“We accept the love we think we deserve.” – Stephen Chobsky (Perks Of Being A Wallflower)
In our day and age where perfection is striven for, people will do anything in their will and power to cover up their flaws and sweep them under the carpet, denying that as long as we are breathing, are living and are human, we will be flawed. We need to understand that having flaws does not make us all criminals, but not accepting our flaws and loving who we are is a crime. This is not to say that one shouldn’t pursue self-growth and improvement, but to simply to be kind to oneself, as we often forget that we are our biggest bullies. We need to learn how to love ourselves not just on the good hair days or the day we delivered well, but on the days we would rather be anyone but ourselves, the days when nothing seems to go the way we planned; self love and accepting isn’t about being blind to one’s flaws, or obsessing over one’s perfection, but truly being comfortable in one’s own skin.
Though this is a mainstream issue, its terminology is still widely misunderstood. The first critique of self-love was made by Cicero, a Roman statesman, philosopher, lawyer and orator, who thought that those who were sui amantes sine rivali (lovers of themselves without rivals) were doomed to end in failure. Ever since, self-love has been synonymous with egotism, conceit, amour-propre, and narcissism. The view towards it slowly shifted in the 20th century, mainly because of German humanistic philosopher, social psychologist , psychoanalyst and sociologist Erich Fromm, who in his renowned book, “The Art Of Loving” re-interpreted self-love in a more positive light, and addressed the very base of the widespread belief that ‘while it is virtuous to love others, it is sinful to love oneself’. He disregards the value judgments of Freud, who asserted that , “self-love is the same as narcissism”. He dismisses the notion that love for others and love for oneself are mutually exclusive, by stating “If it is a virtue to love thy neighbor as a human being, it must be a virtue, and not a vice, to love myself, since I am a human being too.”
Loving oneself has many benefits, but one that is always overlooked is the power and strength it provides to better ourselves every day. Contrary the common belief that self love and appreciation stunt the growth of our being, they provide with the unseen strength of self-esteem, which in turn, helps us get out of toxic situations or relationships. It also helps us acknowledge and remedy the fact that sometimes, we too can be the cause of negativity and toxicity in another’s life. Self-esteem reflects our subjective emotional evaluation of our worth, and our view of ourselves has a great effect on whether or not we love ourselves. Therefore, self-acceptance, self-love and self-esteem, are essential for our overall health and happiness.
“These attributes affect not only our mental and emotional health, but also our physical; health in very real and concrete ways.” – Timothy D. Asher.
Though it sounds easy to find that balance, we often divert to the extremes of either only seeing our flaws, or being completely blind to them. The true art of loving oneself starts with self acceptance, and with continuous conscious efforts and acts of kindness to oneself and others we can eventually feel grateful for ourselves. And it is only with this gratitude, that we can truly love ourselves and others, and achieve our potential.
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