God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
– Reinhold Niebuhr
Many philosophers and spiritualists vehemently deride the idea of ‘Self Love’, suggesting it is a destructive path of self-aggrandizement, leading quickly to ruin. Indeed, religious scripture and myth both suggest the deadly effects of vanity and the perils of Narcissism. However, many others (and sometimes the very same individuals or groups) have professed that we should learn to ‘Love Ourselves’. It is the clarion call of modern psychotherapy. Adults who have had rough formatory years strive towards Loving Themselves over a decades-long process. Self hatred and ‘Self-disrespect’ are seen as toxic, eroding forces within the psyche (as they should be), and yet Self-Love is touted as sprouting from this same noxious root.
What is to be made of this?
Is there a difference between Self-Love and a striving to Love Oneself? Is it a hiccup of language? Admittedly, my understanding is limited, but I think both of these terms are similar on the surface, yet vastly different underneath.
A difference as big as the schism between selling a painting, and creating one.
Self-Love is Vanity. False Pride. A coddling of rigid opinions. A refusal to change in lieu of abject comfort. It leads to a romanticizing of your character type and placing your likes and dislikes on a pedestal labeled ‘personality’. Through Self-Love, we numb ourselves to our own shortcomings, and explain away the desire for self improvement or reflection.
To me, the word that separates Self-Love from Loving Oneself is:
The Self-Love personality sees itself as perfect.
I am faultless and the world should change around me. I love me!
The path to Loving Oneself is a striving. An acceptance. Faults and mistakes are grist for the grindstone of human improvement.
No one is perfect, I got your back. No matter what. I love you anyway.
To Love Oneself is to care for the Self that you have yet to become.