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March 17, 2012

Self-Love

How do we measure our worth as a human being?On what do we base our self esteem?
Approval?Love?Achievements?
Looks?Talent?Fame?Fortune?
Interesting.If that be the case,one might wonder why Marilyn Monroe,Kurt Cobain,Freddie Prinz,Ruslana Korshunova and a multitude of famous,popular and successful people flung away their lives to suicide.
You might think love,friendship, and a capacity for forming close relationships make us feel worthy. Yet scores of depressed people thronging the chambers of counselors and shrinks are very much loved and adored by their near and dear ones.Something clearly is very wrong here then.What indeed does make a person truly happy?
We all know how important and vital our sense of self-worth is to us.It is as important to us as the food, air and water we need for our sustenance. And yet, so many of us question our own merit, so many of us pine away our lives wondering what we can do or achieve to escape the murky feelings of inferiority and melancholy suffocating and strangling us.
The answer is simple.Surprisingly simple. A deceptively uncomplicated and elementary idea.Its simplicity makes it powerful and yet it is its very simplicity which belies the world of good it can do to whoever who whole-heartedly subscribes to this idea. Just learn to love yourself unconditionally.Yes,it does require a change in your thinking patterns, a readjustment and realignment of your value system and credo,but I think the trade-off is worth it.
Before we delve further into how this idea works and how we can possibly practically apply it in our lives,let's look at some common beliefs which many of us can probably identify with.
1.Criticism upsets me.
2.My own interests are subservient to those of others.
3.Approval from others is very essential to my happiness.
4.My value as a person depends greatly on what others think of me.
5.I cannot find happiness without being loved by another person.
6.If people I care about reject me,it means there is something wrong with me.
7.If I am to consider myself worthy, I must have 'made it large' in at least one aspect of my life
8.If I cannot do something well, there is little point in doing it at all.
9.A person should try to be his best at anything he undertakes.

A lot of us make the dire mistake of basing our self-esteem on what others think of us and how they react to us.When someone insults or humiliates us, many of us automatically tend to look down on ourselves.It is essential to remember that-if we make our self-image so overwhelmingly dependent on what we perceive people to be thinking about us,we expose ourselves to manipulation and put our emotional well-being at the mercy and whims of others.

Many of us perhaps are "love addicts".Love addiction is often perceived to be "less harmful" than other process addictions i.e. substance abuse,eating disorders or self-harm / mutilation addictions. Perhaps because it sounds "softer."  In reality it is extremely painful and can be very lethal to both the addict and their partners.  Many suicides, murders, stalkings, rapes and other crimes of passion have their roots in this addiction.  Our culture has traditionally glorified love addiction with the notion that we fall in love and live "happily ever after." This ignores the groundwork that relationships require. Many love relationships depicted in the media are really love addicted relationships.Rockstar, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Nargis Fakhri, for example?It did not boast of such a happy ending,did it now? At the heart of all this, is the belief that love is a deep-seated,psychological necessity without which we cannot survive,much less be happy.Maybe you have seen some friends or acquaintances assuming inferior, subordinate roles in a relationship with people they care about for fear of alienating them.The irony is that, despite their apparent sacrifices,these people get rejected by the very people they care for. It might be because others get turned off by the clingy attitude which conveys that without love they wouldn't survive.And as others drift away from the love-sick person,he/she gets gripped by a agonizing and debilitating withdrawal symptom. Look all around you. Numerous poems, stories, blogs- all dedicated to the concept of unrequited love and heart-break. Is love really that important for our happiness?Do we really need to measure our worth in terms of how much others love and approve of us?Do we really need to thrust the remote control buttons of our emotions into the irresponsible hands of others?Can we really be so irresponsible towards ourselves?

Now let me come to achievements,success and accomplishments.Are they necessary for our happiness?You might like to think so.It is a very common tendency to equate personal worth to one's accomplishments and achievements.On face value,it is quite a simple,innocuous belief.It is systematically drilled into us from a very young age,urging us and goading us to perform better and better in an intensely competitive pressurizing environment.Problem is,this belief only makes us vulnerable to a host of negative thoughts and conceptions about our self-image.We have been programmed from childhood to base our worth on our feats and triumphs.The funny thing is that-many of us tend to become so preoccupied with work that we just slog our asses off,potentially cutting ourselves off from other sources of enjoyment and satisfaction.Sounds familiar?As people tend to spiral deeper and deeper into "workaholism", they feel an intense pressure and compulsion to be more productive, and if they can't keep up with their own past achievements, they tend to sink into despair and emptiness.Why?Since they have no other basis for self-respect and fulfillment.

One common theme in all the above cases is that people make the  fundamental mistake of attributing their happiness and self-worth to factors external to themselves and hence,outside their sphere of control.So that brings us to an important question?Just what exactly is self-worth? What does it truly depend on? How exactly am I going to compare my worth with those of others?How exactly am I going to convince myself that I am a better human being than Tom,Dick or Harry?Before I delve into the answer,let's consider two stories of two very different human beings.

Timothy McVeigh was involved in the bombing of a United States Federal building in Oklahoma City, on April 19th, 1995, and was ultimately executed for his crimes on June 11th, 2001.You may find yourself arguing that he was a monster or a madman, and being unable to even accept the possibility that there were "reasons" for what he did.There may be no doubt in your mind that you are a much,much "better" human being than he was.But hear me out.

