A noble approach to the “self-love” movement.
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In case you’ve been living under a rock, you’re clear that #selflove is all the rage these days. Whatever social media avenue you fancy, it’s very likely self-love has made its grandiose presence known. From the lengthy bubble bath post, to the decision to end a relationship that’s marginally uncertain, putting yourself first has never been vocalized quite as much as it is now.
This post is truly not intended to ruffle any feathers, but simply encourage taking a look at how far we run with this idea. After all, I can appreciate there’s some logistical elements that are hard to argue when it comes to putting your own oxygen mask on prior to assisting another.
It’s your life, ultimately. We only get one. It’s invaluable. Yet, we tend to show it in funny ways. It seems our fear gets out in front a lot faster than our appreciation and thus, the self-love factor is leveraged in response to said fear — i.e. “I’m scared shitless about the amount of time I have left, and I need to ensure it’s lived with enjoyment, care and — most notably — undisturbed comfort.”
The fragility of life is understood, but not how precious it is.
What’s the difference?
Let’s dive deep into the ocean of metaphor.
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When the word “fragile” is written on a box, the objective is immediately interpreted like loss aversion. The fear of the item breaking is the primary focus and operating overtly careful is the product — sometimes, to the point of diminishing returns. As someone who runs a moving business, it’s far more likely my team damage something because it’s distinguished as fragile, than because it’s easily breakable. The psychological game is often overpowering.
This is kind of what we’ve been doing with the self-love thing. We’re coming to grips that life is fragile but instead of accepting it and focusing on something more empowering, we’re letting it dictate key decisions. It’s become essentially a cure-all for problems that used to take us a lot longer to solve. Instead of listening, understanding and exercising compassion, we avoid or remove ourselves from — myself included.
I get that it’s a two-way street. But what we don’t really get is communication is a function of our listening, not our speaking. How we listen to people — and who we listen to them as — impacts how we see them. If we listen for where they’re wrong, where they’re out of line, where they’re undeserving of our trust, we’re going to find it. The brain finds what it searches for no matter what — it’s Google.
However, if we listen for where they’re concerned, where they’re hurt, where they’re longing for something, or what they’re committed to, the conversation transforms. It’s never about you — something we step over all the time. I’m convinced that taking things personally is the #1 time-suck in the history of mankind — with the meat of it occurring within the past century. There are anomalies to everything, but if we simply took ourselves out of the equation, we could be of far better service to others on a regular basis.
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I’m as good an example as anyone. The game of life for me over the past decade was making sure I went to bed with a clear conscious, that no one was mad at me, and most importantly, having made sure I talked enough shit about the people I didn’t agree with until I had nothing left to say.
Some profound results ensued: I poisoned the roots of every blossoming relationship I was lucky enough to stumble into. My friendship circle waned down to a few sporadic, surface-level conversations. My family became my distant relatives, and my organizations could only depend on me for an adverse, self-absorbed reaction to the inevitable challenges of running a business.
I embarked on the self-love journey long before it started getting popular. I longed for freedom from the rapture. I knew it had to do with me, but the further along I got, the less it had to do with me — and the more it had to do with giving the large chunk of attention always reserved for myself, to others.
Extreme violence and life-threatening illnesses are always possibilities, but as long as we’re not currently experiencing them, we have nothing to fear. Most of us reading this passage are beyond lucky — truly blessed with a divine opportunity. And once you start to get that you’re fine, your game starts to transcend self-love and simply become love.
Yes, there’s thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, but we’re so much more than that. We don’t actualize our dreams when we feel something. We actualize when other people are there to say so. With all due respect to Earl Nightingale, in my opinion, I’m far more than what I think about.
More than anything, here’s the biggest reason that self-love has gotten out of control:
It’s not that we’re not loving ourselves enough; we’re just really good at telling ourselves something’s missing.
There’s a place in life for unmet expectations. There’s a place for breakdowns. There’s a place for problems. Why else would they be an integral aspect of being human? We’re meant to work the problem, not run from it.
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Referencing back to earlier in the essay, shift your focus to something deemed “precious”. Albeit still fragile, the awareness isn’t on how likely it is to be damaged or broken. The attention is directed toward how priceless what’s being described is. The treasure-like qualities. How truly marvelous it is.
Fear is absent. Loss is absent. Appreciation, value, recognition, and admiration are omnipresent.
Life may be fragile, but focusing on that gets us nowhere. It causes us to play a small game, one solely designed for our own benefit —and no one else’s. Self-love is great, but if you can just have a profound love for life (and everything that comes with it), self-love is an automatic by-product.
No one is truly out to get you — they’re out to get themselves. They’re out to conquer their own self-imposed, self-created battles. They’re out to contradict what the abusive voice inside their head says about them.
We’re so patient with ourselves when we don’t achieve or get something right. We know life’s not easy. So where is the rigid, reflex-like judgment of others coming from? It’s almost as if we’re too close to our own situation to see how imperfect we are —and the negative impact we have on others almost daily.
Maybe we do see but just ignore or justify because we don’t want to live with the uncomfortable feeling right now, as time is quickly running out. I don’t know. I do know however, if we could suspend focusing on how fragile life is and shift to how precious it is, the context would change completely.
Patience would run amuck. Poise would be the new baseline emotion. And all that fear-based resignation and cynicism would transform into acknowledgement, appreciation and support.
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I struggled a long, long time focusing on the fragility of life. Paying mind to how I only had one shot to make it work, to belong, or be somebody respected. I’m here to tell you, focusing on the result gets you nowhere. You cannot aim at what you want — it happens on its own. And it happens by virtue of being someone who understands and appreciates how precious life is to everyone they come in contact with (yes, including themselves). From their listening, their understanding, their compassion, their drive, their commitment, and everything in between.
Don’t sweat the fear of lack. That’s going to keep showing up — pay zero attention to it. The mind is a bumbling idiot that thinks there’s a fixation of infinite resources, such as love, significance, contribution, and connection. Pay it absolutely no mind. You’ll have more than enough if you ignore it.
Instead, for a happier life, extend your efforts outwardly — to people, to causes, to something that really matters to you beyond yourself. The fragility overcompensation will begin to subside and the remarkability of what you’re up to will begin to take it’s rightful place at the head of the table.
But you’ve got to get that you’re okay as you are first. Otherwise, the resentment over thinking you’re missing out on something will build beneath the surface and inevitably boil over at the expense of someone else.
If you can solve the Rubik’s cube however, this quote from Simon Sinek will become your experience of reality,
“When we help ourselves, we find moments of happiness.
When we help others, we find lasting fulfillment.”
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