On Loving Yourself

“Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident”- Louis de Berniéres

In recent times, the internet and bookshelves have been bombarded with ideologies on self-positivity and self-love. Many propose that self-love is a crucial factor in propelling individuals into fulfilling lives. While I appreciate the intention of these messages and acknowledge that they can be helpful to some individuals, I do not completely agree with them.

It seems as though these authors assume that the consumers of these messages are without flaws. Unfortunately and realistically, this is not the case. One quote I recently came across said, “you are perfect exactly as you are. With all your flaws and problems, there’s no need to change anything. All you need to change is the thought that you have to change.”

Although I appreciate the sentiment echoed in the quote above, it can be problematic for persons trying to decipher right from wrong in a certain stage of life. It is worse still, for a fellow who is being corrected yet doesn’t see the defects in their character.

Love entails acceptance. Acceptance and then action. I act because I know, accept, and love myself enough to realize that I can be better. I can discipline myself and get rid of my fears. I can stop being an uncarved block, I can move upward and onward, and I can be of outstanding virtue. Love is not dormant. It seeks to improve, to uplift, to make better.

I think there has been a shift in what love is. Books have been written, songs have been sung, and films have been made. Yet in 2012, the phrase “what is love?” was the most searched according to Google. Is it a feeling? An act? Physical contact?

The physicist defines it as chemistry. The psychotherapist says love has many guises. The philosopher calls it a passionate commitment. The romantic novelist believes love drives all great stories. And the nun proclaims that love is free yet binds us.

I believe love is wanting the good of the other, even if said good is not me. Because I love myself, I listen and accept correction where necessary. Because I love myself, I seek improvement. Because I love myself, I nourish all facets of my being. And then I do the same for others.

It impossible to pour from an empty jar. When a person is drained, they cannot serve, listen, or be present. The subject of self-love requires discernment.

Love is a mystery and may always remain so. What I do know is that it does not seek to take for oneself. It is free, given without reserve and any expectation of reciprocation. It is fruitful, it creates, it multiplies, it makes things bloom. It grows strong in dry places. It takes an extraordinary measure of love to treasure something ordinary.

So yes, you should love yourself. But in loving yourself accept that there are things that may require improvement, and then act. Because that is what love does.

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