Self-love: don't get lost at sea

Self-Love: Do You REALLY Love Yourself?

A while back I received a newsletter from therapist Esther Perel that resonated. It was about self-love. She argued that a distorted version of self-love has invaded our collective Western psyche. Self-love is often equated with pampering, as the wellness and beauty industry have co-opted the tools of supposed self-improvement.

We are bombarded with opportunities to spend money on the quest for contentment. An all-day spa treatment? You’re worth it! The nine-steps skincare routine? You’ll do it because you love yourself. The latest gadget? After all, you deserve the investment. That well-lit, retouched selfie that gives a version of who you’d like to be, instead of a version of who you are? Why not? We have to show the world that not only we love ourselves, but we’re worthy of being loved.

I don’t have anything against a little pampering and I’m as vain as the next person, but sometimes we become so focused on this external mood-lifters—which usually only lift our mood for a few hours—that we forget to direct our attention to the deeper kinds of transformation that have a lasting effect.

Reading Perel’s newsletter took me to research what self-love really means. Psychologist Deborah Khoshaba asserts that self-love is not simply doing things that make us feel good. It grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.

Self-love, says Khoshaba, is choosing to do what will help us mature and focus on what we need to move forward in our life. It’s accepting our shortcomings and our weaknesses, as well as our strengths, while we keep striving to do better and be better. Self-love helps us establish healthy boundaries to keep out the people or activities that don’t bring us joy or positive forward momentum. It’s living with purpose and the intention to create a meaningful, healthy life.

Writing my memoir has been a journey towards self-love. When I started it, I thought the main topic was my path from repression to liberation. Overtime I realized that another key topic was the light and darkness we all carry. Accepting that I’ve hurt others because I am human and I make mistakes, and that others have hurt me because they are also imperfect humans. Understanding that doing something wrong doesn’t mean you are all wrong.

I’ve been obsessed with the concept of good and evil since I was a child. Perhaps this comes from my Catholic upbringing, and the pervasive presence of religion in my young life. I am not a practicing Catholic any longer, and I have many bones to pick with the Catholic Church —including its cozying up with the Francoist dictatorship. That said, I believe the values I learned from the New Testament in a structured, repetitive manner, gave me a strong ethical foundation, and an impulse to do good for me and others.

I don’t know if there is another life, and I don’t believe hell exists in the beyond, but I think hell exists in the here and now. Hell is feeling trapped in a Groundhog-day cycle of repetition where we soothe our discomforts with fleeting pleasures and mind-numbing addictions that leave us feeling emptier instead of excited and purposeful.

I fall into that revolving cycle of numbing myself more times than I care to count, but in the back of my mind, I know my ship is lost at sea, and I have to find again the landmarks that will guide me to growth and purpose. For me, those landmarks are often getting back into daily meditation, journaling, or reading books and watching documentaries that inspire me.

What landmarks right your ship and make you grow?

Photo by Ray S on Unsplash

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