How Can You Love Yourself And Be Happy With The World
“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” – Mark Twain
“I need honest feedback because I want to improve,” said a young monk, after his first-class to our community members. I foolishly believed him and candidly pointed out his mistakes. Later, I heard from a friend that he was distraught at my sharp observations. ‘But he asked for it,’ I thought but soon realized I had been insensitive; he needed encouragement and love. Besides, his desire to get my frank opinion was a veil; behind those words was a silent scream, “Please love me, and encourage me.”
Often in our social interactions, our heart is craving for nothing but acceptance. We expect the world to shower us with abundant love and accept us for who we are and what we do. But when the reciprocation doesn’t come, we feel let down.
If this happens to you often, you have let others decide your happiness and self-worth.
The solution is simple: love and accept yourself; seek validation from your own heart.
Is self-love safe and healthy?
I can hear your doubt: Can we love ourselves without being an egomaniac? After all, hubris has got men for millennia; how often we see people overrate their abilities so far that they lose touch with ground reality. I have often been challenged if self-love wouldn’t lead to over-the-top self-confidence, and friends in the monastery often quote the age-old maxim, “Pride cometh before the fall.” Further, most religious traditions cite examples of saints who loathed their own existence. Their prayers reveal deep lamentation, and many preachers encourage us to meditate on our own inadequacies.
I generally respond to these fears with a counter-question: Can you criticize yourself without getting into depression? What’s the guarantee that if you reflect on your failings, you wouldn’t slip to hopelessness, which is simply another side of the hubris coin. Isn’t that also a case of ego obsession- about how ‘I’ am bad; ‘I’ remains the centre here too?
It’s true that both extremes of self-love or self-hatred can be disastrous. A simple way to love your own self and yet not be a victim of false pride is by having the safety net of gratitude and appreciation. Besides, thankfulness also helps us feel happy with the world.
Gratitude–the key to be happy with the world
If I remain thankful for the gifts I receive daily, then my self-love is healthy. Gratitude is an antidote for arrogance.
If I consciously write down five to ten things that I am thankful for today, I have been practicing gratitude. Often thanking our parents, God, friends for the same things daily could become a ritualistic affair. To ensure we tap the power of the thankful living daily, we could thank for events and blessings we received during the last twenty-four hours. This practice is not only more realistic but it also keeps our gratitude fresh and exciting. You constantly lookout for things to be thankful for. It could be a lovely breakfast, a workout at your gym or a good song that you heard today – it could be anything, and if you sincerely thank that thing, person, or God for the gift you received today, you have tapped the gift of gratitude.
The result- you will be humble and realize the universe is good and loving. To begin with, we can just look at the vast ocean or the sky above our heads and be thankful for the incredible gifts nature has provided us with.
How would star gazing or seeing the sunrise or walking on a beach help solve our daily problems? ‘Would it help me pay my taxes, or remedy the political mess of the nation?’ you may wonder. Maybe not much will happen externally but after looking at the stars, you’ll certainly feel that you and your worries are insignificant; and paradoxically, you will also feel happy that you are part of an amazing universe.
Looking out to marvel Mother Nature and feeling joy and gratitude in our insignificance helps us receive love, and yet stay grounded. Therefore, let’s love ourselves, but with gratitude and smallness.
Image Credit: Wondrlust
Venugopal Acharya is a full-time teacher, monk and a counselor at ISKCON. Before choosing the monastic order twenty years ago, he worked in the corporate sector and completed his MBA in finance and a master’s in international finance. His book Mind Your Mind is an invaluable guide to self-transformation that is tailor-made for modern living. The views expressed are the author’s own.