Why is “loving yourself” necessary?

I noticed a lot of “acceptance” blogs emphasize “loving yourself”. For a long time, I felt it was an odd phrase and couldn’t say it applied to myself. Yet I don’t feel any self-hate…

Why must I “love” myself? It sounds so odd. The implications must be that if you refuse to love yourself, you must hate yourself. But I think self-respect is what characterizes a happy, healthy person. Self-respect is free of self-loathing. It lets a person admit their mistakes or flaws, without sinking into a negative downward spiral of thoughts. And then it lets the person work on those mistakes or flaws. Self-respect is accountability mixed with optimism. Accountability alone is too demanding and punishing, while optimism alone is too naively delusional.

And this is why I think “loving yourself” is a product of people who struggle with self-hatred. Because their self-respect does not work automatically, they have to spell it out, and try to learn it. People who don’t suffer from self-hate don’t love themselves, the same way most people don’t think about how to walk. It just comes naturally, and thinking about it might even confuse you and make you trip.

So no, I don’t think you have to explicitly say you love yourself, if you already feel fine and don’t suffer from terrible self-esteem.

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36 Responses to Why is “loving yourself” necessary?

  1. I think there are many people who feel deep, rarely changing love for things and people other than themselves, who believe this is the cure to low self esteem, or even normal mood fluctuations.

    My moods change a lot. Because I have an actual condition that makes them change without warning. So I live with it and have grown to accept that sometimes I will love myself, sometimes I will like myself, sometimes I will hate myself and sometimes I’ll put up with myself. Because it’s all a glitch in my head anyway and isn’t worth fretting over. But I also know that I would have changes, albeit less radical, if I were healthy and happy. I wouldn’t love myself all the time, even if I were always happy. That’s just not possible. It’s easy to love an external thing consistently and borderline unconditionally. It’s very hard to love yourself like that. If you did, you’d never want to improve of change.

    That said, I also obsess over myself and adore myself like I suppose most people would a child. But even someone who is very self-focused, egoistic and doesn’t need external validation to motivate herself can dislike herself. I still think I’m one of the best things on this planet when I hate myself. I just beat myself up whenever I fall short of the perfection I believe I can reach.

    So, basically, it makes no sense to me either. If your self esteem can depend entirely on hormonal switches and a narcissist can hate themselves, then self love isn’t going to fix your problems or do you any good.

    • theasdgamer says:

      SSW, I have always found you to be delightful–feminine, yet someone with whom I can have rapport. You may be the ideal woman.

      • Aw, thanks. 🙂 But I think there’s no such thing. I’ve discovered that many people might say I’m “ideal”, but how many could actually live with a cyclothymic, narcissistic, procrastinating introvert with fairly blank facial expressions, that’s obsessed with anime and saving money? I know what’s good about me too, but I know all too well what traits I have that people find offputting and I believe Jon is worth the effort of controlling, restricting and channeling these problems into something more productive. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Ideal people don’t really exist, at least not when you get to know them. They’re in your head.

      • theasdgamer says:

        Dammedall–all you ideal volk just marchieren your ideal @$$e$ out of my head this instant. Even if you don’t exist.

    • The latter part of your comment makes you sound like a narcissist (and you also seem to imply it) 😉 But can you really be one, if you’re so honest about it? And your relationship with your man seems good from what I heard (granted I only heard your version). It reminds me of the time I thought I was a sociopath (I think if I was one, I’d still be one right now).

      • I have my reasons for suspecting it, whether it’s actual narcissism or whether I just think like one in every way and generally behave like one. But going into details causes a lot of disconnect and I don’t really like it. 🙂

        Jon is aware of it (how couldn’t he be?) and agrees, but we have our own mechanisms and seem to be compatible.

      • That said, I meet the DSM IV criteria, not the DSM V ones, as my behaviours are all internally driven, not based on others. It’s not about approval or seeking others, it’s about my own personal perfection and avoiding others. So I guess what I have may no longer count as a disorder.

  2. Seven Dials says:

    “I think “loving yourself” is a product of people who struggle with self-hatred”

    This.

