Self-love is selfish. That’s a very common conception – and I think it’s a misconception.
I was writing about self-love, as I often do, when Word’s spell and grammar control underlined a word: self love.
“Did you mean self-love, synonym with egotism, selfishness and egocentricity?”
SELF-LOVE IS NOT SELFISH!
But before this just turns into angry shouting/hitting my keyboard until it breaks, I’ll try to understand where this misconception comes from.
Self-love is very connected to recovery, whether that’s from an eating disorder, depression, anxiety or other mental health problems. Learning to love yourself is about rediscovering your basic self-worth, regaining confidence. And maybe it’s hard to understand for people who’ve never been that far down, who’ve never hated themselves to that extend. Self-love doesn’t make sense to them.
Because it’s their default setting, they’ve never had to pursue that basic feeling of worth.
But here’s the thing – coming from someone who has been that far down.
It’s not egotistical to prioritise your own well-being and taking care of yourself.
I see people calling self-love narcissism, but in reality, the two are quite different.
Narcissistic people think they are more important than everyone else
Self-lovers (that’s a terrible word) have learned they are important too.
Narcissists don’t understand or respect other people’s feeling, and take advantage of people.
Self-love can mean putting yourself before other’s needs, but sometimes it is necessary to prioritise your time, energy and resources. If you don’t take of your mental and physical health, no one will. That’s the road to burnout.
A phrase I really like to describe this situation of sometimes putting yourself first is:
You can’t pour from and empty cup
Meaning you are more capable of being there for other people when you take care of your own well-being.
Or like the safety-briefing on an airplane: you have to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others.
We have to stop adding the negative connotation of words like selfish to self-love. We need to understand the important of taking care of yourself in terms of your mental health.
The time I have been most egotistical, the time I wasn’t there for any of my friends, family and partner, was when I was the most depressed. I was so consumed by own negative thoughts and messed up mind, I couldn’t see beyond it. Then I felt bad for not engaging with them, which only made me feel worse about myself.
In order to become a loving sister, daughter, partner friend again, I had to show myself compassion. I had to learn to love myself.
The better I feel about myself, the more energy I have to be social and have fun with other people.
If anything, self-love is making me a less egocentric person.
Do you think self-love is selfish?