By: Diya Varma, Contributing Writer
The term “self-love” is so widely overused that its meaning is now no longer what it once was. Whether it’s influencers on social media, or teachers after class, I’ve always heard the phrase “remember to practice some self-love today” but I’ve never understood what they truly mean. The term is generally also used in negative contexts, in phrases such as “just love yourself” in response to sadness or mental health issues, which give rise to the misconception that the key to happiness is self-love. Additionally, the way that self-love and healing is popularly portrayed in television shows or by influencers is often in the form of bubble baths and aromatherapy. While these can be aspects of self-love, they should not be taken into account as the only expression of self-love. The Oxford dictionary, however, defines self-love as regard for one’s own well-being and happiness.
The definition of self-love should not be interpreted as it is on television and social media, because it catalyzes toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is essentially the interpretation that no matter how arduous a situation is, people should have a positive mindset. This is often the result of phrases such as “good vibes only” or “always look on the bright side of things”. According to the US National Institute of Mental Health, one in five people have mental health issues, these phrases can often discourage individuals from seeking help, (especially when these phrases are used by influencers with a large teenage audience), because it promotes the view that one always has to be happy regardless of the circumstances or situation. However, there is nothing wrong with being unhappy or upset when something does not go your way. It is not necessary to always be optimistic in situations that make one feel forlorn.
Toxic positivity is an issue particularly present amongst teens because most mental disorders often begin to appear during the ages of 11-18 (or adolescence). This is also the age where most children begin using social media where they are then exposed to toxic positivity. This can have adverse effects, as mentioned above, as the teenage mind is still learning and adapting in response to the environment.
Self-love and healing are not just about running a bubble bath and lighting a few candles as is portrayed by various media. It is accepting, or taking accountability for a situation. It is being kind to yourself even when mistakes are made, or forgiving yourself when failure has to be faced. It is being patient with yourself as you learn to grow. It is crucial to practice self-love, even on bad days, as self-love should never be conditional.
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