When the word ‘love’ pops up, it is usually intertwined with affection for the next person. Love for your kin, your spouse, your neighbour … it is hardly associated with self or that it can come from within.
With the rise in mental illness around the globe, the biggest yet challenging word that followed was healing. This healing process however all starts with yet another challenge for many, even those without mental health problems, self-love. Self-love, is a complex topic to discuss yet very crucial.
For the most of us, the journey of love has been an issue of giving or receiving it from the next person. Most often uttered statements such as ‘when you are truly loved you became the best version of yourself that is put together’ or ‘being loved encourages confidence and self- worth,’ give life to such notions. It is perhaps not surprising that the word ‘self-love’ seems to be causing confusion to many minds. Because ‘self-love’ has never been a topic of interest or been seen as important, it becomes difficult to define it.
Tshepo Shoshong, a counsellor and host of ‘That Conversation’ on RB2 describes self-love as a state of appreciating, affirming and holding oneself with high regard. “Self-love is appreciating one self and understanding what you need and making sure you are happy and not depending on the next person as your sauce of happiness.”
“What we normally see is that people prioritise other people’s happiness before their own and in doing so they think they will be more loved, accepted and appreciated,” he explains. Shoshong notes that issues pertaining to self-love need an individual to know who they are and what they want.
He highlights that most of the time, individuals do not know what they want and thus tend to cross identify what they want with what other people want. As an example, many people tend to love something because the next person loves the same thing. In some cases, one would be introduced to something by their partners and it will stick with them. They will appear as if they love that thing just to be accommodative towards them and eventually seem like they love it.
“Another mistake people make regarding self-love is to think that it is about doing big things for oneself. In the world of self-love small things matter more than anything. After a long day, one can purchase a chocolate for themselves and maybe indulge in a hot bubble bath with sea salt for relaxation and not rush through bath time. Once in a while date yourself. Get a body massage alone without other people.” “As much as we work hard, we are always concentrating on the big things. For example, I would want to buy a car, house, get a huge loan, start a business, travel and so forth.
What about if in the mist of all this, the money I use I can spare P20 and take myself out for an ice cream date? Small things matter and they bring pure bliss,” he says. Due to our culture, self-love was never part of grooming for most within their respective homes. Loving one-self has somewhat seemed as a no-no and viewed as arrogance.
“Growing up, we were never been taught to appreciate ourselves or to put ourselves first. It has always been about making sure the next person is happy and well accept oneself. We tend to sacrifice our needs and feelings to make the next person happier and more fulfilled.”
“This has made it difficult for other people to love themselves because they do not know how. Their idea of love first comes from the next person and not them as individuals loving who they are first.” “Self-love is not arrogance. it is about an individual knowing they love who they are and knowing their limitations and exploring their world. When a person has self-love they will not jump from one relationship to the next because they validate themselves and they are not after affirmation from other people. Start to enjoy your company alone and love yourself not only physical attributions but who you are from within,” he says.
Parents, it seems, mostly fall short of this. They tend to ‘stop living but living for their kids.’ They tend to feel bad when they shower themselves with love and are always giving excuses to why they ‘do not have time for themselves.’ For their kids, they go all out. “We take them to private schools because we did not attend private school. We buy them expensive phones and cloths because we did not have them in our time.
But as an individual and a parent you would be using the cheapest phone and this shows we are more concerned about other people than us. We have to love our kids, but we should love ourselves too,” Shoshong explains. When it comes to the journey of self-love, introspection of who one is, is very vital. It is the first and most important step of all. “What makes you happy? Is it big or small? Is it time consuming? Sometimes we give work all our time and fail to spare ourselves at least 15minutes each day.
When you lack self-love, the feeling of emptiness is never far. People will always push you to do things that satisfy them but not you. When you lack self-love, you also lack confidence and a voice to speak out. People should learn to self-introspect,” he advises. The journey of self-love however does not happen overnight. It starts with unlearning all bad traits acquired on the way of one’s life journey.
The next steps include self- acceptance, self- commitment, self- gravitation as the fourth step and lastly self- care. Shoshong says this is a cycle which one needs to be cautions of and one should always try to start from step one once in a while.