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The art of self-love

The art of self-love
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I was recently exposed to an extreme case of self-love. So extreme that it nearly burned me. The fault is mine though. I grew up in times when we were...

I was recently exposed to an extreme case of self-love. So extreme that it nearly burned me. The fault is mine though. I grew up in times when we were taught that true happiness came from being selfless.

So we gave and gave until our fingers wore out to the bone. We adjusted schedules, spaces, ourselves and our lives to accommodate anyone with a need. When we had nothing to adjust to, our lives seemed pointless, so we made up ways to feel selfless some way or another. That’s how selfless we were.

After living a major part of my life in that fashion I am naturally intrigued when I come across people who cannot look beyond themselves. In our times we called them selfish. Now they call it self-love. The idea is to focus fully on yourself until you are full of love for yourself. Once you are full of love, you have enough love for the rest of the world. It’s a sound concept and I fully agree with it. But like everything else these days, it has been so twisted out of shape that it can have dangerous repercussions.

Consider my experience for example. I had to cancel a lunch appointment at the last minute with a friend of mine the other day. He recently attended a self-love programme so I thought he would be open, loving and flexible. I told him I had an unforeseen emergency to attend to and could we meet for lunch next week. A situation that required a little old fashioned adjustment. But with the introduction of self-love into our lives it became a little dangerous like the Palestine issue.

‘No,’ he said. ‘We will have lunch today.’ I was taken aback. What does he mean? ‘I have an emergency,’ I squeaked. ‘I am sorry I am cancelling at the last minute. But I cannot have lunch today.’ My friend went still. An ugly glint crept into his eyes and his muscles flexed a bit.

‘We have to do it today,’ he said patiently. ‘You cannot cancel it.’ I was worried now. ‘Look, if you paid money for the lunch I will be happy to compensate,’ I said wondering how to get out of this. ‘It’s not the money,’ he said softly. ‘It’s the principle. I was looking forward to lunch with you. I cannot let myself down now.’ He rocked himself and worked himself into some kind of a trance.

I started sweating. ‘Look I am sorry but there is no way I can come,’ I pleaded. He went silent. He closed his eyes. ‘I love myself, I love myself,’ he repeated some fifty times. Then he turned to me with a peaceful look in his bloodshot eyes. ‘You don’t understand do you? It’s not you. You don’t even matter to me. It’s about me. My love for myself. I could hurt anyone in the world but not myself. I could kill you and think nothing of it really. But hurt myself on your account? No way!’

All I wanted was a little adjustment. I mean you go to programmes like these you are supposed to become better people right? This fellow turned into an inflexible monster.

I trembled in my shoes as I stood before this person who was fully in love with himself. I could see he was willing to go to any extent for himself. I feared for my safety. I had inadvertently come between my friend and himself. I had the blood of this intense love story on my hand. What would he do with me?

Suddenly he burst out. ‘I cannot hurt myself, I cannot,’ he sobbed. I was alarmed. This was worse than hitting me. I told him I would cancel my program. We could go to lunch. Anything to stop him from crying.

‘I don’t want your sympathy,’ he sobbed. ‘Don’t insult me and my love. Please go, we can handle ourselves.’ I turned to go when he hit himself. I asked him why he did that. ‘For hurting myself,’ he said. ‘No one can hurt me, least of all myself. I could kill myself for this’ I looked around for the nearest exit. I didn’t want to be around when that happened.

‘It’s ok,’ he said. ‘You go. I will go to lunch with myself. We don’t need anyone.’ He hit the table with his fist. ‘I love you,’ he whispered to himself. And slapped himself immediately. Then he smiled peacefully. ‘Love yourself man,’ he said. ‘You don’t need to depend on anyone then.’ He walked away.

I wanted to tell him to be gentle with himself. He was being very violent with himself. I was sure he would order for two and force feed himself. He was bent on having a good time with himself.

I wrote a note for him. I told him to love himself a little less if possible. Then I tore it up. If he loved himself less, he might come and hit me. Better he loves himself than me. Safer for the rest of us.

By: Harimohan Paruvu

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