Letter to the editor: A reason to hate self-love

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There are nearly 23 million posts with the tag #selflove on Instagram. — Wokandapix/Pixabay

By Chad Cooper

A new year is upon us. That fertile time for reflection that instead often devolves into fad diets, short-lived resolutions, and hashtagable mantras.

Scroll through your social media feeds in 2019 and one of the top mantras will undoubtedly be self-love. The idea is nothing new. At its core, self-love is supposed to be about regard for one’s own well-being, self-worth and happiness. It’s grounded in the belief that you can’t truly love others until you love yourself.

It all sounds good, but like most mantras of the digital age, it rings hollow more often than not. Why? Because most of the people preaching and posting self-love aren’t really practicing it. Instead, they’re looking for self-worth out of groupthink. They’re using a mantra as a thin veil for insecurity.

This approach is not only empty, it can also be dangerous. When we jump on the bandwagon of a momentary mantra, we take the same manic route as when we buy products to fill voids. We feel good for a while, but the bottom eventually falls out. And we often come out the other end feeling less like ourselves and more hateful for having taken the ride.

I think self-love fails because it usually isn’t backed up by that often more elusive trait: self-confidence. And self-confidence needs at least a grain of that historically pejorative term: self-absorption. Self-absorption’s gotten a bad rap in our culture. It’s often seen as the bridge towards narcissism, but self-absorption is more reflective and individualistic. This isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of spirit. And when I say spirit, I’m talking more personal than biblical. There’s nothing wrong with taking that selfie or “feeling yourself,” as long as you’re truly being yourself.

So, as we start 2019, think about the value of being an individual. The true benefit — and sometimes risk — of thinking and speaking for yourself and as yourself. Among all the pseudo psychology of the time, I can’t blame you if you cast this off in the same trash bin. But, next time you’re scrolling through your feed, ask yourself if all this self-love seems only skin deep.

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