Updated: Aug 9, 2022
When India celebrated and slammed in the same breath its first sologamy event a few weeks ago, beyond all the hype and heckling I saw it as a young woman’s open assertion of a concept that most of us still struggle to understand and practice: Self-love. Incidentally, it was in the same week that I received a request from a reader to throw some light on ‘loving oneself’ through my columns.
As I contemplated on the subject, it became evident to me that if there is one thing that we primarily and predominantly love in our lives, it is us. However, we are blindsided by a chimerical world and a society that get into our head in ways we can’t fathom and distort our own sense of self. Loving oneself is not a habit that needs to be acquired; neither is it a lesson to be imparted. It is a characteristic that we all innately possess but have lost sight of amidst our warped world view. And it is time we realized and reclaimed it from within us, not necessarily with ostentatious public declarations, but effectively in the quietness of our self-reflections.
As humans, we all have a propensity for public recognition and an enormous appetite for acceptance. We seek validation from others, time and again, and it is in their approval that we find fulfilment. It is the degree of others’ love for us that determine our self-worth. In short, we have handed over the keys of our identity to outsiders.
We have become what others want us to be, and in doing so, we have alienated us from our original selves. We view ourselves through someone else’s eyes, and their love or lack of it becomes our distorted reality. How in such a scenario can we even comprehend our true nature, the little things that make us unique, and the essence of our existence?
Each of us is essentially three people – the one that others think we are; the one we think we are; and the one that we authentically are. Waltzing between these three identities, we have now become morphed entities.
Our sense of what we are rests on two levels – the physical and the spiritual. While there is no denying the fact that our appearances have assumed a lot of fictional importance in our worldly life, it begs the question of whether we must strictly fit in the popular perceptions of beauty and style. And whether we must allow others’ opinion to jeopardize our sense of self by handing over the right to determine our individual worth to them.
As long as we don’t acknowledge the fact that what others think of us is completely different from what we actually are; unless we realize that other people’s assessment of us only reflects their perceptions and not our truth; and most significantly, until we accept ourselves as God’s creations who don’t need the approval of others to lead a fulfilling life on earth, we will continue to be frustrated. Taking cognizance of our own self-perception, appreciating our strengths and accepting our imperfections as part of nature’s artistry alone can spare us of despicable practices such as body-shaming and self-rejection.
We are not what we see in the mirror. We are not what we accumulate in our bank accounts. We are not a gist of others’ praise or criticism. We are a sum total of what constitutes us as exceptional entities, each hand-crafted by nature to walk this earth and find our own individual destinies by the strength of our good values and robust principles.
To love ourselves, we must find the inner harmony that puts our essential human elements in the right places, by being so fluid that we may assume the shape of the container without resistance. It is when we trust our inner voices to the exclusion of external influences that we begin to see what we truly are and it is in this rare insight that the seed of self-love lies.
Our flaws and inconsistencies do not make us ugly; instead, accepting them and integrating them into our psyche as part of a divine plan will make us beautiful, like the golden cracks in Kintsugi pottery. Self-love is life-affirming, it is what provides us the space to grow at our pace and to our liking without the interference of a maverick world that is fast becoming indeterminably harsh and dysfunctional.
Finally, it is only when we love ourselves unreservedly looking past our pluses and minuses, can we love others impartially. There is nothing more empowering than knowing that the foundation of universal harmony and peace lies in our capacity to love ourselves with all our heart.