A Pop Culturist’s Take On The Greatest Love Of All

Today, I would like to write about an obvious yet neglected, an embarrassing yet enticing, a common yet bewildering, and a touching yet mockery-provoking subject, that is self-love.

Self-love is not narcissism. Self-love isn’t the kind of excessive self-centeredness, exemplified so perfectly by countless bikini babes and shirtless hunks on Instagram. Self-love simply is, in my opinion, a conscious knowing of ours, that is, regardless of our race, religion, physical attributes, and sexual orientation, the juvenile mistakes that we have made, the egotistic bravado that we have displayed, and the epic failures that we have had, we still and will always accept and support us for who we are, unconditionally, while embracing human experience in all of its complexities, wholeheartedly.

In the mind of many people, love is a cheesy subject, which has been serenaded for centuries in countless pop songs. From the legendary King of pop to the pop princess of wrecking ball; from the iconic material girl to the five British boys, who declare their one love to the world on a double-decker bus, passing across the London bridge, love was, is, will always be one of the most talked about subjects in our world.

In our world, people express their love in pop Songs. Pop songs are an integral part of pop culture. Pop culture is a reflection of the greater social trend of its own time. Since majority of the pop songs, through generations, continue to celebrate and perpetrate the importance of seeking external; instead of internal love, to signify one’s wholeness, does this cross-generational phenomenon explain why, in many of our cases, our love for ourselves hasn’t been on a steady rise for a long long time, ever since many of us left our childhood behind?

We were born, because of love. We all loved ourselves unconditionally when we were babies, toddlers and kindergarteners. Have you ever heard any preschooler complain to you, “Man, my limbs are so chubby. I don’t have the perfect body. I don’t look anything like those Victoria Secret angels, star athletes or sexiest men alive on the cover of People Magazine?” No! We were all these little, cute, “unprocessed” peanuts, who could not have been more proud of who we were and of what we looked like; so much so that we loved to show our assets off to everybody, every chance we had, by giggling innocently and running around naked.

As we continued to run, we left our childhood innocence behind. As we continued to run, we came to understand the established rules and social doctrines. As we continued to run, we brainwashed our mind with one type of beauty ideal, and with the narrow, conventional definition of normality.  As we continued to run, we changed.

“Wrong information always shown by the media. Negative images are the criteria. Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria. Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema.” These words from the 2003 pop song, “Where is the love?” by the hip pop group, Black Eyed Peas, tellingly expose the impact that our social environment has on our informative years.

We changed, because we were told to. We changed, because we were taught to. We changed, because we felt, somehow, that we had to.

We were familiarized with the prestige and importance of external recognition earlier on. Our desire to please people in our lives, in exchange, for rewards in the form of attention, sweets and kisses ingrained in us the superiority of external adoration . For us to feel included, we didn’t mind being silly in front of our family and friends. Starting out as an innocent game of play and reward, In time, arrived at a point, where our brain naturalized the act of pleasing others first as the shortcut to happiness and popularity.

As life continued, as we went through different stages of the growing process, from primary school to high school; from high school to college and university, the ever-changing influences of our parents, teachers, other adults, medias and society at large helped solidify, collectively, the role that external love played in our lives; a type of periodical solidification, which, eventually, facilitated the transition from our desire to please others to our striving to conform to various ideals.

In doing our best to conform, we realize that sky isn’t the limit for us, but our personal abilities have limits, too. In doing our best to conform, we realize the differences in between our friends and us. In doing our best to conform, we realize the unfortunate, deeply rooted reality, saturated by various stereotypes, norms, and hierarchies. The overlapping of our countless realizations makes us understand that, despite the best of our effort, we aren’t all going to become the type of person, who is usually associated with the complementary adjectives of the highest comparative degree. it is then that our love for ourselves begins to decrease.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m here to neither encourage you all to become a rebel; nor completely disregard the notion of conformity. Our world would be an anarchy if none of us follow the rules. The message that I’m trying to convey is that though we may not all be the subject of public adoration; though it is necessary to obey orders, follow rules, and celebrate the mainstream fabulosity of all kinds in our cosmos; however, we mustn’t lose sight of who we are and should never underestimate our lovability and what we, individually, have to offer to the world.

Why do we need self-love?  First of all, we are going to live with us for the rest of our lives, we might as well embrace both of our perfection and imperfection. Second of all, if we didn’t love ourselves, how could we love others? If we didn’t love ourselves, how could we expect others to love us? If we didn’t love ourselves, we would forever be a spectator; rather than a participant in life. Life is an adventure. Life is all about living. To live life to the fullest, we need to be daring and gutsy. To be daring and gutsy, we need confidence, of which self-love is an important component. In other words, for us to have a good life, we have to be self-loving first. Having enough love for ourselves is certainly the starting point to having a healthy mentality and a disciplinary willfulness.

