Currently, in many magazines, Instagram posts, and Reddit feeds, people are preaching self-love.
Self-love is incredibly important. It is important to love yourself regardless of your flaws, mistakes, and failings. However, it is equally important to be self-aware and constantly on a quest of self-improvement.
Here’s where the self-love movement gets it wrong: You cannot accept the worst parts of yourself. You cannot ever, even for a moment, think of yourself as anything other than a work in progress.
You are never finished with your journey. You will not reach a point where you are the perfect person. You will always do things wrong, and you will always make mistakes.
The self-love movement is about loving yourself along the way. It’s about cherishing the journey. It’s about taking a look at your body, or your personality, or your life, and saying, “There are things I am working on, but I’m happy with where I am now and confident with the direction I’m taking.”
And if you’re not proud of yourself? If you’ve come to the realization that you are a bully, or a bigot, or an asshole? Then you need to realize that the first step to improvement is acknowledging that there is a problem. You have already become better by understanding that you are not perfect. And you should love yourself for that — for wanting to change. And also acknowledge that there are certain parts of yourself that you definitely shouldn’t love, and perhaps will never love, and that’s okay. That means that you understand those are things that must change.
Along this vein, I recently read a post stating that all emotions are valid, even if they aren’t reasonable. That you can become “green with jealousy”, and that’s perfectly fine unless you decide to act on it.
I disagree with this. Policing your thoughts is just as important as policing your behavior. Thoughts lead to actions. If you classify a bad thought as “fine,” soon you might find yourself acting on that thought.
Not all emotions are valid. Emotions deserve to be acknowledged, and worked on, and discussed — but they may not be valid. If you get jealous of your neighbor for having a better car, instead of thinking, “It’s fine that I feel this way, as long as I don’t act on it,” you should be thinking, “Why am I jealous? Why is it so important that she has a better car? Am I measuring our worths using our cars? Are cars this important to me? What is it about me that resents her because she bought a more expensive vehicle?” The second implies that your emotions aren’t valid in the first place.
And they may not be. Most people’s emotions aren’t. Most emotions in general aren’t. Many of my emotions are not valid. For example, I might get mad at someone when it’s me projecting my own shortcomings onto the people around me. That should not be accepted or encouraged. It should actively addressed and stamped out before it gets worse.
If you see someone and your first thought is, Wow, that person is fat, it is the second thought that counts. It should be something along that lines of, That is a horrible thing to think about someone. Why am I judging another person based off of their weight? How would I feel if someone did that to me? That person may be perfectly nice and just going about their day. That thought was harmful and it doesn’t belong in my head. When I see a person classified as overweight, I will make a conscious effort to simply see them as another human being.
Don’t accept your bad thoughts. Disown them, and replace them with better thoughts.
Now, here’s the most important thing to acknowledge: You are a work in progress.
If you disagree with the previous statement, you are in denial.
You will never not be a work in progress. You must always try to do better. And if you fail at this, if you don’t self-reflect, if you aren’t self-aware, you are a zombie among a crowd of other zombies, going about their day without ever thinking they’ve done something wrong or need to do better. You will be stagnant. You will never improve; you will never become great, or even all that good. You will be the same uninspiring zombie until your organs eventually give out and you die.
If that thought isn’t depressing as hell for you, you really need to get started.