What is Self-Love?
"Self-love is a foundation that allows us to be assertive, set boundaries and create healthy relationships with others, practice self-care, pursue our interests and goals, and feel proud of who we are." – Sharon Martin (Counselor, Psychotherapist, Writer)
We learn in life to treat others with kindness and respect and to show empathy and compassion for others. Unfortunately, not many are taught to offer the same kindness to themselves from a young age. Self-love goes beyond how we treat ourselves outwardly; it includes how we are in acceptance of our thoughts and feelings.
When was the last time you looked into the mirror and smiled kindly to yourself?
Learning Self-Love from a Young Age: Why it is so Important
The exposure teens experience in the age of social media is unlike any previous generations. Some issues are not new, for example, mood swings, insecurities of physical changes, anxieties about the future, but peer pressure is on a whole new level.
Day in and day out, kids are quietly exposed to all kinds of social pressures through social media platforms as they transition from childhood to adulthood. They are also more susceptible to social media's unrealistic standards and at risk of cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment.
Try as we may pounding it into their head that they need not care about what others think, but still, they live in a reality that screams that it does matter.
We may not fully understand the struggles young people face today, but we know the worrisome and prevalent rise in mental health problems that have resulted in the devastating suicides statistics we see today. Everyone can play a part in removing the stigmas surrounding mental issues and make known the tools and practices of caring for our mental health.
Do you know that a wide range of mental health-related struggles is rooted in individuals' inability to love themselves? Self-love is not vanity; it is not a new-age fad or luxurious over the top pampering. When we say self-love for sanity, it is about showing the same affection to yourself as you would to those you care about.
Here's a self-love checklist that could be helpful with the question: "How Do I Know If I Love Myself Or Not?"
10 Indicators of a Person Who Do Not Love Themselves Enough:
- You do not like who you are, and therefore, you do not feel free to be who you are
- You are overly critical of yourself and treat yourself harshly
- You do not open up yourself to others
- You do not care for your physical health and put off things that are good for you
- You do not pamper yourself every once in a while with the little things that you like and enjoy
- You find it hard to spend time alone to enjoy your own company and always need to be surrounded by people
- You do not express your thoughts and ideas due to deep insecurities
- You do not value yourself enough by recognising and appreciating your own achievements and capability
- You lack motivation due to the lack of self-confidence and trust in yourself
- You always put other people's happiness first and even tolerate mistreatment from others
Imagine growing up with negative mental conditioning like that for decades without proper guidance on how to love oneself. When one does not love and appreciate themselves, they develop negative beliefs about their own worth. These are often amplified in one's own mind and are not entirely true.
When we continually deny ourselves the care and happiness that every man needs and deserves, it will eventually take a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing.
Though we cannot choose our environment or what happens to us, we can choose to love and care for ourselves. Just as negative thoughts can over-elaborate in our minds, why not choose to boost positivity instead?
And here are 10 examples of what self-love looks like:
- You are capable of seeing to your own needs
- You do not allow others to take advantage of or abuse you
- You prioritise your health and wellbeing
- You forgive yourself and move on quickly by learning through mistakes and experience
- You ask for help when you need it
- You spend time with people who love and support you while steering clear away from those who do not appreciate you
- You value your own feelings, recognise and accept both your strengths and imperfections
- You pursue your interests and goals in a realistic way
- You are responsible, and you make healthy choices most of the time
- You appreciate yourself and live following your own values
Reference: Sharon Martin
Now, doesn't that seem much more of a healthy and pleasant life in comparison?
"I hate myself" is a sadly common critical inner voice that people of all ages struggle with. – PSYCHALIVE
Here's the good news. We live in a time and age where mental wellbeing is no longer overlooked. Today, studies and research, help and guidelines are widely available.
According to psychologists Dr Robert and Lisa Firestone research, they have found that the critical inner thoughts originate in negative early life experiences. The harmful views are internalised, and we carry them into our adult lives. Unknowingly, we give it power over our lives as it shapes how we see ourselves.
Without awareness, guidance, and role models, it is easy for any young person to compare themselves and chase after the unrealistic display of "perfectionism" they see on the internet.
Therefore, we urge youth today: "Spare a portion of your time online to fuel yourself with things that are good for you. Read on self-love, and pick up ways to care for your wellbeing. We promise you that it is more rewarding than going down that rabbit hole of surfing the net aimlessly whilst comparing your life to others." The latter will only lead you to the illusion that you are less worthy than you are.
FUNDAMENTAL THINGS TO KNOW TO KICK OFF YOUR SELF-LOVE JOURNEY
Now that you have discerned signs of a person who loves themselves and those who don't, next is to be informed and mindful of what can negatively influence how you view yourself and protect yourself against it!
Understanding Stigma & The Ills of Stereotyping
What is stigma?
According to Roberto et al. (2020), stigma can be defined as a negative attitude or prejudice aimed towards a person due to distinguishing characteristics such as mental illness or disability that have the potential to harm someone's self-esteem. These stigmas are formed when people can access something that might cause shame toward an individual, resulting in the loss of self-esteem for the victim (Flint et al., 2018).
Should a stigma make the world a better place for all mankind, we'd encourage it by all means. However, it is the contrary. History has shown us that stigma is out to shame and hurt.
It serves as a significant concern because stigma is perpetuated in our society today in ways that are hard to notice. For example, the media depiction where the villain is often a character with a mental illness. The unfair and untrue stereotyping of people with mental illness is imprinted in our minds subconsciously!
