The Journey Toward Self-Love is not Pretty

Contemplation is an important part of the process of self-love. (JON BJORNSON/THE OBSERVER)

Contributing Writer

I walked into my first ever philosophy class with nothing but one simple aspiration: to ace the required class. My professor had other plans. He started to list the objectives of the course when he stopped and said, “I have made the syllabus with one aim for my students: the practice of self-love.” I was taken aback; I had this immense uneasiness because I did not understand how philosophy and self-care were tied. The larger issue revolved around this sense of the ignorance I felt throughout the course. I did not know myself at all. I was self-destructive. I would never prioritize myself over anything. I would sacrifice my own well-being for the sake of others. And all these dilemmas were only scratching the surface. The people around me had convinced me that I had reached a point of emotional security and “self-love,” but this was not the case whatsoever. The process of learning to love oneself is different for everyone, as we never have the same experiences or feelings as anyone else.

When picturing self-care and love, we often create this misconception of how we can fully achieve this comfort within ourselves. It is portrayed as an aesthetically pleasing journey that is supposed to make us feel happy. Though it may seem like a viable passage towards self-improvement, it does not take into account myriad other factors: mental illness, self-deprecation, systematic oppressors and many more. A lot of us were never even taught to practice self-love because it was seen as vain and arrogant. But it’s not. You deserve to feel proud of yourself, to love yourself, to be the best version of yourself and to trust in yourself in a way that only you can.

Self-care on the internet is often represented as “pretty.” We are given tips such as “just relax,” or “put on a face mask, and you will feel pretty!” This is acceptable for some, but it is not always this easy or glamorous. However, the unglamorous parts—such as crying and working your way up to just getting out of your bed—are acceptable means of coping as well. The journey to loving yourself can involve crying, ranting and harsh reflection. Coping comes in many forms and we must recognize them all in order to allow ourselves the time and space to grow. These are some of the ways I have approached the issue, but steps can vary depending on the individual. Before I begin, I just want to stress that I am not an expert on self-love as a process. I am merely interpreting a misconception to which I have been exposed, and I am trying to further aid in destroying the stigma.

  1. There is nothing wrong with picking yourself over your friends. If you are having a bad day, you are under no obligation to accept an invitation to hang out unless you want to.
  2. Do not place your happiness in the hands of anyone but yourself.
  3. Alone time is important in order to reflect on yourself. You can use this time to think about what makes you happy. Perhaps maintain a journal of these positive influences?
  4. Perfection is not something to strive for. Try to be the best person you can be. Do not compare yourself to anyone! You are your own person, and you must allow yourself the opportunity to explore your—yes your—own self.
  5. Failure is inevitable, and you must see it as an opportunity for growth. Do not take unnecessary blame; improve upon the aspects that were your fault.  
  6. Be patient with yourself. The healing process is a long and ever-changing journey on which you must be willing to embark.
  7. If you feel like you cannot reach a point of self-love, reach out to someone as soon as you can. Many destructive forces come as a result of hating yourself. If this is the case, reach out to someone you trust and get help. Mental health should come first. I know it is not the easiest action to take; one of the reasons being that many families do not see self-love as a serious matter, which is out of your control. If necessary, take individual action. There are places that are completely anonymous and do not require any form of payment, such as your University’s Health Center. You are paying a large sum of money to go here; you might as well utilize every resource they offer. Do not be ashamed to seek help.
  8. Many people will expect you to quickly “fix” yourself, but this is not something that can be timed. You cannot plan out how you feel in advance. Plan out a day every week during which you can unwind. Do not make this a strict rule, but try to find a time when you can sit, read or do anything that makes you feel good about yourself.

We have been conditioned to think that loving yourself is either completely narcissistic or a direct product of selfishness. It is neither of those things. It is important to understand that there is a fine line between personal wellbeing and lack of care for others. You should always have a sense of self-care and trust within yourself, and the knowledge that everything will be okay. This type of reassurance is incredibly hard to reach, especially considering the many different circumstances that arise. I often find myself sacrificing my own ambitions and goals for the sake of my friends and family. This should never be the case. You are your own person, not a simple product of your parents or friends. When you realize that, it is a relief. I myself have not come to that conclusion just yet, but I am working on it. The misconception of self-love that the media has sprung on people is dangerous. It teaches people that finding a confidence within themselves is near impossible without the love of someone else present. The required course allowed for a certain realization to spur within me: I felt liberated. The study of philosophical thinking affirmed my experience as a being through a curriculum which knew no shame, and in its subliminality it presented the essence of self-love. Such an ideal took an entire semester for me to comprehend.