The Self-Love Fallacy

I was talking with one of my very good friends, Aaron, the other day on our drive home from Six Flags Magic Mountain (there you got your shout-out), and as we often do, we got deep in a conversation about a variety of stuff. One topic in particular that we were talking about was the idea of being happy with or for yourself rather than trying to find happiness in others.

Like with most things I think the ultimate idea of this is all well and good, but also like with most things I want to talk a bit more specifically about what the words mean and how people may interpret them.

Self-confidence and self-esteem are of utmost importance for an individual. There is a sweet spot here though. Too much confidence and your verge on arrogance and self-centeredness; too little and you can introduce a whole set of personal problems. Today we are often told that our self-worth and our confidence should come from within ourselves and I believe that to be true to an extent. However, we often take that to mean treating ourselves and buying nice clothes for ourselves so we can feel good. This idea of self-love and self-care leads to confidence that is grounded in our possessions, appearance, and other superficial metrics. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do nice things for ourselves, but that should not be the basis of how we care for ourselves.

Personally, a lot of my self-love comes from my volunteer work. In Doctors Without Walls, whenever a person we work with expresses their gratitude for what we do, my mentor always says to me afterward, “That’s the paycheck right there.” I don’t think this feeling is in anyway unique to me or the people I work with. Everyone has a sense of this, but contemporary culture has a specific image of what self-love is and that typically does not include doing something nice for someone else.

If it makes someone feel good than when they can make another person else feel better or make another person else feel happy, does that mean they rely on others for their happiness? If it does, what’s wrong with that (of course at the extreme we can get into compassion fatigue; again moderation is key)? We are social creatures by nature and I think some of our happiest moments come when there are other people in our lives. I think idea behind self-worth and self-love is being happy during the in-betweens. Our relationships and interactions with other people should not determine our self-worth, but I think it definitely can be a part of it and I think we should embrace that.

Happiness does not have to come from others, but that does not mean it shouldn’t.


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