    I hear this struggle in 12-Step meetings where people have come from treatment centres and picked up ideas from mainstream therapy. Drunks and addicts typically have a huge capacity for self-pity and self-hatred. “Loving themselves” is a temporary tactic, not a long-term solution. It helps them turn off the carping inner voice. The longer-term solution is in self-respect.

    One of the most important things for me about Step Nine is that it’s not about getting forgiveness from others, but about admitting the wrongs we did them honestly, without dramatics, and offering to make amends. We are sweeping our side of the street, as the phrase is. If someone works the Steps well, what they come out with is an honest look at themselves, and increased self-respect, because they have done things to make themselves a better person.

    Therapists and pop psychologists don’t use the Steps, so the closest they can get is “loving yourself”.

    • I like that step. One must eventually find a way to separate one’s mistakes from self-hate. One should learn how to admit mistakes and areas that could be improved, without going into a negative downward spiral of thoughts and becoming paralyzed. In that case, the initial self-love is a way to soften the blow. Allowing yourself to relax before improving. Kind of like escaping a Chinese finger trap, perhaps? I found that often it IS easier to fix a persistent problem, if you stop struggling and regroup.

  3. theasdgamer says:

    Since women tend to be narcissistic, encouraging them to “love themselves” panders to their narcissism.

    Note that women are never encouraged to evaluate their behavior in order to improve themselves on sites like Jezebel. Contrast this with the manosphere where men are continually urged to improve themselves.

  4. Liz says:

    “And this is why I think “loving yourself” is a product of people who struggle with self-hatred. Because their self-respect does not work automatically, they have to spell it out, and try to learn it. “

    I think you might be on to something here. I, too, have always thought the ‘love yourself’ meme was kind of strange. I remember watching a scene in a movie (Kramer versus Kramer, I think) and the wife was talking to the husband she left (she also left her child) about “finding out that she liked herself” through therapy.
    That was beyond strange to me…what was there to like? What sort of standard was she using? Was it something along the lines of a “good, lucky feeling”? I think a person should have goals and objectives and strive to improve themselves, and to be a good (and kind) person. It’s good to have a sense of accomplishment and it’s good to be a non-toxic, pleasant and responsible person.

  5. CUCH says:

    As someone who has suffered low self-esteem most of his life, it does annoy me that a mental illness is trivialised by encouraging people to “love themselves” as though low self-esteem is an epidemic and narcissism is the cure. Self-esteem therapy is not for people who do not have an issue in the same way you wouldn’t get somebody to put a leg brace on a leg that isn’t broken.

    Besides which, the cure for low self-esteem is not “self love” it’s “self-acceptance”.

    • theasdgamer says:

      The cure for lack of confidence is to be successful. If people have told you that you are stupid, etc., then you need to work to improve yourself so that you can justify throwing off all that baggage. Realize that your enemies at home have tried to destroy you through propaganda. Take the Red Pill and eschew the Blue Pill.

      • I’d say it’s one of the cures. I’ve read that depressive people, even if they win, attribute their win to factors outside themselves (“I just got lucky”). So they prevent their confidence from growing by always doubting themselves like that. They don’t win even if they win (!). I think one needs to have internal locus of control (the idea that YOU are the creator of your own life, not the circumstances).

      • CUCH says:

        Umm, no. Way wide of the mark and a very common assumption from people who do not understand and armchair psychologists such as those in the PUA community.

        I am successful in many ways – I have a master’s degree and I run my own business. With low self-esteem, you discount the successes, you throw them away as “I got lucky” or “anybody could have done it” or “it’s easy, it’s not an accomplishment”. If it was that simple, then the day I had my MSc conferred upon me I would have thrown off the shackles holding me back and be cured of an illness that many people don’t think exist.

        https://inthemindofmen.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/discounting-the-little-successes/

      • theasdgamer says:

        Actually, I was spot on target. You have obviously failed to realize that you were programmed by someone hostile to you to sell yourself short. You need to be able to spot when that program is being run in your brain and to terminate it. I was programmed to be narcissistic and have to realize when that program is being run.

