I love self-help articles. Scientific or not, articles on how to improve areas in your life—how to be a good student, how to flirt, how to adult, how to move on, how to live happily, and so forth—are enjoyable reads. I dig all of those. For almost a decade of swimming in the vast internet, whenever I stumble across such, there is this advice that always appears: the undying “love yourself.”
I know it’s good. There’s a reason why it is everywhere and why it’s clichéd. If the post is a listicle, it’s probably the number one advice; if it’s not, it’s probably the final recommendation. It’s like the easiest, yet the most effective advice that most people think can solve everything. I don’t disagree, though; loving yourself is the first step before anyone else can love and appreciate you. But how exactly do you love yourself? Do you make love to yourself? Do you indulge yourself into luxuries? Isn’t it being selfish? Should you travel to different place? The idea was so vague for me.
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Not until I started doing my undergraduate paper and encountered Self-Compassion, a research by Kristen Neff. It is about being compassionate, obviously, on yourself the way you should be compassionate on other people. It is the practical embodiment the so-called “self-love,” because it has components people can actually do. It gives the notion of self-love a more specific yet integrated outlook.
The three ways to love yourself is the following: first, you have to be kind to yourself; second, you have to understand that you’re not alone in experiencing certain problems; and third, you have to be mindful at the present situation. Let’s talk about each.
1) Being kind to yourself. Sometimes we’re too harsh on ourselves, admit it or not. I know, because I am. There’s this inner bully inside me that criticizes my every move: “you’re too skinny,” or “you look so ugly,” or “that’s too dumb,” etc. I am my own enemy. That’s why I think the Golden Rule isn’t always applicable because if I say to others what I keep saying to myself, I’d be in so much trouble.
Self-Compassion suggests that maybe we’re not really bad. If we are, maybe we can treat ourselves the way we would treat a friend in the same situation. If a friend failed in an exam, we surely would be comforting and would say some inspiring things. If a friend is feeling insecure, we would inspire him or her by saying good things. Similarly, self-compassion suggests that maybe you could start treating yourself the way you would treat a good friend.
2) Connecting to the common humanity. The difference between self-compassion and self-pity is that the latter isolates the self from the world. When you pity yourself, you think that you’re the only one who experiences problems. However, self-compassion suggests that we, as human beings, commit mistakes—just like any other. Imperfections connect us. Realizing these realities open our gates and crash the walls of isolation we put ourselves into whenever we’re feeling down.
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You lost someone you love? You feel insecure? You have troubles with a family member? Well, everybody experiences those at some point. So quit drowning yourself into your own miseries and start looking at the bigger picture.
3) Being mindful. Christina lost her boyfriend over her best friend. Because of that, Christina started doubting herself. Isn’t she good-looking? Isn’t she smart enough? Isn’t she kind? She lost herself over those thoughts and became fully depressed. Christina wasn’t compassionate of herself; she wasn’t being mindful.
Whenever life strikes you down, self-compassion suggests that we should be mindful—we have to reframe our thinking for it to be more realistic and present. Every time we feel something bad, let’s ask ourselves—am I not exaggerating? Self-compassion advises that showing compassion to ourselves requires that our mindset must be framed realistically and not be based on our heavy emotions. Maybe Christina lost her boyfriend because, maybe, the guy is just not the right fit for her.
Everybody can be like Christina. We should just all remember that we are not that bad as we think.
Before everything else, ask yourself: Do I love myself enough?
The steps mentioned here do not suggest that you travel across Europe, enjoy the rain, nor treat yourself with the most fragrant salt bath like we usually see in most feel-good articles. Especially now when we’re attacked by various stressors, loving ourselves is the best thing we can do to be fully functional, and to prevent health problems.
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Lorhenz B. Lacsa is a human rights defender and an advocate of LGBT rights and mental health (in his own little ways). He is also a wannabe artist/writer. “Freak” is the word he always uses to describe himself.