The concept of self-love was alien to me for many years because I believed that the only way to be happy is to get love and acceptance from others, and for that, you have to prove yourself to be worthy. The whole concept of self-love sounded selfish or narcissistic. But that’s an incorrect assumption.
But here’s the thing. No matter what I did, nothing was ever enough. Every time I did achieve something, the bar was raised higher. It was so depressing because nothing ever was good enough for the people I was trying to please.
Now generally, under such circumstances, the first impulse is to rebel. And so I did. I expressed my pain and displeasure for always being put on a pedestal. I resisted every change and rejected everything that was expected of me.
I thought that my rebellion would change people’s perspectives, and they would understand the emotions I was going through.
But nothing of that sort happened, and I ended up as an emotional wreck who was in a deep financial mess. It might be surprising, but my ego was through the roof at this point.
Before awakening, I had only known conditional or dualistic love, which was given to me only when I fulfilled the expectations of the people around me. Whenever I refused or rebelled, I was made to feel guilt and shame.
Even as a fully grown man, I had no idea about self-love. I used to spend my whole time pleasing others and catering to their demands. Subconsciously, I feared going against the norm.
And because I did not love myself, nobody else loved me. My whole concept of love was flawed and was based on unhealthy attachment styles.
I was always operating in a dense vibrational state, and I was readily attracting other people with similar vibrations. Some of them were highly self-absorbed.
I struggled with my finances, friendships, and even relationships. I feared being rejected and exposed as a fake. In reality, I was fake in my dealings with others.
We think that we are smart and can get away fooling others, but that is not true. People are smart, and they can see right through us.
My dire plight continued for a while until the awakening happened. I realized that I was too much focused on transforming myself for the sake of the outer world, whereas the key to real happiness lies in exploring the inner world. The outer world was just a facade.
My efforts failed because I focused more on changing things that were beyond my control. Our ego creates a false belief that hiding our real emotions will keep us secure. It attaches to ideas, concepts, and beliefs, and wants to change things accordingly. It is called ego’s doership.
That’s why we keep suppressing our feelings and emotions and put up a facade, a falsely brave front, thinking it will keep us safe. We powerfully project our grandiosity to hide that scared inner child within us.
The inner child within me was always crying for help, and I was constantly ignoring the call. That’s when a great realization hit me. Why do I expect love from others when I don’t even know how to love myself?
Did everything get sorted out after my awakening? No. Those unconscious emotions were still around. People were still overbearing with their expectations. I was in a financial mess. But I didn’t allow my emotions to pull me down.
The whole idea of mindfulness is to “see” what’s going on within without distortion – filters of judgment and prejudice. What pure seeing or watchfulness or witnessing happens, the acceptance comes about and ego becomes weak. Witnessing exposes even the most coverted antics of ego to survive and expand.
Awakening showed me the impermanence of this world, a concept that is widely known and discussed in Buddhism. For most people, spiritual awakening is painful as the ego realizing it is not in control dissolves. It showed me that whatever I so desperately desired was temporary – the appeal of which only existed in my imagination. It has nothing to do with reality.
As the ego dissolves, one’s involvement in the daily life drama reduces significantly. A desirelessness or dispassion of some sort takes place.
A great revelation happens that the individual is not the doer of actions and that all actions happen through the psychophysical organism according to the cosmic law or God’s will. The ego fully exposed gives up and surrender takes place.
I decided to take the following steps to sort my life:
- Let go of my liabilities.
- Fulfill my obligations (especially the ones related to finances), and
- Let go of unpleasant people from my life.
I started meditating, reading books, a few interesting blogs, spending time in nature, spending quality time with family and friends, and the most important of all – I worked on what I liked doing without forcing myself.
A friend who worked with a huge multinational corporation told me that he loved playing musical instruments, especially the piano. But he was scared to leave his well-paying job. The big question was, how would he be able to pay for his bills and mortgages if he pursued his passion.
All these IFs and BUTs arise from fears. It’s the fear that stops us from pursuing our passion and converting it into a sustainable business idea.
The majority of us are so scared that we don’t even make an effort. Sticking to conventional beliefs gives a false sense of security. We slave away our life for that weekly paycheck.
A fat paycheck will quickly satisfy your ego but not your soul. It’s a trap laid out by your conditioned mind, and you alone will have to find the solution.
But Isn’t Loving Yourself is Selfish? Isn’t It Narcissistic?
A lot of people out there believe that thinking about oneself is selfish or narcissistic. But I believe that is not true.
The reason why we think like that is mainly because of our social conditioning. We come across a lot of stories about love, compassion, and sacrifice, and we begin to feel selfish when it comes to self-love.
