Love, Love me do…. sang the Beatles… Yes, we are in that particular month where all things love have been pouring out of the woodwork and, with it, many ways of saying ‘Will you be mine?’! A marketer’s delight, couples’ joy, single folks’ trauma and, for many, plain cringe-worthy mush. But should ‘love’ be defined only in one way? Why are we so afraid and often embarrassed to love the most important person in our lives: ourselves? Narcissist, selfish, self-obsessed… are flash signs already popping up? Stop right there. Pause and reflect a little. Why is it that when most people are asked who they love most, very rarely will they add themselves to that list? Years of cultural coding have made self-sacrifice a virtue and self-care a vice. Especially for women. Across all socio-economic strata. Women mostly live in a world of gender, cultural and societal labels, stereotypes, biases and norms. These discriminatory behaviours had been created in part to control them socially, emotionally and morally. If there is a binder in most societies, it is that good girls always put others (read mostly men) before themselves.
Reject limiting beliefs
It is time for another nudge and another reminder. Time to reject some limiting beliefs. While flying in an airplane, one of the most critical safety measures given to us is that before helping others in an emergency, we should wear our own oxygen masks. Isn’t this a life truth and philosophy, and not merely a safety instruction? One is not saying don’t care for others, because the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t work in your favour to do so! Caring for others is rewarding, of course, but it is okay to put yourself as priority at times and it is equally worthwhile. Perhaps, the better you care for yourself, the better care you can provide others.
Self-criticism and doubt or being unnecessarily tough on yourself builds barriers to career advancement that we might not even be aware of. We’ve been taught that self-love is selfish or narcissistic—even cheesy—and that self-sacrifice is a virtue. If you’re on the path of being a career climber (and well done, you) you have shut that voice that bullies you with criticism and tells you how worthless, selfish, dumb or incompetent you are. It never rests and bites off more mental space than the other voice that tells you about the potential you really have. You’re more likely to enjoy well-being and success when you give yourself an occasional and much deserved pat on the shoulder and doses of self-compassion. Don’t let negative thoughts chew you up. You must make the effort to push them away, because this voice does surface more often than necessary. Go right ahead and be OK about self-care and love.
The gift of self-love
On a journey to be more loving towards ourselves and accepting our limitations with compassion, we deal only with the stressful experience, along with the added negative feelings from self-judgment. It is critical to realize that the more self-compassion you generate for yourself, the more empathy you will have for others. The best medicine is to give yourself pep talks or positive affirmations. Throw yourself a thumbs-up every time you finish a project, reach a successful milestone, or accomplish a goal at work. Whether you’re dealing with a small hassle or a big crisis, a nurturing voice reduces stress and provides the calm and clarity to scale career obstacles. Be confident in your choices, and don’t downplay your talents or professional accomplishments. Speak up or run the risk of making it more difficult to achieve what you want. And do not apologize or always feel the need to explain yourself. C’mon girls, realize that your life is yours. Put your foot down and live for yourself. Put yourself first and chin up!
Action points or a plan to pave way for self-love is something we needed to have kicked off yesterday. Self-love, unconstrained by limiting belief, is powerful. It builds confidence. Being positively invested in professional and personal growth not just helps you, it also induces faith in younger women who look at you as a mentor and role model. Do this for yourself, your peers, friends and family. Lead the way, lean in, stretch, and grow. Don’t worry about labels of negativity. What is called selfish for some can be defined as ambition for others. Raise your voice and help others speak up too. Because by loving yourself, you are also encouraging a mindset shift amongst others. Self-love is giving attention to things that are important - self-worth, knowledge, time, care, joy, ambition, and acceptance. If we think about it, none of these emotions are in any way selfish. Rather, they are essential for growth and wellness. This year, give yourself the gift of self-love and be your own Valentine every day. Be you and as they said in that movie, ‘Be your favourite’!
(The author is an independent brand curator, coach and consultant)
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