Illustration by Elisa Talentino
What may seem excessive to a casual onlooker, like numerous postings of selfies or constant talk about yourself or conversations about your own personal achievements rather than listening to those of others (and tuning out when someone else speaks), is not arrogance. Not egoism. Not lack of manners. If you really stop and look at that person and set your judgements aside, you'll see that whoever is doing it is actually trying to practice self-love. I say "trying" because this is the first stage of it, the first phase of healing. By focusing on self, by sharing self unreservedly, by loving self in any way one can, similar to that of a child who is excited about something, you can come to the next phase, to where you're assured of your own self-love and you can begin having space to love others. Don't confuse this with unhealthy narcissism that comes from the desire to be watched, not to be seen.
What hinders this healing process for many of us, especially if we come from neglecting, abusive, dehumanizing backgrounds, is the shaming we receive in return. Add to that gender, and the shaming gets worse. Add race, and it's no longer shaming, it's public lynching. Until we learn that to love self is what precedes loving others, and that by nurturing self-love in those around us by not discouraging them but by cheering them on, we will all learn to graduate from individual focus to focus on community, and that kind of love has the power to stop wars.
If the need for self-love comes from the wounds of childhood (the need to be seen), the need for love that is only individual, that is narcissism (the need to be watched), comes from capitalist and consumerist culture, from society driven by lust for power and material gain that is beneficial only for one. This is where the second stage of healing often strays. We confuse self-loving with self-gratification, with fulfilling only our own needs, and we think those needs can be satisfied with things, but they cannot. We can shop to death, it won't make us love ourselves better. However, this change that we must make is highly unprofitable for the economy we live in today. It's more profitable to keep us hating ourselves, to make us buy more.
So you see, if you want to find self-love, if you want to be able to climb out of that devastation and depression you feel at one or another point in your life—and we all do, we all feel it often—you're up against two powerful forces: