This post has been, and is a work of love, pun intended. :-) I have had numerous titles for it, but all were asking the question, in one form or another: What is love? As you can see, I finally settled on being specific about a certain kind of love — self-love.
First, I should point out that this is not my first attempt at trying to nail-down this elusive subject of love. On one of my most recent attempts, I used the title of the Cole Porter song, What Is This Thing Called Love?, and came to the conclusion that love, like art, is in the mind (eyes) of the beholder. This isn’t even the first time that I have tried to discuss self-love. In a post entitled, What Does “I Love You” Mean To You?, published in March of 2010, I invited the reader to go to a private place and say over and over again, “I love you” to her/himself. To read either of these please click on their hyper-texted titles.
Awhile back, I was in a meeting and the word “love” was being used in a way that I found confusing. The meeting was a Wellness Support Group that met at the office of Dr. Simon Yu. During the meeting, various participants suggested that in order to become healthier and overcome various problems we need to focus on self-love. I found the emphasis on self-love confusing in the sense that we use the word love in so many different contexts. For example, a person can say she loves ice-cream, her dog, her country, her mother, a song, a movie, her mate, etc. Generally speaking, each of these “loves” are different. So what is meant by self-love?
In all of my previous posts regarding love, I never tried to view love from a scientific and/or measurable perspective. I’m sure you would love for me to do so. :-) Is it possible to scientifically measure love? Well, there have been attempts to measure love using a MRI machine to analyze changes in the brain when patients are “in love.” There are also various attempts at scientifically defining love from a behavioral (operational) perspective. Using an operational definition won’t allow us to measure love, but if we accept the definition, we will be able to recognize it characteristics.
Maybe we can’t, or shouldn’t, measure love as a quantity of something that we have. In an article which described the use of a MRI machine for measuring love, patients’ brains were flooded with the chemical dopamine when they were thinking about their loved ones. When the patients thought about non-loved ones, their brains weren’t flooded with dopamine. Besides dopamine, it was established that many other chemicals are released and bonded while a person is “in-love.” All of the chemicals can be measured, but does than mean we can measure love? Probably not! You see, determining the existence and quantity of chemicals in our bodies only helps us compare specific samples. We are, rightfully, placing the sample before the whole.
I think, in order to measure love and interpret the results, we need to be able to compare the existence and quantity of the before-mentioned chemicals with known measures that produce measurable outcomes. Simply stated, it’s the old problem exemplified by the question, “Who or what do you love more?” Take, for example, two siblings who claim that they are each “loved more” by a parent. How are we to compare the existence and quantity of the “love” chemicals with known measures that produce measurable outcomes? How are we? I don’t know!
Perhaps, Einstein’s wonderful quote about measurement is appropriate at this time, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” I believe this discussion about love and self-love leaves me with only one conclusion: Even though love counts, it can’t be counted. :-)
So, what is self-love? Literally, it is the love of oneself. Having stated that, it is NOT an obsession with oneself. If I’m obsessed with myself, then the appropriate term to use would be narcissism, especially if I exclude all others. And, it is NOT vanity, which is based on conditions. Instead, self-love implies unconditional love for oneself. Narcissism leans toward obsessing over oneself and excluding others. Vanity leans toward meeting conditions, such as getting an extreme make-over, and then believing I should be loved because of my beauty. Self-love is love that is directed toward all that I am – my emotions, thoughts, actions, body, … Therefore, self-love is not the emotion of love that I normally think of when I love another person, but is simply the mental and physical act of treating myself favorably.
Why is self-love important? Think about the one person you are always with. The one person you cannot escape from. Who is that person — YOU! Do you want to be with a person that you love? Well, when you love yourself, you are always with a least one person you love.
The longest and most powerful relationship you’ll ever have is the relationship you have with yourself. So, why not make that long and powerful relationship one that is filled with love? As a small beginning for enhancing that powerful relationship, start today by never saying anything bad about yourself, especially in your own head. Be good to your body. Make this the first day of the rest of your life to treat yourself favorably, both mentally and physically.
To thy oneself, be loving! :-)