We are constantly bombarded with posts, memes, articles, videos, podcasts on one very important topic, namely, “Self-Love”. How vital self-love is for our well-being, for our mental health and our love-life. How it is the instant fix for our pandemic malaise.
Women, specially the ones who are 45+, who are often a bit fatigued from years of being responsible for the family and household, seem to relate to this particularly well. We lap it up like it is manna from heaven, like it’s what our parched souls have been waiting for, like it’s the one thing that’s going to save us from fading into oblivion. The very thought of indulging in pampering our own selves without feeling any guilt is so empowering. And that too when the whole world is validating our need for it!
We have been feeling unheard and unseen for quite some time. More so, coz the children don’t need us as much as before and there’s a void that has been created in our lives. There’s also a sense of injustice that has crept up in our minds, now that we have more time to think of things.
All the years of juggling jobs, family, household……being dictated terms by some family members, taking care of frail parents and in-laws, coordinating things to help our kids find their career paths, sacrificing our dreams for the family…..suddenly it feels like it’s high time we take care of ourselves and our needs.
Our feministic side asserts itself in its full glory. We begin to celebrate the fact, “I come first” all over again.
Enough of being on the back burner, enough of playing second fiddle. We reconnect with feminist literature, dare to take risks, enjoy exploring things we haven’t done in ages. Outings, that yoga retreat, the trekking trips, the weekends in a beach resort with our like-minded girlfriends……. all this become joys we look forward to.
We often equate self-love with additive activities like shopping, physically gratifying activities like various beauty treatments etc. I’m not denying the importance of these, but a big part of self-love is to do with self-acceptance, saying no to the self-criticizing voice that raises its head ever so often.
It’s that quiet assertion that we are complete in ourselves, that letting go of the competitiveness and insecurities that we have harbored in ourselves for long.
It’s also taking care of our body and mind…..exercising regularly, eating healthy, meditating, letting positive thoughts fill our minds.
Then self-love also often has the connotation of masturbation and indulging in sexual pleasure on our own. I am not getting into it here, as I dealt with it in a previous blog.
The other aspect of all this glorification of self-love that bothers me is how egoistic it’s making us. How it’s making us behave in a very selfish manner. How being loud and over-assertive is the new cool.
Is all this self-love and self-care making us lose touch with our intrinsic tender selves? Is there a kind of harshness creeping into our hearts that’s preventing us from giving, in love? Love entails giving a lot of ourselves and we do so willingly for others. Not just our partners and children but also for the community.
Specially in these times of despair, frustration and uncertainty, “other-care” as opposed to self-care becomes all the more important. Feeling others pain, empathizing with them and reaching out to help those in need bring out the best in ourselves.
Once again, we need to strike the right balance with self-love like in every other thing. We need to find a definition that goes beyond the regular definition of this much used (and misused) word showing self-indulging services, products and activities on Google search.
As Jamil Zaki, professor of psychology at Stanford University so aptly puts it:
“By integrating other-care into our plans, we can go back to self-care’s broader, more connected origins and rebuild meaning at a time when so many of us desperately need it.”
- Certified fitness Trainer