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The personal message on a friend’s Blackberry device read “Remember to love me”.  I quickly sent her a ping chiding that it’s me she should remember to love because she had abandoned me for a long time. We pinged back and forth, accusing each other of the most hideous crimes to friendship we could muster until my first client walked into my office. I had to say good bye and sign off but the phrase kept bugging my mind, and I finally gave in and started thinking about it. I quickly realized the quicksand of an issue I had gotten into, because, the more I thought about it, the more I condemned myself and the more self-loathing I felt. Self love is one of the most misunderstood concepts of human nature. As I thought about it, I realized how misguided we are, how much we have misinterpreted the notion and how little of self-love we actually practice. When we say self-love, most people conjure a picture of someone with an over bloated image of themselves, we think of superiority complex, pride and selfishness. But as I reflected on the subject, I realized there were some discrepancies between our notion and the truth. My friend was right; we need to “remember to love ourselves”. A popular quote from the good book which I subscribe to, by the way, both as my moral code of conduct and measure of my value system, touts a most popular principle, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ as the foundation of all human relations. We all are familiar with this quote if we have been around the block called earth for a few years. The irony of the principle is that once the quote is mentioned, we project outwards, thinking of the poor neighbour upon whom we would bestow our benevolence, solidifying our erroneous notion of our piety. The truth of the matter is that the principle calls for an introspective response first before an effective expression is felt on the outside. The principle has one fundamental assumption upon which my argument is formed; ‘we should all love ourselves’ because the instruction to love your neighbour as yourself presupposes that you love yourself first. Unfortunately, that is not the case, because most of us have no idea of what it means or how we can love ourselves Love is defined by one of the dictionaries as “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person”. Another defines it as “affectionate concerns for the well being of others”. But from my many pondering on the nature and attributes of love, I have one personal definition of love, “Love in the broad sense is a positive disposition towards a person” whether accompanied by emotional feelings or not. I know a few people will be ready to debate the essence and definition of love, but that is not the crux of our discussion.  The question is how do we love ourselves? From my definition of love as being a positive disposition, love aspires to elevate the state of that which is being loved. Love would never in anyway do or suggest anything that would hurt the one who is to be loved. Love is so passionate about doing what is beneficial for the one being loved that it can force good on the loved one (parents always use that on us, it’s called tough love).  The most important thing to understand about the true nature of love is; all that love wants is what is best for the beneficiary of the affection. Understanding this to be true, let us then consider what it means to love oneself. It simply means to have a positive disposition towards yourself. How do you have a positive disposition to yourself? You do so by doing what is best for yourself. Not necessarily what you want, but what is best for you. If you love yourself, you would make sure that you get the best in life, you will make sure nothing harmful is allowed into your space, you would make sure you are sheltered and preserved. You won’t smoke because it’ll hurt your liver, whether you feel like or not. You would exercise because you want your loved one (you) to be sharp, healthy and live longer. If you loved yourself, you would take a rest every now and then, so you would be refreshed and work at 100 percent. If you loved yourself you won’t let anyone treat you like trash, and devalue you. If you loved yourself, you won’t allow a day go by without telling yourself something good. If you loved yourself you will create avenues to give yourself a fun time; you would take yourself out to some place nice, give yourself a bubble bath with jazz music in the background…… if you love yourself. Let me conclude on this most important note, which is why I think the wisest sage that ever lived recommended this principle in the first place. It is quite impossible for someone to give what they don’t have; therefore someone who is not loved cannot successfully love someone else. Our first challenge is that we cannot love others when we ourselves are not loved. The second challenge is that it’s useless waiting for others to love you because they too are ardently looking for someone to love them. The solution then is If we can love ourselves first, we can love others after, who in turn would love us back, and it starts a healthy cycle of love, but it has to start with you remembering to be nice to the most important person in the world, YOU! If you can’t love yourself, no one else can. If you won’t love yourself, no one else will. Everyone takes a cue from you when it comes to the way they treat you. Treat yourself with love and respect and so would we, treat yourself with loathing and disdain, so will we.  

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This article was first published on 5th August 2017

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