I’ve always been intrigued by the relationship between two polar opposite concepts: selfishness and self-love. We know selfishness really well because it’s rampant in Western society; it’s people’s seemingly inherent lack of consideration for others in favor for their own personal pleasure, comfort, and profit. It’s a typical quality that the ego possesses and clings to as a survival mechanism. All pursuits of selfishness come from the ego, and it’s the primary force behind what separates us from each other and away from our ultimate true nature: oneness.
Those who’ve struggled with feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, low self-worth, codependency, depression, anxiety, etc have likely sought out guidance from outside resources (such as DivineSoda). If this sounds like you, then you’ve no doubt been told you need to be more gentle with yourself. You need to practice more self-love.
But what? More self-love? Isn’t that the problem with society; that everyone is so self-indulgent and self-obsessed, nobody cares for one another anymore? Well, yes it is (and I’ll admit it’s gotten pretty bad). But what is happening in response to this epidemic is an over-correction by kind and considerate individuals wishing to become as far removed from that which disgusts them in others. As you’ll see below, this is no solution. So how do we reconcile these contradictions and know what’s the right thing to do? Let’s take a look at the following scenario:
The story of Peter
Peter had a rough childhood growing up. He struggled with being accepted by others because he could see what it took to be among the popular crowd, and he didn’t have it. To Peter, the whole scene was very cut-throat.. it was a game of survival. You had to do whatever it took to look out for your own best interests; and if that meant stepping on others in order to gain access or approval of another, then you must do it. After years of dabbling in attempts to fit into the right clique, he ultimately gave up and lived out the remainder of his schooling years on the fringes of social life.
Fast forward a decade after high school ended, and Peter is in his late 20’s still struggling with life. He’s been on anti-depressants for 10 years now and has come to blame society for all his pain. It all makes sense to him now why he’s had a such a hard time fitting in; it’s because the society around him are actually the ones who are crazy and abnormal, not him. But alas, this realization does not bring him peace, and even though he knows he’s right about society’s problems, he’s sick and tired of being sick and tired, and remains open-minded enough to consider alternative viewpoints.
He remembers the wisdom of his past teachers, therapists and spiritual/self-help readings who all encouraged a return to self-love. Despite the contradiction of this advice to all his ideas of what is right vs. wrong with the world, he starts to open himself up to the unknown. For the next 7 years, he embarks on a spiritual journey of self-discovery, inner peace, service to others, and ultimately.. self-love. One magical experience after another convinces Peter that there’s so much more to life than his past ideas of right and wrong. Peter is ultimately able to ween himself off his medication of 17 years after multiple attempts to try and quit in the past. Life is beautiful once again for the first time since he was a little child; before things got so complicated and he was just able to be himself.
So.. why and how did Peter’s investment in true self-love ultimately cure him of all his issues functioning in a society lost in selfishness? Well, let’s break it down. Even through Peter was right about society being so selfish, his mistake was building up a personal value-set of becoming the exact opposite of everything he abhorred in others. As a result, he became a weaker version of himself. He was a people pleaser. He was apologetic. He put everyone else before him. He was quick to neglect his own soul’s needs, and as such, was prone to living a life in whatever way numbed the pain and maximized comfort: alcohol, weed, gaming, unhealthy food, and a constant diet of unhealthy thoughts against his himself.
In other words, without realizing it Peter became the very thing he was trying most to avoid: a selfish person! And just when he was at the height of his self-righteous notions of putting other people first, he became supremely ineffective and practically useless in his ability to serve other people. Why? Because there was nothing left of him to give. His heart was completely closed off to both incoming and outgoing traffic.
A lack of self-love breeds separation and the demise of your ability to share your true gifts with the world.; and when you boil down the root cause of all of today’s global problems, it comes down to this. If you don’t love and honor your true self, you become an empty shell of yourself. Only when you nurture and tend to your soul’s basic survival needs can you overflow that abundance back out onto the world around you.. even to the selfish ones.
Self-love is the answer
So.. what is true self-love? Self-love is a radical acceptance of all your shortcomings, while embodying infinite gratitude for everything that you do have and can do. It’s having the self-respect to say ‘no’ to unnecessary obligations so you can attend to all the soul’s needs you would normally neglect. It’s honoring yourself by refusing to indulge in compulsive negative thinking, worries, and fears that do nothing but hold you back from infinite possibility. It’s having the strength to pass on what would otherwise be an automatic ‘yes’ to addictive, unhealthy behaviors.. and yet, being gentle and forgiving with yourself when you do decide to indulge, knowing that progress not perfection is the name of the lifelong game of becoming the best version of yourself. It’s allowing the darkest parts of you to exist and be seen, rather than repress and relegate them to your unconscious shadow. It’s choosing to believe that you are worthy and deserving of everything you see in others, even before you’re at the place of knowing this is the truth.
Self-love is not selfishness itself, but rather its antidote. Wherever you are on your journey, embrace self-love with all of your heart and you will see.. when you finally acknowledge and honor the existence of your own soul’s needs, you’ll become a beckon of light, capable of illuminating all the nooks of reality you currently believe are doomed to darkness. Light it up ❤️