Why self-love is overrated
Dionne Lew

Great piece. The part that reverberated with me the most was the part about emotion not being a zero sum game.

It’s too easy to simply label things or people with words that mark positions on arbitrary scales. People think that if you don’t like something, you must automatically dislike it. However, the way I see it, the opposite of liking something is to not like it -- to have no attraction to it. Any emotion or opinion placed on a scale where the other end is a different emotion is wrongly assumed to be mutually-exclusive with the other emotion.

It might be because we’ve given up on accepting the complexity of our fellow humans. We want labels to abstractify our conceptions of others, to reduce the mental load taken up by these people.

In the same way, we are encouraged by the cult of self-love that we must love ourselves without doubt, because it is simpler for us to perform it, and also easier for self-professed gurus to preach. After all, it is frankly quite impossible to appeal and offer self-help to an audience of thousands if you were to tailor your message according to each person’s circumstances.

I went to see a therapist a few days ago. It was my first time to do so, but even so I realized a critical difference between psychotherapists and many self-help authors: the therapist doesn’t ask you to love yourself. Many a vocal self-help advocate will preach that the way to be happy is to love yourself. On the other hand, a psychotherapist aims to make you realize that your maladies aren’t you, and you don’t have to hate yourself for being flawed. That’s the key argument there: There’s no need to hate yourself for some phenomena in your psyche that are not completely under your control.

He didn’t tell me that the goal was for one to love oneself. Instead, the goal was to stop hating oneself, by separating personality from the things that ail the mind.

Self-love evangelists ask you to accept your flaws, and shellack them with a new behavior, a pink lacquer to coat what ails you. You feel better, but don’t necessarily get better. Those emotions that you painted over are still there, but now they are simplified and abstractified into a lump of "things about me that I must accept". It’s easier that way, because there’s less to do, but it doesn’t tame the beasts.

Anyway, once again, great article, and I hope more people will read it and open their eyes.