When we read religious scriptures like the Bible, we learn about the sacrifices Jesus made to serve humanity.
Even Buddha, who was born in the world of wealth and comforts, renounced everything to pursue supreme knowledge and self-realization. But does that mean Jesus and Buddha did not work on themselves? No, they did.
How would it have been possible for them to love their followers if they didn’t love themselves?
In the modern era, we are witnessing a surge in selfish individuals who are self-destructive and make life difficult for others. The reason is that from childhood, they only experience conditional love. As children, their emotions are met with denial and rejection.
Since these children never received true unconditional love from their caretakers, they never learned to love themselves.
On the contrary, they were brainwashed into thinking that the very idea of loving oneself is selfish, and also the idea of putting one’s own needs above others.
They find themselves on the other end of the spectrum, i.e., hate, which results from the accumulation of fears, like the fear of not being good enough, fear of being abandoned, fear of being ridiculed and humiliated for expressing genuine emotions, so forth.
We are told stories of how our ancestors worked so hard and sacrificed their whole life for the sake of future generations. And that is absolutely correct, but that does not mean that they did not take care of themselves.
It does not mean that they did not have to work on their well-being. It’s just that the nature of the challenges during those times was different from what they are now. But the struggle was always there.
Therefore, self-love and self-care are fundamental, and anyone who fails to understand this concept will struggle with almost all aspects of life like finances, career, interpersonal relationships, etc.
A classic example is when you board a flight. The very first thing that you are told is that there’s an oxygen mask above your head, and in case of emergency conditions, you should apply the mask to yourself first before helping out others seated beside you – even if it’s your child.
In theory, this sounds very selfish. But if you logically analyze it – it makes perfect sense. Just imagine a situation where you are traveling with a small child, and the turbulence begins.
The oxygen mask drops above your head, and you immediately start worrying about your child. Out of the fear of your child’s safety, you decide to put the mask first on the child. But you pass out before you can do so.
Both you and your child are without a mask, and your fear has endangered both of your lives.
Whenever you are in a situation where you feel that you are losing your own peace of mind in a bit to do for others, You need to take a pause and reassess your priorities.
I’m not saying that it’s bad to think about others. In fact, helping others is our second nature. Doing good for others is normal, but it should not come at the cost of your own well-being.
You need to set your life in order first before you start thinking about others. Suppose you start helping others without thinking about yourself. In that case, you might end up in a relationship with a codependent, which will eventually turn out to be a disaster for both of you.
In such a case, the person you are in a relationship with is likely to take advantage of your giving nature. They have uncovered a weakness (according to them), and that is a fear that they will abandon you if you don’t give in to their demands.
When someone asks you for a favor, see if you can comply with their demand without exhausting yourself. If you feel that the other person is being unreasonable, say no without giving any justification.
Therefore, if you want to help someone and make a difference, you should learn to help yourself first.
Ensure that you devote at least one hour each day to yourself. Spend time doing activities that empower you and accelerate your growth.
Build firm boundaries with people and do not allow them to disturb you during your self-care time. That is your sacred time, and people should understand its value.
The reason why self-love is not selfish is that it allows you to:
- Create a positive attitude towards yourself and other people around you.
- To be more self-aware and set up healthy boundaries with people.
- Open your heart and get in touch with your feelings and emotions.
- Get rid of the fears and pursue your passions.
- Be yourself with confidence and grace.
Unfortunately, there’re a lot of folks out there who confuse narcissism with self-love.
They try to feed their ego by doing the following:
- Buying expensive stuff.
- Seeking admiration for unworthy achievements.
- Seeking validations for unknown people, or people they hardly know.
- Obsess over likes and comments on social media platforms.
- Put up highly edited images of their self-care routine on Instagram.
- And much more.
Self-love enables you to accept yourself the way you are. You’re not concerned about pleasing or seeking validation from others to be happy.
Our relationship with others is determined by how we think about ourselves. If we are nasty towards ourselves – full of self-doubt and criticism, that will eventually start reflecting in our interactions.
According to research, women are more dispositioned to self-doubt and self-criticism as compared to men.
Self-criticism leads to rumination, where the mind keeps obsessing over negative thoughts. This inability to slow down the mind causes stress, restlessness, irritation, insomnia, and anxiety.
Therefore, inner work is essential to reach that place of restful calm where you can let go of the obsessive thoughts and the negative chatter of the mind.
Once you learn to do that, self-love and compassion come naturally. The self-awareness grows to such an extent that you start experiencing unconditional bliss.