As the great philosopher and poet RuPaul often says with regards to loving yourself, “If you can’t love yourself, how the Hell are you gonna love somebody else”. Even if you don’t usually take your life lessons from RuPaul’s Drag Race, it represents an interesting avenue of thought. It stands to reason that we should establish a good relationship with ourselves for the benefit of our mental health and to make us better people. It enables us to build a strong psychological and emotional foundation upon which to build our relationships with others. If we don’t sort out our relationships with ourselves and work on loving yourself, we become vulnerable to a very dangerous risk. We will be unable to accept ourselves for who we are, and thus we will rely on others to fill in the gaps. We will expect them to validate us and give us the emotional edification that we can’t get on our own.
Sure, we should expect a significant other to love us, but we can’t rely on them completely for our emotional validation. That would be unfair on them and us. It puts undue pressure on them and causes a complete collapse of our emotional infrastructure if the relationship fails. So, maybe Mamma Ru is onto something…
But self love is vanity, right?
The trouble with the notion of self love is that we often mistake it for vanity, especially when adopting that quintessentially British mind-set. We’re an extremely self deprecating nation and we have an unhealthy case of tall poppy syndrome. If we see someone with confidence and self assurance we feel that it is our God given right to tear them down to our level. In an age and a culture where self-loathing and self-flagellation appear to be the norm, it’s all too easy to dismiss any attempt to address our relationships with ourselves as vanity or self cherishment. If this is the case, however, maybe we need to…
Rethink our definition of love
What is Love? (Baby don’t hurt me). If we think of self love as vanity, we probably have the wrong interpretation of love. Real love isn’t assuring someone we love that they’re right unconditionally. It isn’t elevating them over all others, just because. That’s how you can end up patronising someone. Love is noticing the positives in someone, even when they can only see the negatives. It’s accepting that they make mistakes, that they do harmful, silly and self destructive things but seeing them as more than just the sum total of their failures. To me that seems like a pretty healthy attitude to have towards yourself.
What can we do?
There are many options available to help repair your relationship with yourself. You may want to pursue counselling with an expert like Caroline Bronte. They will be able to empower you with coping mechanisms when you fall into unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours.
If you don’t quite feel up to talking to someone, it’s worth investigating Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) strategies. These can be studied online and are extremely useful when applied on a daily basis. CBT helps you to catch yourself in the middle of unhelpful or self defeating thought patterns, and deconstruct them using rational thought. It’s a great way of showing ourselves how easily we can become our own worst enemy. Loving yourself isn’t vain and I’ve spent a lot of time working on my self confidence and self love. I still have a long way to go but I’m getting there.