Updated: Jul 31, 2020
(If this article is too long, read in Tidbits.)
Love! Love! Love! As much as we keep spreading, donating, and contributing love, this love sees a “The End” when it comes to self-love. First of all, self-love is not narcissistic. It is not even anti societal. It does not stop you from putting somebody’s interest over yours when you have reached that decision rationally. Quoting myself “ Every heart is selfish”, I say that our happiness and our well-being is our topmost priority whether we realize it or not. The feeling of jealousy, insecurity, comparison, anger on oneself is all because we want ourselves to be the best. In the conquest, we forget what is best for us. If you do not like yourself in the mirror, you perhaps will not like yourself even if you wore the best attire in the world. But you will go gaga over that attire which sadly does not even aspire to be admired (unless we are talking about the designer). We don’t like pain. We don’t like dealing with difficult situations. Escape from the feeling of discomfort is all we ever seek whether in the long term or short term. While the urge to improve is fine and justifiable in a way (which I will discuss), demanding from ourselves to the extent that outflows our capacity to provide makes the case toxic. It does not have to be a hurting relationship with oneself, nor does it has to be a love & hate relationship.
“I did worse”
“I could have done better”
“It is alright. I’m glad at least I tried. Next time I will try to perform far better.”
These are 3 different approaches one can take after performing poorly in a test, presentation, task, competition, etc. All 3 approaches are clearly distinct: 1. The person will keep blaming himself/herself for the rest of the day. 2. The person expects more from himself/herself and resents his/her performance. 3. The person looks at the performance as an event out of many events and believes there is scope for improvement, without indulging in self-criticism.
While we are very critical of critical remarks spreading around, we tend to over-pressurize our minds with “Kuch Toh Log Kahengey” worries. Let’s be honest that more than failures, people are scared of failing publically. One thing to remember is people chatter, discuss the latest gossips and forget. Somebody else will always draw on our shortcomings, be it our financial status, height, weight, education, disorder, house, job, appearance, dressing sense, preferences, values, or merely because somebody believes we do not fit in with them. But it was never an objective of our life to fit in with them anyway. When we find the right people, we already fit in. Expecting more from self only to satisfy another person’s expectations of a perfect being will give us a hard time because there are endless number of people, hence an endless number of expectations. Do things not because you are expected to do it, but because you want to do it and it gives back some value to you: materialistic, monetary, or emotional contentment.
(This is my first blog on self-development and a friend suggested that I start this category by talking about self-love. I am glad I took that suggestion.)
Nobody can ever overstate the importance of pursuing self-development with self-love. Working on oneself and the will to inculcate all the admirable qualities within self does not come without realizing our shortcomings. As far as we stand from the ideal version of ourselves, a version that we believe we could have been or we can be, criticism comes inevitably for the present and even younger version of ourselves. Let me be clear though, self criticism is not the way to move forward, acknowledgment is. If we spend 2 or 3 years with a friend, who has his own shortcomings, nevertheless we get comfortable with them to a great extent. We accept them as they are. In that context, say this statement to yourself out loud, “I have spent the most amount of time with myself. I know myself better than anybody else does. I am comfortable with the way I am and I accept myself.”
Fields where we believe we can be better, we will pursue that. The weaknesses that are hindering us, we’ll overcome that. We will grow at our own pace and while we pursue certain things, some other things will still be left behind and when that bothers us we will remind ourselves of our priorities at the moment, while for more important things we will make space. When we make mistakes, we’ll recognize we are human and therefore fallible. However, we will keep trying to be a better version of ourselves.
This is not an anthem. These are only a few things every individual needs to remind themselves time and again.
If we are content with ourselves, then why should we chase development at all? Mahatria (a Spiritual Leader and founder of infinitheism organization) said because we should believe that even though we have more than enough to suffice us, we deserve better and we can achieve that. Suppose you have a Swift DZire which is enough for your family needs and you, yet if you work harder you can earn an Audi or BMW. The idea is the conversion of good into better. This is how you can love yourself and still pursue growth.
What is interesting is the question that how less (not how much) is actually sufficient? If we did not have Swift Dzire (pun intended) but a motorbike instead, life could still go on. If we did not have a motorbike but a bicycle, we could still manage.
Seeking love from the outer world, we need more from ourselves. self-love is a broad concept and requires one to be gentle on oneself, acknowledge, appreciate, and value oneself. Sadly, this is not what we are taught in schools. Lack of self-love generates issues ranging from insecurity, the need for social approval, subservience, comparison, self-critiquing, and more. Lose some love and depression and anxiety issues kicks in almost immediately. It takes a huge toll on the mental health and productivity of people, not to mention the loss of many great ideas or products of labor which could have been produced if time and energy weren’t exhausted in dealing with problems within the minds. I say mind because of the absolute control it has over our actions and thought process.
Escaping Self Criticism:
The tendency to find faults within oneself is not a healthy approach towards anything, let alone development. Here's how to change that judgment based approach: Introspect.
Introspection is a process of self-reflection, learning weaknesses, analyzing them to know how you want it to change, then laying down a blueprint to overcome your weaknesses. While self-criticism focuses more on faults, introspection offers a personalized solution to the problems.
Self-development is a personal initiative, hence an aunt living next door or an acquaintance who is doing extremely well in life should not be a matter of concern. Life doesn't give a scorecard and has no passing/failing marks. At the end of the day, the only person who can analyze your life is you. So work on your goal for yourself more than somebody else.
Escaping Comparison Model:
There is no reference point to know where we stand in life, and if we are doomed then how much doomed we are (-5? -10? Or -50?). There is no possibility to measure our plus and minus points with respect to somebody else. Also, comparison with people around us is a futile attempt to assess anything about ourselves, for there will always be somebody ahead of us and somebody behind us. And that relationship is also quite dynamic if we break it into different segments of well being. To be able to appreciate others without ill-framing our position in comparison gives mental peace. The goal is not to leave somebody behind but to reach an objective we set for ourselves within a timeframe.
Practice Self Appreciation:
If you have started a journey, you have walked certain miles, learn to appreciate that. Chase goals, adapt to surroundings, groom yourself, aspire to leave an impression behind, control anger issues, choose wisely, and celebrate small achievements, correct problems as long as they can be corrected. Do not blame yourself for your problems because a perfect life with no problems is an elusive concept. We have overgrowing development plans and as we try to accomplish them we are growing some or the other way. So pat your own back and praise yourself as readily as you would praise your loved ones.
The more you give yourself the less you will need from the world.