      • Do you have a post elaborating that? If not, could you explain in more detail here? How do you think you were programmed, and how did you recognize it?

      • theasdgamer says:

        Oh, I was a brilliant student when I was young. Skipped first grade at a german school. Could read at 6th grade level when I was six. Mom always set high standards for me, saying that God gave me brains. Didn’t have to work hard until I went to a college prep school. I was brought up as Old Money. Entitled. Somewhat arrogant.

        I lived in a blue collar neighborhood and had to fight a lot growing up. I became self-reliant. Self-confident.

        Arrogance, self-reliance, self-confidence, entitlement->narcissism

      • CUCH says:

        I was programmed to be narcissistic and have to realize when that program is being run

        Like in this comment?

      • CUCH says:

        And you dodged the question anyway. You said the best way to challenge low self esteem is to “be successful”. By many standards, I am successful but still suffered from it. You still need to justify your statement or accept that you were wrong.

      • theasdgamer says:

        Sure, you have to be successful; you also have to realize that you were programmed to view yourself as a failure and engage and defeat that program as you achieve successes.

        Also, it’s important to realize that being a man means that you will risk and sometimes fail. Failure is part of the price of success.

      • CUCH says:

        Err, yeah, thanks. I guess you teach your grandmother how to suck eggs too 😉

    • There is something I’m curious about. I read that in some therapy, they often teach you how to challenge your own negative inner voice, and show yourself that what it says is not rational or true. How does it fit together with self-acceptance? Is self-acceptance for people who have something negative to accept, or everyone with low self-esteem?

      • CUCH says:

        Happy to explain.

        People with low self esteem consider themselves to have no skills, qualities or redeeming features. To compensate, we demand perfection of ourselves. This creates a double-bind in that we push ourselves towards perfection but when we (inevitably) fail we use it to condemn ourselves entirely as a person and reinforce the things we already believe about ourselves.

        So the treatment is two-pronged.

        Firstly, challenging the negative thoughts rationally as you point out.

        Secondly, the self-acceptance is realising how impossibly high those standards are, that nobody could ever live up to the standards you have set yourself, and recognising that having flaws is a normal part of being human. Just as everybody has skills and qualities, we also all have faults. In a way, they work together – you rationalise to think about what qualities you do have while the self-acceptance forces you to confront that nobody is perfect and could never hope to be.

        Does that make sense?

      • It kind of makes sense. I used to have perfectionism too, and always tried to achieve an impossible level of perfection in everything. I don’t know if self-acceptance was what helped me get rid of it, though. I just realized it was stupid, got me nowhere, and wasn’t even necessary. Also, it’s worth mentioning that something really painful happened to me during this time, and I realized that living the perfectionist way will lead to a truly wasted life. Life is too short for this. So you can say it took a major emotional shakeup to cure it.

      • CUCH says:

        I think, not every perfectionist has low self esteem but everyone with low self esteem is a perfectionist – it becomes another weapon with which to beat ourselves up.

        Life is too short for this. So you can say it took a major emotional shakeup to cure it.

        Yes, but when we understand that low self esteem is a mental illness, that is easier said than done.

        Similarly to you, with the breakdown of my marriage it took something like that to realise I had several problems going on that I needed to do something about if I was to break the cycle of self-torment.

      • Did you manage to gain self-esteem now? 🙂

        Also, thanks for explaining. I guess I was perfectionist, but I was never really sure if I had low self-esteem or not. Maybe I did not.

      • CUCH says:

        I accept my flaws and recognise my qualities thanks to a combination of therapy, a self-help book and having external factors challenge those negative thoughts.

      • theasdgamer says:

        One of the key strategies to beating any programming is to understand when it is being run and to resist the manipulation. If the programming is low self-esteem, then you also need to realize that the program is a hostile agent that is trying to demoralize you. Hence, you need to realize the programming is propaganda and reject the propaganda as coming from outside you–from an enemy.

  6. “Love yourself” is the weak sauce put out by fools who cannot live up to older, harsher standards, such as “Know thyself” and “Love they neighbor.”

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