My exploration into the origins and the manifestation of "self-love" in modern society as only just begun. After a conversation that I had recently, I felt compelled to at least start a necessary discussion that I call, the "self-love epidemic".
I argue that the lack of a deeper scientific and philosophical exploration of "self-love" suggests that this modern phenomenon has been made casual by popular culture to promote the industry of health and wellness. Sectors in this industry include personal hygiene, food/drink, fitness, beauty, clothing/accessories, and many other forms of consumption, which foster an overarching attitude declaring that self-love comes first.
I'm browsing clothes online that I definitely don't need and can't afford. But whatever, everyone has that imaginary cart or wish list. Before I can close the tab and get back to a more pressing task, an overconfident voice in my head says "hey, you've been doing really well this quarter! Plus, your tax refund is already sitting in your back account. You should (be like Donna) and treat yo'self!
It's pretty easy to tempt myself with...well, me. And oh look, the website already has my credit card saved...two clicks later and I've got a new outfit on the way. Do I feel guilty for indulging or do I feel satisfied in acknowledging what I earned?
Self-love has been tagged to correct behaviors that might otherwise be viewed as gluttonous, lazy, disrespectful, or egotistical. If the U.S. wasn't individualized enough already, self-love pushes us to be accountable for our actions and stand behind them, no matter what. The mass media tells us to love oneself and foster our own ego before being at the will of someone else’s well-being. As long has we #selflove to a photo of a pizza and beer feast, it's better received.
Self-love as a direct route to happiness
I argue that there exists a stigma that says if one expresses self-love through eating healthily, maintaining a certain physical appearance, and participating in certain entertaining events/hobbies, then this person inevitably has peace of mind and have achieved self-acceptance.
It reminds me of an episode by the Liberated Body podcast with guest Matthew Remski, which offers an insightful approach on the industry of yoga in the western world. In this enlightening discussion, Remski attempts to debug the complicated and stereotypical links between asana capabilities, mental stability, and internal peace. In plain terms, being able to jump into scorpion handstand and do 200 vinyasas without breaking a sweat doesn't mean anything except developing an ability to jump into scorpion handstand and do 200 vinyasas in a row. You just never know.
Self Love, Not defined
Alright, Google - let's get to the bottom of this phenomenon. Google search “self-love” and at the top of the page is a definition:
self-love: noun; regard for one's own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic).
This definition supports my argument that self-love is about regard and personal well-being before others. However, it isn't that helpful in furthering my understanding of the origin of self-love and how to actually do it, achieve it, and experience it.
Google image search "self-love" and you get something like this:
So we see lots of hearts, the word love, yourself, and some other fluff. Cool. Next!
Searching websites on Google, the first result is an article published on Psychology Today in 2012 titled, “A Seven Step Prescription for Self-Love”, by Deborah Khoshaba, a PsyD. Read it, then read on.
Note that I am not directly criticizing Khoshaba but using her article as an example of a plethora of "scientific" resources out on the web. I respect that Khoshaba classifies self-love as a state born out of certain actions. However, she then gives readers a "prescription", or a list of defined steps to reach this state, which seems counterintuitive to the dynamism of self-love that she so clearly communicates. Since when do we have a cure-all for anything these days?
pre·scrip·tion: noun; an instruction written by a medical practitioner that authorizes a patient to be provided a medicine or treatment.
example: "he scribbled a prescription for tranquilizers"
The problem is that we are complicated and unique beings, shaped by biological, environmental, and social factors from the moment of conception until this very moment. And yet, Khoshaba scribbled a prescription for self-love, using authoritative instructions that might as well have been medical jargon about biological pathways. I wouldn't have known the difference because within the seven steps were loose terms like mindful, behavior patterns, happiness, humanness, and purpose. Woah - those are some loaded terms, dude!
First, it is imperative that I define “self” and “love” as two separate entities before exploring the concept of self-love. I would encourage readers who chooses to also explore and assign their own meanings to self and to love. From this point forward, I am merely exploring the purpose of self-love as a tool in understanding my universe and how it plays a role in modern society. This is not a prescription for how I think everyone should regard self-love but to be used as a means to propel their own reflection and investigation.
There are many disputing arguments for what defines the self having to do with consciousness, the physical body, the mind, the soul, and even energy waves. Some argue that the self is an accumulation of experiences and memories while others argue that we are just our brains that that perceive neurological impulses as experiences. If you really want a mind-fuck read, check out this article by Tim Urban. This is not a discussion I want to get into...so here's my definition:
Self is the conscious alignment of my mind, body, spirit, and soul in the universe that I perceive.
AND LOVE, DEFINED
Although I believe that language is both a tool and a hindrance on quantifying experience, that's another debate for another time. So here is my definition:
Love is an integrative experience of my deep attachment toward someone or something.
Who is to say that one must “love themselves” before loving others; before being able to foster and maintain healthy relationships? Well apparently, everyone.
How can this be when I wouldn't understand the experience of self-love without recognizing love between myself and another person (i.e. the initial attachment to my parents during infancy). As humans, our physical and our emotional well-being depends in part, on our interactions with others. We are social beings that need to experience joy, loss, empathy, and unity. How does one experience wholeness by serving only themselves? The act of merely breathing changes the atmosphere around me, which inevitably affects the person directly next to me. I believe that one that stands alone chooses to be unaccountable for others and for the repercussions of their actions, even when they are in fact very much responsible. One that chooses self and only self makes a vain attempt at being blissfully ignorant in a world where loving others and being loved by others is in the essence of our nature.
self love, defined (by me)
Self-love is a set of behaviors that require conscious engagement and moral alignment of the mind, body, soul, and spirit. When universal acceptance is the ultimate goal of one's existence, living according to higher morals will lead to positive contributions. Self-love is one of the many avenues in which one can make positive contributions.
And on top of all that, self-love takes practice and patience. Self-love is not a set of disjointed acts, like ordering that new outfit, going to a yoga class, or eating organic produce. Self-love takes time and it takes interaction with the world around me.
I practice self love by...
- practicing alignment of my mind, body, soul, and spirit.
- practicing alertness.
- practicing vulnerability.
- attempting to positively contribute to my universe by embracing loss, joy, and love.
More to come...
Follow-up posts will include an investigation into...
- How does my definition of self-love manifests in categories like physical health/professional success/relationships/etc.?
- What role does self-love play in marketing and advertising?
- How does the portrayal of self-love affect individuals who are deemed as "lacking" self-love?
- How does the absence of self-love manifest in modern society?