“He who falls in love with himself will have no rivals,” said Benjamin Franklin. This is a witty reminder to all that loving oneself is an unattractive and repulsive inclination. Ben Franklin was referring to the arrogance and self-righteousness that plague many souls. But in a very different context, self-love is one of the most admirable and recommended qualities a person can have. Self-love is to nurture and respect that which Allah has given to us to care for – our life.
We grow up with a lot of influences from multiple sources. The first influencers are usually our parents, and sometimes they continue to influence us well into our adulthood. Other influencers are our peers, who we often look towards for support and inclusion in various social groups. Another very strong influence for each of us, unfortunately, is an unregulated media.
“Self-love is to give yourself – your self – a break from believing lies which hurt you.” – Br. Sayyed
We get a variety of messages from television, books and the internet which shape how we perceive the world. Some of these messages are so far from the truth that they are actually toxic. They slowly poison our thoughts and lead us into believing in lies. Much of these originate because they serve a vested interest. For example, a beverage commercial on TV may lead you to believe that drinking a certain cola may make you a more interesting individual, when in fact it may just be harming your health. A deodorant spray commercial may sell you the idea that it is okay to covet the company of women all the time, and that the product shown in the ad will help you to become a hit with the ladies. It is a case of promoting delusion, if not immorality.
Self-love is to give yourself – your self – a break from believing lies which hurt you. It means to protect your body and soul from becoming a means to someone else’s profit. Many of the clichés portrayed in society today exist because they directly or indirectly benefit someone else. The beverage manufacturers sell more cola when you think that it makes you more popular. The deodorant spray makers make more money if you are fooled into objectifying women and believing lies about attractiveness and acceptable social behavior.
Another manifestation of self-love is in the right treatment of one’s physical being. As opposed to ‘self-hate’, in which one tends to hurt and abuse one’s body, a person with a healthy sense of self-love will nurture and protect their body. With the belief that our bodies belong to Allah, and that they are but vessels for our souls till we move to the next World, we treat them with care and gentleness. After all, a stronger body makes our stay in this world a lot more pleasant.
Healthy self-love can be nurtured in children from a very young age. By not exposing them to toxic messages and by encouraging them to respect themselves, parents can set their children up to be healthier individuals. But for adults who have already grown up with the wrong set of messages, a mindful program of correcting their self-image is required. These adults must first recognize that their self-image does not reflect the truth and that it is a by-product of their unfortunate exposure to crippling societal messages. These programs can take many shapes – this topic is covered at Purify Your Gaze, for example – and should be explored by every adult.
Allah, in His infinite wisdom, has made us flawed. He has shaped our hearts to be receptive and our minds to be vulnerable. When He wants, our lives change for the better and when He wills, we are inspired to do things which we never thought possible. Self-love then is having the right attitude toward ourselves, and letting what He wills happen.