Why don’t you love yourself enough? We’re urged to focus on the fact that we don’t love ourselves enough, and that we cannot move forward with anything else until we learn to love ourselves more. Social media is filled with such claims, and the comments to these posts are almost always supportive and enthusiastic.
But what does that mean…exactly? From mindbodygreen.com we are given “Six Steps of Inner Bonding:”
- Be willing to feel pain and take responsibility for your feelings.
- Move into the intent to learn.
- Learn about your false beliefs.
- Dialogue with your higher self.
- Take the loving action learned in step four.
- Evaluate your action.
“Once you take the loving action, you check in to see if your pain, anger and shame are getting healed. If not, you go back through the steps until you discover the truth and loving actions that bring you peace, joy, and a deep sense of intrinsic worth.”
“Over time, you will discover that loving yourself improves everything in your life — your relationships, your health and well-being, your ability to manifest your dreams, and your self-esteem.”
Sounds pretty good right? It sounds good because there is nothing to argue with about any of it. But nor is there any clear way to operationalize these things and truly integrate them into your life, never mind measure whether or not you were successful. Those who have studied in this area end up practitioners for others. They write books, counsel, give talks at conferences and make a good living at guiding people down the path of self-love seeking. They do all this with kindness, serenity, and a wan smile, even though — if honest — their own lives are oftentimes still the struggle they once were.
Let’s get down to some practical questions and see what we can conclude about all this. If I am a long way from loving myself enough I can say that the best description of how I feel about myself is hatred. But if I truly hated myself, wouldn’t I be delighted if I was ugly, ecstatic that I’ve been fired, satisfied with the reality that no one really likes me?
No, the truth is we love ourselves already. We see that we are as well fed and cared for as our resources can provide. We preen, we pick out fashionable clothes, we drive a cool car. But our dissonance comes in the higher expectations we have set for ourselves. I see myself as capable of far more, financially, academically, socially, and in every aspect and dimension humans beings measure and compare themselves.
This isn’t hating myself, it is the opposite. We are seeing ourselves as far greater across the spectrum of life than we are actually experiencing. And we don’t like it. Not one bit. So our angst is fed by our perception that people just aren’t willing to give us what we deserve. And that our job is to educate everyone by filling them in with the facts about just how wonderful and deserving we really are!
Children are self-absorbed — they cry and throw temper tantrums if not fed when they’re hungry, they are selfish about sharing their toys, their world extends no further beyond their own wants and needs. When adults continue in this immaturity, and myth of self-love, their growth and development is stunted. They will never get to the point where they love themselves enough. They will always tell you they’re working on themselves and that until they learn to love themselves they are unable to reach out and help others.
Empathy isn’t dead but it is in a steep decline. Psychology Today has measured empathy and found an alarming trend: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-empathy-gap/201006/the-end-empathy. Empathy among students is down 40%!
At the same time narcissism is increasing. A 2010 study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that the percentage of college students exhibiting narcissistic personality traits, based on their scores on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, a widely used diagnostic test, has increased by more than half since the early 1980s, to 30 percent. In their book “Narcissism Epidemic,” the psychology professors Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell show that narcissism has increased as quickly as obesity has since the 1980s. Even our egos are getting fat.
The myth of self-love has been a major contributing factor to the decline in empathy and the increase in narcissism. And the focus on self has splintered America into a less than cohesive community of spoiled brats each demanding his or her rights as they believe they are entitled. Consequently angst and fear has gripped much of the nation in direct proportion to the abandonment of the once treasured virtues of love, empathy, compassion, self-control, charity and humility. And it is this trend, the focus upon self and all its constituent parts: fame, wealth, entertainment and power, that is sending our nation into a decline that will likely only continue.