Is Self-love Selfishness?

One of my 2022 New Year’s  resolutions was to be more kind, more forgiving, gentle and compassionate to MYSELF… Self-love, you know? Not the “self-love” that according to Merriam-Webster or, is synonymous with egotism, selfishness, egocentricity, narcissism, egoism, self-satisfaction, self-conceit… the list goes on. How does giving yourself some TLC (tender loving care) become so negative? How is taking care of your sanity and wellbeing egotistic and narcissist?

It’s second nature to me to be aware of how I treat people and other living beings. I am not a religious person but I believe it’s more important to have a good heart, to be kind, compassionate and respectful towards others. But I find it difficult to do the same to myself. I am often too hard and would  say demeaning words to myself everytime I screw up. I lost count of how many times I called myself “stupid” or “loser” or “failure”.

I realized I had to stop doing this and cut me some slack. I work hard and always give my 101% in everything I do. I love deeply, give selflessly. The least I could do is commend myself for trying hard and give myself a pat on the back and say, “I did my best and it’s okay. Tomorrow is another day.” I owe that to myself.

Ahimsa, the first of the five yamas ( the first limb of Astanga Yoga), listed by Patanjali, resonated with me. It means non-violence and non-harming of other living beings—to not cause pain. It  is not just about physical pain or physical harm. Words, thoughts, feelings can cause pain. According to Patanjali, pain can even be more harmful than killing. So be mindful of words you say, thoughts you cultivate and feelings you harbour. Are you hurting yourself and other people with these words, and thoughts and feelings?

I am on the right track. Every day, I remind myself to cause no pain and no harm to anybody, including myself. Self-love. Yes, it may be synonymous to selfishness, but sometimes you need to take care of yourself first before you can take care of others.  Sometimes, you need to be selfish to be selfless.