the self-love stigma (and why it's wrong)
It wasn’t until I started being open and honest about my own journey that I realized just how misconstrued the term “self-love” is. At first, I was really thrown off by some of the reactions I encountered, to the point where I even started to second guess myself and my decisions.
But eventually, I learned to stop taking offense. I came to the conclusion that any benighted response I faced was just a lack of understanding on the person’s part, and I have since done my best to educate, whenever necessary, on the true motivations behind a self-love journey.
To this day, I get a lot of comments like “What does that even mean?” and “I don’t really get what you’re trying to do here” and “Are you just tired of dating or something?” (Um, yeah, but that’s not the point).
My personal favorite though, and the one that I’m faced with most, is the one that I believe is the absolute culmination of all ignorant thoughts and attitudes towards the self-love movement: “Isn’t that the world’s problem, that people love themselves too much and others too little? It just seems really selfish to me.”
Now, because I have personally grown a lot on this journey, it’s much easier today than it was in the beginning to control the intense eruption of emotions that I would feel at this accusation. The accusation that I am, and that anyone else who pursues self-love is, in fact selfish for taking the time to heal.
All of the things that I would want to say in reply to this notion, some less eloquent and less gracious than others, can be sum up simply by saying: False. So false.
This infuriating stigma stems from those who confuse, quite inaccurately, selfish love with self-love. And let me be clear, the two are completely, totally, indubitably different.
Selfish love comes from the need to take from others. It says “What I have isn’t enough, so I need to take from you in order to fill this need in me.” A lack of self-love is in actuality the very thing that births, breeds, and encourages selfish behaviors.
When you are completely content with yourself and fully appreciate who you are, you don’t feel a need to take from others because you no longer have a void to fill. Instead, you can say confidently and honestly “I am full. I am complete. I have no desire to take from you because I have all that I need. Instead, here, let me give.”
But, in order for anything to be given, there must first be a source from which to give. Love is no different.
In order to love (truly love in an unselfish and unconditional way), there needs to be a wealth of love on the inside that you have and feel constantly and can reach in at any time to share. The problem occurs when there is a lack of self-love and self-worth. You reach in but there’s nothing there. There is no source of love, so there is nothing to give.
That is why there is such an overwhelming amount of selfishness in the world. Instead of having a wealth of love in the depth of us, and being able to share that love, we have only an emptiness that we try desperately to fill.
We start reaching and searching for who and what we can take from in order to feel complete. Then, even after taking, we still don’t feel whole. The void is still there because the only thing that can fill it is a love that stems from the inside and then grows outward, not the shallow love that we try to take from the outside and shove inward to keep for ourselves.
So, is an individual on a self-love journey in fact selfish? Maybe. The answer depends on where they are at on their journey. The truth is, if they are just starting out on the journey, they probably are selfish. But that’s only because they haven’t yet learned to truly love themselves and therefore have no way of loving others.
That’s the point: the self-love journey derives from the recognition that in order to love anything or anyone, you must first learn to love yourself.
That they are starting out on the journey at all means they acknowledge the fact that there’s something wrong with their current behaviors and they are trying to change. They see that they are not only hurting themselves but possibly and probably others, and they are trying to change. They recognize that selfishness comes from a deep need for love and they are on this journey to learn to develop that love.
They desire more for their lives: to be more, grow more, love more.
We should be encouraging their journey, not giving them one more reason to doubt themselves. Because honestly, if someone you know is starting out on their own journey, it means that soon they are going to be able to love so much better and so much truer.
And the world needs more people like that: people who have enough love on the inside that they can stop taking and start giving and spreading unconditional love to others.
So please, please let’s stop discouraging those who want to heal. Let’s stop discouraging those who actually want to stop being selfish and want to learn to give.
Let’s stop discouraging love.