When The Outside World Just Isn’t Enough.
By Sumedh Chatterjee
We have all heard the term “self-love” before, and if this was the late 90’s, you’d probably be thinking of something a bit risque in terms of what it meant. We definitely don’t mean it in those terms anymore, and in fact, self-love is becoming something that gets thrown around in the mainstream a heck of a lot.
What exactly is self-love? How do we practice it? What does it achieve? Is it really just something that nouveau hippie, spiritualist types toss around haphazardly, in order to try to make a point or make themselves sound more emotionally advanced than the rest of us? Perhaps, but it really is something that we can all achieve and use to better our immediate environments, ourselves and ultimately, our world. We need to crush that stereotype.
How many times in a day do you catch yourself thinking about how you feel empty, hollow, and like your life is worth so much more than making an already rich man richer?
Maybe you work in a job you thought was going to be ‘ultra cool’when you went to University for it and now that you have to work the daily hustle, it’s turning out to be anything but what you imagined. Maybe you have been sold the thought that imagery is everything and you find your monthly bank balance dwindling while you purchase more and more useless consumerist garbage in order to fill a void that you continue to find less and less filled, despite spending more and more money. I know, I’ve been there. It’s okay. Take a deep breath.
The world today thrives and revolves around the concept that people who feel out of touch with themselves will be likely to buy that flash handbag or cute sports car in a desperate attempt to garner attention. It’s almost as though through the purchase of items and things we are yelling out to the world “Look at me! I matter! You should like me because look at all my cool things!”. Quoting James Franco’s character of what he said in Spring Breakers “Look at all my sh*t!”
What is that really all about? Are we really proud of these “cool things” we possess or are we actually screaming out for someone to notice us, love us and approve of us? It’s a little bit of everything to be completely honest. With the world today we’re so busy working to impress others that we forget to impress ourselves in the process.
“I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war… Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club
That’s essentially the crux of the issue. We’re so busy working for others that we lose ourselves in the coming and going, the to-ing and froing and the ever prominent, pressing insistence that we adhere to some archaic version of life that has been passed down to us by people who have destroyed not just the planet and the environment, but the entire basis on which our lives are supposed to be lived according to them.
It’s no wonder when this is the case that the Millennial generation is the one generation where it seems that depression and mental illness has become a common byproduct of existence. Mental illness is essentially the calling card of the 21st century.
So how do we practice self-love and self-care when all the world seems to conspire against us and force us into a way of living that no longer fits with the way the world is moving? It certainly isn’t easy, especially when we have so many demands on our time. It can get to the point where we even find that hanging out with friends that we used to enjoy hanging out with has become an enormous chore.
The is a huge, seemingly self-imposed taboo surrounding the use of the word “no” in our society. “No” seems to have a negative connotation attached to it, one which we allow power in our lives. We have become so afraid to use the word “No” that it begins to affect us in negative ways. We agree to things we don’t want to do in order to keep our image of being the social butterfly or in order to maintain our relationships or to appear fun so people will like us.
It’s easy to say that the ability to use the word “No” comes easier with age. It does, but that doesn’t help someone struggling with self-love now. Using “No” is the first step we can take in order to start caring for our own wellness and care. No allows us to put ourselves first and to do the things we value and care about instead of putting other people’s opinions of us first. This sounds scary and it can be, but the benefits are huge.
So what happens after we use “No”? That depends on the situation in which you use it! Sometimes nothing happens except you get to stay in for once and watch that film you have been putting off because someone keeps insisting you go out for drinks. Sometimes you miss out on extra money on a paycheck. Sometimes you hurt someone’s feelings or you upset someone. That’s part and parcel of life though – we have to recapture the knowledge that we can’t impress or make everyone happy, and so we need to stop trying.
We need to understand that self-care is equally important, for our mind, body and soul. For our mind we can keep a list of compliments we’ve gotten from people, we can stare at the mirror and repeat “You are my best friend”. For our body, we can laugh, release those happy endorphins, write it on your hand if you have to, look at situations in a way that makes you chuckle. Narrow your food choices to healthy ones and soak up the good sun. Don’t take naps for granted, they are called power naps for a reason. For our soul, we can splurge on a memory that will last, have a “me day” or spend time with fuzzy adorable animals.
When does self-care turn vicious, though? Narcissism is essentially where we think so highly of ourselves that we belittle the existence of others and their opinions. This form of thinking can come from an over-inflated belief of self-importance but can be stopped in its tracks before it gets out of hand. Sometimes we need our egos to get a reminder. Self-love, on the other hand, is simply believing in the fact that we can’t give ourselves to others if we aren’t on top form. Each person is different and if we have friends or family who need our help, we can’t provide this if we’re burnt out from being “on” all the time. Narcissism serves no one except the individual. Self-love is all-encompassing and helps us to be our best selves so that we may adequately serve those around us.
Authenticity is a form of self-love as well. Inauthentic people may lie or agree with the status quo of a group in order to fit in and cause no ruffled feathers with others. A mild example would be when a friend asks if an outfit makes them look fat. Everyone in a group may insist that it doesn’t, but then talk about the fact that it does indeed make them look fat when that friend isn’t around. Inauthenticity can be contagious, especially when we want to make people like us. It also harms us though. We begin to lose ourselves and lose our own opinions, instead opting to go with the general opinions of a group of people instead of ourselves.
Becoming authentic can be a painful, but beneficial process. Ditching herd mentality and deciding to be an individual with our own thoughts and beliefs helps us to understand that we are people too who are worthy of being afforded the same care and respect we give to others. Additionally, we can start to become the best versions of ourselves, which often leads us to healthier thinking patterns and realisations that perhaps the subject we’re pursuing in University or the job we’re working aren’t actually the things we want to do, helping us to make decisions to move on to things that serve our lives in much more healthy, enjoyable and beneficial ways.