The oversight of loving is that it often leaves out the most important person in a relationship, the self.
It took me awhile to really get the meaning of ‘self affection’. For a long time I believed that loving self simply translated into doing something special occasionally, like getting pampered with a massage or going out with friends and simply taking time out to be on your own. However it is not as simple as this. It may start here but if you allow yourself to move to the next level, when you figure out why you should come first; that’s where you begin.
Existential psychologist Irwin Yalom, in his latest book, ‘Becoming Myself: A memoir of a psychiatrist’, speaks about his own journey of introspection and empathy. It is the journey one needs to travel to find that space within your core, where you feel comfortable and at peace with who you are. And it is from this space that you reach out and connect.
Many years and life lessons later, I am just beginning to appreciate the true meaning of these words.
We write our own destiny and create our own memories. We live in our own story. In the midst of our narrative we have to figure out how our character will enfold. Our story can make us both, heroes or villains, victims or predators, lovers or haters, brave or weak. At every moment of time, we can choose to be what we desire.
Experience could become our greatest teacher, if we allow it. Yet more often than not, we repeat the same mistakes over and over again, till one day we are forced to connect the dots. Otherwise we die with our mistakes, never to have learned. A life lesson wasted!
As a psychologist I understand that we cannot undermine psychosocial influences that shape people’s lives. We all have a past. But it’s also important to know that we also own the present and the possibility of a future. We can write for us ‘the story’ or keep hoping for someone else’s story.
To decide the script for your life you need to stop and have a rethink. You need a paradigm shift – a shift where you become the centre of your own attention and affection.
Having a loving relationship with self translates to understanding the basic fundamentals of life; the most important of which states that you and only you alone are responsible for your wellbeing. And in this lifetime, if you want to live your truest, possible self, then you need to commit to this responsibility.
It is a rewarding experience to say the least. The act itself has psychological and physical benefits. At this level of freedom you begin to enjoy life and cultivate meaningful relationships with family, friends and all others.
Keeping self over others can be a challenging task especially to those who are conditioned to believe that being selfish is immoral and sharing is just ‘The Virtue’.
Self-love is not about being selfish. It is about honouring your own feelings, and taking care of your own self in the same way that you would take care of someone you love.
How does one know when one falls in the category of not loving oneself?
Well if you are the person who is very quick at criticising yourself, being harsh on yourself, just about always wondering what other people may think or want. If you are the kind of person who is not looking after your health physically, mentally and emotionally,
instead keeping the needs of your family and friends over your own, because you think you are not as important as the situation or your responsibility, or if you notice that you are the one putting all the efforts to make a relationship work then you definitely need some self-love. This is where you begin.
All you need to do is give yourself permission to say you are special. Special enough that you owe yourself love, kindness, respect, praise, laughter, good health, rest and all the other things you try hard to give your loved ones.
Remember you need to have your own cup full before it runneth over.
(The writer is a Clinical psychologist and a lecturer at the Carmel College for Women)