Peeking behind the veil of #self-love
Social media has been overloaded by various entities promoting self- love with following calls to action: Accept who you are. Embrace your body. Let everyone see that beautiful person you are hiding inside.
Positive self- image has become a standard part of campaigns for different kinds of fashion and beauty brands. But is self-love interpreted in the proper way? And what is considered the proper and correct way? How we are sure that the message is not twisted by self-proclaimed advocates of self-love in order to follow their specific marketing goals?
Personally, I could not get rid of a strong feeling that the self- love trend was feeding on wounds of millennials and Gen Z’ers; the wounds created by doubts and insecurities with which these generations have been struggling for so long.
I admit that the term of self- love evocated a bit of narcissistic flavor to my mind and carried uneasiness on how to interpret the expression. Above all, I still remembered clearly how Lizzie Bennet accused Mr. Darcy of enjoying himself too much in vanity. So I asked myself, “when is self-love already too much?”
Maybe the issue which bothered me the most about self-love laid purely in its semantics. Nevertheless, I decided to read about it. As it has shown, there are quite some philosophers, theologists, psychologists and psychoanalysts who devoted part of their work investigating love and its varieties. Love has had various meanings in different contexts. The word “love” was misused and altered throughout the centuries and this division might have caused that for some people the love has shrunk into nothing else than a cliche of romance.
There are two thinkers whose interpretations of self-love I have considered as relevant.
1. Erich Fromm — The Art of Loving (1956)
Psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm wrote in his book The Art of Loving:
“Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.”
The love in this sense does not come as some abstract and passive feeling, but rather as an act of responsibility from each of us. Moreover, it also indicates that we are not just observers in the game of love, but our active participation is expected and required. Fromm claimed that people are in constant pursuit of being loved or being lovable and to fulfill this desire they follow some simple and predictable behavioral paths:
A) Men understand that in order to be loved they need to become as successful, powerful and rich as much as possible following social and position boundaries.
B) Women use their appearance and attractiveness to secure love.
C) The last path, commonly used by both men and women, is focused on the development of pleasant manners, interesting conversations and the ability to be helpful, modest and inoffensive.
Fromm concluded that society asks individuals to be popular and having sex appeal in order to be loveable by other people. But it is a blind way.
On the contrary, love in his opinion is an art and skill at the same time. Fromm emphasized that the ability to love is based on character development. Only individual, who has overcome dependency, narcissistic omnipotence, the wish to exploit others or to hoard, and has started to believe in his/her human powers in the process of fulfilling his/her goals, is able to love and receive love. The most important to comprehend in Fromm’s concept is that “love” consists of four core elements:
CARE, RESPONSIBILITY, RESPECT, and KNOWLEDGE.
As he stated in his book: “To respect a person is not possible without knowing him; care and responsibility would be blind if they were not guided by knowledge. Knowledge would be empty if it were not motivated by concern.”
He also expressed his view on the self-dislike which can be veiled in different ways. As he observed the most repetitive indirect expressions of self-dislike are inferiority feelings. On the conscious level, these people do not feel that they do not like themselves, but what they actually feel is that they are stupid, unattractive or inferior to others depending on the specific content of the inferiority complex for a particular person. More subtle (but still toxic) form of self-dislike is the inclination to self-criticism which grows into huge dimensions when these people are not perfect according to their own standards or standards of people around whose affection and approval they strive for.
2. Jordan Peterson — 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018)
Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson dislikes the concept of self-love and criticizes the current focus on self-esteem. He claims that it is not a useful habit to say to young people (or anyone in that matter) to feel good about themselves and feel good who they are now. As Peterson said during one of his lectures:
“…it is crucial to treat yourselves as you are valuable, but you should feel good about who you could be and understand how much potential there is within you to set that straight and then you should do everything you can to manifest that in the world and it will set it straight.”
In this approach, achieving self-esteem is not about being confident but rather being active in the process of recognizing what can be improved, figuring out how it can be improved, making those improvements and repeating the process which will eventually lead to creating a set of skills.
Peterson stressed out that discipline and intent are some of the principles on which we should build our behavior in terms of building our self-esteem. He explained this approach by using the traditional hero story:
“…go out there, find the dragon, confront it. It is a dragon, it might eat you, it is dangerous, but it is worse to cower at home and wait for it to come and devour you. So go out, confront it, get the gold, share it with the community…”
What both thinkers have common is their understanding of self-love is that passivity and pure acceptance of yourself are not enough. There must be expressed the second part of the premise which is an active approach- you need to understand from where this unlovable narrative comes from and how can it be improved. Self-love is not just about accepting who you are, but most importantly it is about hard work on yourself and striving to your highest potential without envying and comparing to others.
Getting familiar with their work has helped me to overcome the negative association which I held against the term of self-love. Their visions have clarified and purified self-love from the simple acceptance of something unchangeable and static to the diligent and dynamic motion of actions where each of us is a leading hero striving to get gold, half of the kingdom and the princess as the bride.👸🤴We can not hide behind the acceptance who we are as a justification of our actions which are sabotaging ourselves.🏋️ It does not matter what are the triggers which make us self-dislike ourselves.
No more excuses to neglect our self-love. If self-love means that we need to develop ourselves then we should do that.🐱👤
Take responsibility and by steps build your self-love through the actions.