Saturday, July 28, 2012

Love Thyself – Ain’t No Shame in a Little Self-Love

"It's been said that we can't love another until we learn to love ourselves. Not the narcissistic love that seeks a glimpse of itself in every mirror or shop window we pass but the kind of love that ensures that we take care of ourselves first before we take care of our family and friends"

For starters I would like to wish everyone Ramadan Mubarak, may this holy month be a blessed one for you and your loved ones. This has been a post I have been eager to post for quite some time now. During such happy times when we're constantly surrounded by family and friends we tend to neglect ourselves completely, and no one pays the price more dearly than you.

We are human. We always feel the need for companionship in any and possibly every form (if you’re lucky enough). We see preteens on TV sitcoms fall in love with their first crush, and then onto their first boyfriend/girlfriend and it just snowballs from one relationship to another. We see it in the movies we watch, the books we read and the music we listen to; endless portrayals of perpetual relationships in hopes of finding love and happiness, we end up looking for it in the wrong places. This desperate need to find a life partner, eternal companionship, a guarantee to never be alone, perhaps leads us to neglect what's important and lose who we are in the process. We may end up compromising where we shouldn’t. It’s almost as if we are led to believe we are not good enough as we are on our own, and we need some form of reassurance or acceptance from someone else. Before you know it, you are conforming to the life of another person and neglecting yourself; the dreams you once had, the things you once loved, the goals you wanted to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, not all relationships are such, and surely there is no relationship without compromise. But it does happen in some cases; the minute you are linked to another person too soon, you suddenly take a back seat to your own life. Let yourself grow first; don't stunt your growth by getting involved with someone too soon. Find happiness within yourself, don't expect it to fall on your lap or be handed to you.

Somehow the idea of being selfish is seen as an entirely bad thing, but I don't think it's all bad. Yes, there is no selfless good deed but that's only because in certain circumstances, being selfish is okay. It is this blogger’s humble opinion that there cannot be love and happiness with another if you do not first find it within yourself. This is a belief I always had, but it was upon watching a talk on 'Habits of Happiness' given by French neuroscientist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, that led me to reach for a pen and paper and articulate this philosophy of mine for the first time. The words poured out so quickly and passionately, it somehow reinforced my belief in them simply by writing it down. I cannot stress this enough: Love thyself! If you feel a void within, don’t expect someone else to fill it for you, especially when they may have a void of their own they are looking to fill. So far, this is what I've come up with:

  1. Love yourself. If you cannot bring yourself to love you, how can you expect others to? Acknowledge your imperfections but know that no one is perfect. Take the good with the bad because it will never always be good. Be comfortable with who you are just as you are and accept yourself wholeheartedly. Others will follow.
  2. Don’t judge others or yourself. It won’t do you any favors. Forget not the Golden Rule, Confucius say: "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others"
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously; learn to laugh at yourself.
  4.  Spoil yourself. Allow yourself to indulge in life’s little pleasures and enjoy it thoroughly.
  5. Put yourself first. This is your life, never neglect yourself and expect others to take care of you. You’ll be waiting a long time. Don’t ever feel you need someone to take care of you, but rather you want someone to do so.
  6. Don’t rush through your days. Remember to take it all in as it goes along. You only live once; every day you live is a day you will never get back so make each day count.
  7. Don’t be scared to admit when you want something, even just for the sake of wanting it. And if it is within reach, go for it. Don’t sell yourself short and give into self-doubt. Allow yourself to strive for something.
  8. Dedicate some time for yourself. Every now and then, spend some time with ‘me, myself and I’ (not me as in the person who is writing this, 'me' as in you!). Some spend it in prayer and/or meditation, others in sport and exercise. Some find their solace with nature and others on the rooftops of skyscrapers. Whatever your flavor, make sure you set some time for yourself to do what you love and do it with passion.
  9. Don’t be afraid to let your mind wander, see the wonderful places it could take you. Think, wonder, daydream, ponder. Unlock and explore the limitless bounds of your mind.
  10. Live without regret. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you've made and those you have yet to make. The important thing is that you learn from them, there’s no need to be so hard on yourself.
  11. Smile and laugh often. Make it count and relish in the moment.
  12. Never try to be someone other than you. You are unique, celebrate it! I promise you there is only one of you in this entire existence. (Refer to point #1)
  13. Love wholeheartedly, unconditionally and passionately. Don’t hold back. Reserve your love for those deserving of it, but make sure you give them all you got.
  14. Do not fear solitude. If you run away from yourself, so will those around you. (Refer to point #8)
  15. Give credit where credit is due. Pat yourself on the back when you feel you've deserved it. Then chuckle at how slightly narcissistic that seems, and go on to treat yourself regardless. Oddly enough, according to Forbes, a little narcissism does pay off when job hunting. No harm in a little narcissism then! (Refer to point #4)
  16. Pause. Reflect. Self-reflection in an open and honest way is not easy, maybe even a little daunting. No matter how honest you are with others, if you lie to yourself you could still hurt yourself and those around you. Trust yourself and only then can others feel they can truly trust you.

I wish I could have come up with something concise and catchy like some sort of mantra, but it wouldn’t do it justice to simplify it further. I feel like this list could go on, and it probably will. What would your list look like?

And now to the image at the top of the post. I have decided to include what in my eyes is an iconic image which symbolizes the value of happiness. This is the flag of Bhutan, a small, remote kingdom in South Asia where instead of measuring the nation's GDP (gross domestic product - used to indicate the health of a country's economy) they are more concerned with the nation's GNH; the gross national happiness. The government has made the happiness of its people the primary indicator of the nation's 'health'. Studying the impact of any governmental policies or programmes on both the GDP and GNH, the happiness of its people has become a political priority. How lovely is that! Wouldn't want to live there though, some policies are a bit extreme but still a lovely thought nonetheless.

In closing, some wise words from the world's most famous Buddhist, Buddha himself!
You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.