Know that stigma always comes with limiting stereotyping and carries some form of discrimination. It paints a world of black and white when we live in a world filled with diversity! How boring it will be if we live in a world where there is only one type of flower, animal, and one type of human being based on someone's preference or choice!
We have the choice to NOT allow stigma to take over control once we recognise it for what it is.
As humans, we each have our limitations and abilities, ergo the idiom – "pick your battles". Would you consider a life living up to other people's expectations a life well lived? Or a life that lives up to your own standards a better one?
Choose wisely what is worth believing in and what is worth your time, love and energy.
Media endows us with great entertainment. However, the fun is gone as soon as we give them the power to affect our thoughts negatively. Educate yourself and be aware of subtle social stigmas all around us. Remember, people who love themselves value their own feelings; they recognise and accept their strengths and imperfections.
Say No to Cyberbullying!
"Cyberbullying is bullying with the use of digital technologies. It can take place on social media, messaging platforms, gaming platforms and mobile phones. It is repeated behaviour, aimed at scaring, angering or shaming those who are targeted." – UNICEF
Some examples of hostile behaviour include hurtful comments, sending threats, spreading lies, publishing damaging and derogatory material to intentionally embarrass or hurt someone. Cyberbullying can occur anonymously without the bullies facing any real consequences for their actions because bullies often impersonate someone to hide their identities.
The good news is, unlike face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying leaves a digital footprint, which means evidence and a way for the authorities to track down the bully! Better think twice before posting or sharing anything online.
How to Know If I Am Cyberbullied?
Bullying involves repeated insults, harassment, and threats to inflict pain, hurt, and fear, so it is unlikely that they go unnoticed by the receiving end. So if you feel that you are attacked up to the extent where you feel scared, troubled and upset, seek help from someone you trust. Remember one of the characteristics of a person who love themselves? They ask for help when in need! Bear in mind that it is not the victim who should feel ashamed but the bully!
How to Deal with Cyberbullies?
- Do not engage as offering bullies with a reaction will only intensify their efforts
- Block the phone number or social media accounts of the bully
- Make a record to document proof of the bullying via screenshots
- Tell it to a parent, a teacher or someone you can trust and feel safe talking to
- Change your contact information if ignoring and blocking the cyberbullies still does not help
Source: Maryville University
Educate yourself to recognise a bully when you see one and stand up to it. A world that allows people to find joy in hurting others is a scary world to live in.
We become guilty of enabling the behaviour and normalising it every time we turn a blind eye to bullying.
Build Confidence & Remove Self Doubts
Lack of self-confidence is often related to the habit of comparing oneself to another's (Mary - 2020). This includes fear of expressing opinion openly due to fear of judgment. Low self-confidence will, in turn, lead to self-doubt, and one begins to feel inferior, unloved and becomes passive and overly sensitive. Now that is no way to reach your actual potential and live the happy life you deserve!
Building your self-confidence is crucial to cultivating self-love and adds resilience. Self-confidence is an attitude related to skills and abilities, so instead of wasting precious youth away measuring our self-worth by others standards, invest your time and energy to build your confidence! Discover your passion, brush up on your skills, and explore your abilities and weaknesses.
Take into account that what is published on the internet is made for the public's eyes to see. There is no overnight success; everyone started from somewhere. In fact, many success stories come from failures!
"How Do I Learn to Love Myself More?"
Well, first thing first, you can't hate your way into loving yourself! Each time your mind begins to trick you into feeling unworthy, think of someone dear to you expressing the same sentiments back to you. What would you tell them? Would you further criticise them?
Learning to love ourselves requires some practice, but it is fundamentally about showing the same care and compassion to ourselves as we would to the people we love and care about.
It will take some time to reframe our minds and to renew ourselves. Whether through meditation, reading, or positive affirmation, pick up good rituals and self-care habits that are good for you. We don't wake up wondering if we should brush our teeth in the morning. Likewise, healthy self-love practices can become part of your daily ritual to keep your mental health in good shape.
What we focus on becomes our reality. So which reality will you opt for? A reality whereby you expect love from others, but you are incapable of loving yourself? Or a life where you can love yourself and therefore have the capacity to love others as well?
Initially, you may feel that you are tricking your own mind with practices, such as positive affirmation. Whenever you feel that way, just remember both negativity and positivity can be amplified in our minds. Which energy would you rather cultivate?
Take it from the late Betty White, who's undoubtedly one of the most celebrated and loved actresses in the past century. Even in her 90s, she still is America's naughty sweetheart and stole the hearts of everyone who knows her. If there is anyone who seems to have found the key to a long, positive, happy life, it'd be Betty White.
Once you have discovered a self-care routine and self-love practices that work for you, stick to it. They are equally vital to exercising regularly for our physical health. Also, they will most likely cost you less than your annual gym membership. Quality of life for your investment? PRICELESS!
This article is in collaboration with USM's "YOUphoria" campaign to help and empower more people to learn about the value of self-love.
The YOUphoria campaign is conducted online entirely and is free for all to join.
Get in on some self-love action!
Mental health and emotional literacy are equally important as any other literacy and numeracy. Early intervention and education will be the way forward to help future generations care for both their physical and psychological needs better.
Let's work together to inspire a healthy and well-cared-for community, and let the change begins with YOU!
For more information about this campaign, you may also contact Fatimatuzzahra Abdul Rohi at +601111372039 or email email@example.com