By Zara Maqbool
The condition of worth
‘Don’t be selfish’! ‘Love others before you love yourself.’ ‘Think of others before you think of yourself’. Sounds familiar? Growing up we hear this from everyone around us. Parents, grandparents, teachers you name it and there is advice on how to be selfless from every adult around us and as we grow up internalizing these pearls of wisdom most of us forget the most important thing in the process: Love thy self! Our sense of worth is attached to this condition of care for others before ourselves.
Can anyone seriously remember a parent saying, ‘Beta apne se piyaar kerna seekho..’ I surely don’t remember that and in my mind thinking of myself first before others equated to being selfish. An inner voice saying, ‘shame on you Zara for loving yourself before loving others’ and then that voice became loud enough for me and I stopped doing that. That nurturing inner voice got replaced by a harsh inner critic that made sure it shamed me anytime I would want to love myself and a booming voice saying, ‘selfish!’ or shame me for messing up. ‘How dumb can I be?’ ‘You idiot you messed up again!.’
Can I say I love me?
I got lucky and joined counseling as a field that helped me shut this voice up and slowly I realized how until I learned to love myself others cannot receive the love I am sending their way.
And then lets explore the burden of caring for others! Yes its absolutely noble. Yes we need to teach our children altruism, social interest but not at the expense of ourselves. I am all for how helping someone else can make ourselves feel worthy but be the occasional sacrificial lamb and not one with a life time warranty please. Yes its important to realize that personal esteem is linked with public esteem but why is it so hard to say ‘I love myself?’
I am all for acts of kindness like giving your seat to someone first or letting your older sister make a choice first amongst clothes but is it fair to say , “Sirf apna na socha kero.” My question is why not? Why can’t that be the starting point?
Turn that love towards yourself
So I want to say something to new parents. If there is no self-connection there won’t be connection with others. Let your child indulge in some healthy narcissism. Let him give an occasional pat on the back to himself with pride and acceptance for simply who he is. Trust me “iss se uss ka dimagh kharaab nahin hoga.”