteem is something that many of us struggle with, especially in the digital era where everyone is constantly curating a flawless version of themselves on their profiles. It’s easy to get lost comparing yourself with the idealized images of celebrities, your friends, and even the persona you want to portray online.
The best way that we can get a hold on our self-worth is to base it on what social psychologists call self-concept, a mental image of ourselves that is reasonably realistic.
As paradoxical as it sounds, we become happier with ourselves when we accept our own weaknesses, strengths, and values. We find it easier to live with ourselves when we trust our own sense of identity and integrity, rather than constantly worrying about how others expect us to act.
It can be tempting to shove our shortcomings at the back of the closet. However, they end up accumulating as emotional baggage that holds us back in the long run. When we deny ourselves our own humanity, we end up being in constant conflict with ourselves and our real experiences.
A healthy self-concept doesn’t guarantee that we’d be invincible at the face of problems, but it does provide us with a stable foundation of self-respect to lean on.
Love is something that all human beings need. But first and foremost, the person that should be giving it to you is yourself. A constant companion should be a compassionate companion.
With constant practice, you too can nurture a dynamic and healthy relationship with yourself. And you don’t have to binge on a lot of television shows and comfort food to get there.
At the end of it all, self-love isn’t about treating yourself more— it’s about treating yourself better.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is self-love?
Self-love, for all its worth, is simply our mindfulness of who we are, what we need, and we can improve on. It’s about accepting our faults as we fully embrace our sense of values and integrity. It’s your ability to recognize our limits, while also seeing opportunities to push yourself outside your comfort zone.
Do I have to spend more to love myself more?
Self-love shouldn’t be an unhealthy pursuit of perfection, nor should it make you pit yourself against unrealistic standards. It should be about learning to accept yourself for who you truly are, flaws and all. In the end, self-love isn’t about treating yourself more— it’s about treating yourself better.
How do I know if my self-love needs improvement?
You constantly find yourself going after more things: new clothes, new drinks, new skincare trends, or new fitness memberships. If you tend to run away from your problems instead of facing them, perhaps it’s time for you to gently reevaluate yourself and address your issues.
How do I become more compassionate to myself?
Each time you make a mistake, try not to be too harsh to yourself. Treat yourself as you would any close friend or even a child. Extending this kindness to your own self will encourage you to assess the situation more objectively and work on ways to do better next time.
What can I do to be more mindful of my own thoughts?
Be honest, and check with yourself especially when you’re not in a good mental state. Allow yourself to feel negative emotions, such as sadness or even frustration. It’s alright to feel down from time to time, so long as you don’t let this lead to developing unhealthy behaviors such as self-harm.
What does it truly mean to know your own self?
You have to develop a mental image of yourself that is reasonably realistic. As paradoxical as it sounds, you can only be happier with yourself when you accept your own weaknesses, strengths, and values. You’ll find it easier to live with yourself when you trust your own sense of identity and integrity.
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