McVeigh had his reasons. He saw the pain and suffering in the world caused by clashes between central authority and people with different ideas about how to live their lives. Specifically, he was aware of the events of August 1992 at Ruby Ridge where a family was killed by US Marshals and FBI agents on their own property. He also had in mind the events of April 19 th, 1993, in Waco Texas,where, after a 51 day siege, 76 people were killed by ATF( Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ) agents burning their homes.

These events bothered him greatly. He saw the bureaucracy as the source of the death of innocent people, and he decided to fight it. This was a brave choice to make. However, he chose a grossly erroneous path and missed any real opportunity to reduce the bad effects of the ideas that he opposed. Instead he brought more death to innocent individuals – these deaths by his own hand.


And again,consider Hitler.A man who raised Germany from the ashes it was rolling itself in after the First World War to the military powerhouse it grew into by the Second World War.A charismatic leader, a shrewd strategist, a high-achiever by any standards.Yet,would you necessarily consider Hitler to be a more worthy person than yourself?

I used the above two examples to demonstrate a simple point.You and I might consider both the above persons to be morally indigent and thereby inferior to us,but in certain aspects,these persons might have been better than what you or I ever will be.

Essentially,you will discover that the very concept of trying to evaluate a person's "worth" is self-defeating."Worth" and "value" are just abstractions-short-cuts based on which we tend to "measure" other people.We might use morality,performance,popularity and a host of other criteria to judge other people and judge ourselves.But essentially, all of the above standards have the potential to turn into harsh,unforgiving yardsticks which will do nothing productive for our personal well-being and welfare.We will only loath ourselves if we fail to score high in the grading systems we devise for ourselves.In raw terminology,we are reducing ourselves to commodities in a marketplace whose caliber,utility and valuation must somehow be "measured".

But then what indeed do we do with our lives if we don't spend it building up our "perceived worth"?What goals do we set for ourselves?Well,I will leave that decision up to you. Although,if you ask me,I think aiming for satisfaction,happiness,learning,earning skills, and communication with others every day of my life is a good enough goal for me.I set modest,realistic goals for myself and try to achieve them.I don't do all these to "earn"  my self-worth.It's already there with me and I don't have to snatch that away from something.Involvement and commitment are rewarding in themselves, irrespective of the outcome I achieve at the end.

This is a point which is gaining high acceptance in the field of cognitive psychology.That self-esteem is mostly just a state of mind which exists when we are not unnecessarily haranguing or torturing our brains with ideas which are based off the notion that our happiness lies external to ourselves.That we have to somehow "earn" it.But self-esteem is just a pledge we have to make to ourselves.A pledge of loving ourselves unconditionally,irrespective of what we achieve in our lives-love,approval or success.We need to fully acknowledge ourselves as who we are,with our strengths and blemishes,with neither false humility or shame.This attitude embodies the essence of self-love and self-respect.I am not teaching anything new here.This idea is everywhere.Staring right at us.If you ever Google "love yourself", you will be hit with 555 million entries in a matter of half a minute or less.

Perhaps when we learn to be more accepting of ourselves,we can learn to be more accepting of others too.Tolerance towards people of different religious faith,tolerance towards people belonging to a different gender,tolerance towards people with different sexual preferences,tolerance towards people with different ideas,tolerance towards people who make mistakes- a more tolerant world will probably be a better world, a better place for us and our children to live in.Denying a woman her right to education, denying one's child the right to choose her/her own life-partner, denying a girl of marriageable age the privilege of devoting time to her career,denying a homosexual the freedom to express his/her sexual identity,hating others for believing in a different God, for belonging to a different ideology-denying all this will never help the world become any more conducive to our existence.

I would like to convey my appreciation for the gesture Stayfree India is undertaking in its efforts to promote ideas for a better ,"irritation" free world.For details,please visit this link:http://facebook.com/sftimetochange
I always held an admiration for the way the Stayfree brand has upheld the rights and liberties of a woman to seek and pursue her well-being and personal welfare.This post is meant to be an entry for the Indiblogger contest organised by Stayfree India.For more details,please visit this link:IndiBlogger StayFree Contest.

That's it from my side.I will be very happy if the ideas I presented in this blog happens to help any of you see things happening around you in a better light.Just remember,it is not the events around you which make you happy or sad.It is your interpretations and thoughts about them.If you learn to love yourself,it will dramatically change the filter you apply to view the world around you.Try it.:-) It isn't so hard to change.

Reactions:

10 comments:

  1. I was smiling in my head throughout the post...you know why :D AWESOME AWESOME post ... <3d it

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  3. Very thought provoking post Rahul. I used to read a lot of Psychology books in my University days although it was not my subject. In my blog too, particularly in some of my earlier posts, I have tried to shed some light on topics like happiness, self worth etc.etc.
    You did a good job by writing this post. Many readers who are reading this might get some solace from it.

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  4. Thoughtful.. informative! Well done!

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  5. @Sanghamitra :-) I knew you were interested in self-help and psychology.Could see it in your posts.:-) That is why I liked them so much.

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  6. @I do I do...Thank you so much..

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  7. Aha...finally tiptoeing towards factual writing,huh? LOVED it! I'm no psychology pro but it was really interesting!

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  8. As John Lennon would say-"All you need is love." :)
    Great post, well articulated and thought-provoking! Great read! :)

    Can you please read & promote my post here? :D

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  9. Dug up this post from one of my previous links and suddenly found it very relevant to what is happening to me right now... Great Post!! :)

    ReplyDelete