If the 18th century is referred to as the Age of Enlightenment then I think it is fairly safe to say that we are living in the Age of Self-Care. Every publication, social media site, and blog is filled with article after article discussing, dissecting and detailing self-care, self-love and all the selves in between. This very site is a prime example, this very article even!
It was after reading several hundred of these self-care-type posts that I noticed something scary. While I have no trouble treating other people nicely or going above and beyond for the people I love, I have absolutely no idea where to start or what to do when my mother tells me I need to love myself a bit more or treat myself a bit better.
Why is it that we can fall in love so easily with other people yet we struggle so much with loving ourselves?
I considered there might be a few reasons why we are so clueless when it comes to self-love; maybe we know ourselves far too well or maybe self-deprecation is just easier than the alternative. But I have concluded that we just genuinely don’t know how to love ourselves.
Think about it for a second, has anybody ever really explained how you are meant to love yourself? Did you learn about self-love at school? Did you listen to a lecture about it at university? Did anybody give you the guidebook? Did anyone even write the book on it?!
The truth is we are subliminally taught our whole lives how to love other people.
We’ve seen a million movies about romance (both with happy endings and without), we’ve listened to an innumerable number of songs about love and loss, we’ve read books about it and we’ve heard stories about it. Our problems began way back in the depths of our childhood, innocently watching Disney movies and dreaming of our very own Prince Charming rescuing us from our solitude. And our problems exist now still in our inability to feel wholly satisfied without the love or companionship of another person. And sure, we have Eat Pray Love, but one book to film adaptation does not a self-love revolution make.
The difficulty of self-love and self-care lies in its duality. While it is a universal subject, the solution is entirely individual. Some people benefit greatly from things like meditation and exercise, while other people prefer to read a good book or just lay on the couch. Some people’s self-love might involve more drastic measures like changing their job or career, or uprooting their life entirely and starting fresh somewhere new. Other people might find saying “no” more and saying “sorry” less to do the trick. There is no one right way to self-love.
The secret to self-love, from what I can tell, is finding a way to switch off the part of your brain that cares about what other people think and allowing yourself to be selfish. Selfish doesn’t mean hurting people around you or being reckless, and it definitely doesn’t have to be a negative thing.
We need to allow ourselves to be selfish for ourselves.
It is more easily said (typed) than done but it almost like learning to ride a bicycle; once you start doing small things that are only for yourself, you’ll never forget how it felt or how to do it again next time you have the courage to try.
While I still have not mastered the art of self-care, and do not pretend for one second to be an expert, I am trying desperately to make this year more about being nice to myself and treating myself the way I would treat someone I love. And in the wise words of RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”