Most people might be too familiar with the cliche and often-time overused phrase of “before you assist others, always put your oxygen mask on first.” This by all means is not overused on an airplane, but most definitely is when talking about self-love. However, the past ten months of living the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic, have proven these words to be true.
According to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, self-love is a “state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.”
The foundation also states that self-love can mean something different for each person because we all have many different ways to take care of ourselves. For some, self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness, taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others or not settling for less than you deserve.
I am a believer in all of the above, as without self-love, we are incapable of loving anyone else.
However, it seems as though the modern western world has begun creating its own definition of self-love with the encouraged idea of placing our personal needs over those of others. This definition has blurred the lines between compassion for oneself and selfishness.
In the midst of social media, this distorted definition of self-love is mirrored by putting people down to feel superior. We are more concerned with how we are perceived than actually doing the work.
Self-love is not a number of selfish acts claimed to be done in the name of self-care.
Similar to what the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation defines it as, for me, self-love means knowing ourselves to such an extent that we accept who we are, including our flaws. In this state of being, we become more assertive rather than aggressive. We understand others have flaws too and within that understanding lies compassion.
During this time, maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself and others, sometimes means distancing yourself for some time to reflect. This love sets boundaries that allow us to know when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’ based on our internal values, rather than the desire to make others feel bad or less than.
If you truly love yourself, you recognize you are not above others. You understand to put your oxygen mask on first and extend the act of kindness to the person next to you.
In closing off yourself to the rest of the world, by using self-love as an excuse, you are inadvertently distancing yourself from the outside world and your community. When in reality, your relationship with the external world is part of being a healthy individual and is only a reaffirmation of your self-love.
This year has tested our self-love and the love for the community more than most, but I think it was well-timed to reflect on what we value as a society and how we express our love.