Some observations after Valentine's Day
We can’t be so desperate for love that we forget where we can always find it; within — Alexandra Elle
As the cheer around Valentine's Day subsides and as we continue our everyday journeys, it can be safely acknowledged that the coveted and much celebrated ideas of love remain as tricky as ever. We live in a consumerist society and love emerges as a commodity which we may possess briefly but keep running out of. Love is at the end of a never-ending chase often fueled by materialistic aims which tell us that acquiring certain kinds of success, beauty and wit make us more worthy of love.
The conundrum gets inevitably more complicated when we explore the possibilities of loving ourselves and think of what we can do to feel sufficient and worth the best of things the world has to offer. After all, what exactly is self-love and how do we go about it?
Self-love in today's capitalistic age, is a frequently and fervently promoted idea. Yet, going by studies and observing people around us, it remains as elusive as ever. First of all, despite all the hype around the term, it remains on the backburner. Hindustan Times reports how a survey by Shaadi.com found that 40 per cent of the respondents felt the pressure to be with someone on Valentine's Day. To interpret this, one can remark that people are pressured into thinking that people and things outside them will complete their selfhoods and provide them with a sense of worth. Compared to this, a study by Jeevansathi.com showed that 21 per cent of women respondents and a meagre 9 per cent of men believed they were their own Valentines. Self-love, then, is certainly not the most mainstream of phenomena in a universe that incessantly locates fulfilment outside.
Secondly, even as we look beyond loving another person, loving ourselves can be unsparingly difficult. Body image issues, anxieties around careers and familial responsibilities, social discomfiture and several other host of issues can plague us into devaluing our present selves while aiming to be someone we can cherish in a very indeterminate future. The script pretty much is like, "If I lose a few kilograms, I will like myself better.", or "If I get that promotion at work, I will be more confident in being myself." In this goose chase, we forget that it is necessary and indispensable to love ourselves as we are and not who we want to be. Wanting to be someone better without affirming ourselves in the present moment is like trying to build a house without a foundation, and such houses are unlikely to be sturdy in the face of the struggles life engenders.
A third and derivative concern is how in trying to love other people and not knowing how to love who we are, we lose sight of ourselves. Neglecting ourselves and putting in effort to complete other people's lives is an arrangement that leaves us feeling inadequate no matter how we go about it. Pouring in tremendous amounts of energy and yet not achieving a desired sense of contentment can cause massive harm to self-esteem and restrict how we channelise our agencies and creativity to be individual and social actors.
As these concerns remain prominent and ubiquitous, what do we do about love? One suitable place to begin is to value our effort and realise that no matter how much energy we expend on any regimes of love or self-love, as long as it is misdirected, it is always going to end in disaster or at the very least, discomfort. We forget that the world as we know it, is a narrative concocted by us, and thus, when we change that narrative, our lives are consequently transformed. Love, then, being part of this world, is also a matter of the mind and something we imagine and conceptualise. In simpler words, the key to loving meaningfully does not lie outside, but inside us.
This irrevocable truth was glaringly highlighted by the way in which people coped with living in a co-Covid world. As the pandemic massively limited the avenues of finding happiness externally, people were compelled to live with themselves and look at themselves. Social media was flooded with people trying new recipes, unleashing previously untried health regimes, reading new books and connecting in new ways with themselves and people around them. Citing the same Jeevansathi.com survey referred to earlier, 45 per cent of Indian respondents chose to celebrate Valentine's day with friends or family. This is a radical development, as on a day all about performativity and grand gestures to validate our love, a substantial number of people departed from the convention to find self-consummation in a new, self-fashioned way.
Keeping all of this in mind, it can be safely remarked that self-loveoutside an imposed template is a possibility when individuals are made to face themselves and look within. It is important to not judge ourselves as we grow and heal and even more important to love ourselves as we happen to be in the current moment. We must find what makes us happy and pamper ourselves with moments of self-affirmation and realisation. Once we learn how to love ourselves, we also will know better to love in general, and find contentment and individual and social levels.
Valentine's Day is gone, but loving ourselves and others in rewarding ways is a possibility we can realise on every day of our lives. The path is to look within and empower ourselves and others through a love that is our own invention. We can truly love only when we have learnt to love ourselves. So, go ahead, bolster your selfhood and love yourself like never before!
(The Author is founder of Upsurge Global and Senior Adviser, Telangana State Innovation Cell).