1. When we use it as an excuse not to try.
I understand – entirely and fully – that we have to love and accept ourselves before we’re able to effectively move forwards with our lives. However, too much of the self-love that we’re preached through the media does not have any focus on self-improvement. “You’re a special, strong, beautiful snowflake and you never need to change!” Has become the gen Y anthem. And I’m not sure how fully I can get behind this.
Yes, we need to accept ourselves as capable and worthwhile people before we are able to get our best work done. But I think there’s a lot to be said for acknowledging that we do need to work (sometimes a considerable amount of work) on ourselves. Self-love should be the vehicle we use to move forward, not the final destination we arrive at. It’s not an excuse to stay caught in unhealthy patterns or to justify a state that we’re unhappy in. You cannot love yourself into completion. Sometimes you’re going to have to work yourself there.
2. When we’re jeopardizing our health.
This extends beyond physical health – our minds, just like our bodies, require a certain amount of discipline in order to stay in balance. Self-love should never be an excuse to engage in excessive behaviours, whether this is abandoning an exercise routine because you’re already happy with the way you look or refusing to challenge yourself intellectually because you have all the education you need.
Loving yourself is not a stand-in for practicing healthy behaviours, and self-love doesn’t mean blindly accepting the destructive patterns you’re engaging in. Sometimes the best way to love ourselves is to be strict and realistic with ourselves – to recognize that what is best for us in the long run may be very different from what makes us happy in the moment.
3. When we use it as an excuse to be selfish.
Self-love is not an excuse for bailing on your friends and loved ones because you felt like watching Netflix in your basement all weekend and you have to put yourself first. Like anyone you love, you have to learn to respect yourself and that means becoming a person you’re proud of – one who holds themselves to commitments, shows up when they say they will and takes the needs of others into consideration. Self-love does not mean putting yourself ahead of others without good reason.
4. When we use it to escape accountability.
Self-love is not an excuse for your flaws. If you’ve done something to hurt someone else, you cannot love and forgive yourself out of accountability. You still have to deal with the consequences of your actions in the real world – to apologize, to heal wounds and to make amends. There is a world of difference between understanding your own shortcomings and letting them run rampant.
5. When we distance ourselves from others as a result.
We are obsessed with the idea that we have to love and put ourselves first at all costs. We’ve essentially placed ourselves at the center of the Universe and adamantly refused to acknowledge that we can’t always stay there. Self-love is not an excuse to withdraw from others at every available opportunity because we are eternally more important than they are. We still have to be decent, compassionate human beings. If we are prioritizing self-care above everything else in our lives we’re bound to end up lonely.
6. When we assume that we are done evolving.
The most detrimental advice that we give ourselves disguised as self-love is the concept that we are already perfect as is. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating yourself in all of your flawed glory, but I think there is an immense power and relief in realizing that you are a work in progress. That we all are. The no single person is devoid of flaws, shortcomings or mistakes. That we’re all working slowly and surely towards bettering ourselves and that we’re going to slip up along the way.
What we need to acknowledge about self-love is that it ought to be a show of support for ourselves – to work through our shortcomings, rather than denying them. Self-love is not eternal self-acceptance. But it is a commitment to caring for, attending to and supporting ourselves as we work towards the best versions of ourselves.