Quite often, the amount of love we have for ourselves isn’t something recommended to be spoken about constantly, because in verbalizing how much we love ourselves, we may come across as shameless, self-centered braggers. Interestingly enough, the amount of love that we have for ourselves can be noticeably observed. It shows in the way we dress; it shows in the choice of our language; it shows in the type of food we put into our body; it shows in the manner, in which we carry ourselves in public, in the amount of respect that we have for our family, friends, and acquaintances; also, in the level of courtesy that we show to complete strangers.

Self-love is a gift that all of us were born with, that some of us lost along the way, that all of us can regain at any point of our life’s journey. To those of you, who would like to retrieve this long lost gift, I have a few tricks for you.

The first trick: Bombard yourself with Positive quotes and affirmations. A really popular positive affirmation in recent years is Be Calm & Love Yourself. Although it is simple; however, it is a timeless reminder of how much love and respect are needed for us to lead a life of contentment. Positive quotes and affirmations provide us with a deep resonance that words of our friends’ and family’s may not always be able to achieve.

The second trick: Putting positive quotes and affirmations to practice. The Late Arthur Ashe, the first African American to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and the first black American to be ranked No. 1 in the world, once said “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” Thinking positively alone is not enough to boost the amount of love for yourself. It needs action. Remembering to be calm and love yourself is one thing; practicing be calm and love yourself is a tougher ball game to play. Taking a small step, a little action each day to practice self-love, in time, we will notice the positive growth.

The third trick: Take a deep, honest look into your eyes.  It is surprising to learn that many of us are so uncomfortable, looking into our own eyes. Because, in looking through the windows to our soul, we can see, more importantly, feel the hidden vulnerabilities that only we know; all the self-deprecating inner mind monologues that we have been having with ourselves. Take a deep and honest look into your eyes when you are ready for a self-transformation, the few drops of tear that you shed might just be the emotional cleansing that you need.

The fourth and last trick: Take an inventory of your friends. If we want to find out what kind of person we are, all we need to do is take a look at the five people, with whom we hang out regularly. On our way to loving self-transformation, friendly support is needed. Stay away from the naysayers; get rid of disingenuous friends, who don’t believe in you.    Learning to regain love and respect for who we are is a continuous process. If we allow self-sabotaging thoughts and habits to affect us, our emotionally cleansed, inner space could be again filled up with junks and our journey to self-love could be majorly derailed.

When I first entered university, the sheer number of people, walking around on campus, overwhelmed me. Once I asked a person that I was friends with at the time, “How do you make friends on campus?” To which she replied, “I smoke. I lent my lighter to strangers. We had a small chat and smoked together. Then we became friends.” As someone, who’s never been a fan of cigarette, a friendship born out of a common bond over some dried herbs has never appealed to me. Once I watched a monk say on a TV show, “our body is our temple. We need to love ourselves by taking care of our health with no compromise. Knowing that, I don’t understand why so many common folks, who are so willingly jeopardizing their one and only temple by tainting it with alcohols and drugs for the excuses, such as youthful experiment and you only live once.” Yolo! But, the negative ripple effects caused by our youthful experiment can last for a long time.  At the end of the day, having self-love is all about taking responsibility for ourselves. It is a sign of maturity in knowing what to do and what not to do so that those, who love us dearly, won’t have to endure the hardship, caused by our thoughtless actions.

When John Lennon was a young child, his teacher asked him “What do you want to be when you grow up, John?” Lennon said, ” I want to be happy.” Teacher said John didn’t understand the question. John said to the teacher, ” You don’t understand life.” To be happy in life, we have to recognize our uniqueness and individuality and bring them to life for the betterment of not only ours, but also the world’s. To make this betterment a reality, we need to be self-loving first, because self-love precedes self-recognition, and the subsequent self-happiness.

In this essay, I have explored a topic that is considered to be obvious yet neglected, embarrassing yet enticing, common yet bewildering, touching and mockery- provoking. Regardless of which one of these words tingles the string of your heart, I sincerely hope that you have been made aware of the necessity to cherish and nurture the greatest love that you’ll ever have in this life time, that is your love for yourself.


Published by Robbie's Blog

I am a third-culture person who's navigating his way around Hong Kong and beyond. Come join me on this rollercoaster ride.

2 thoughts on “A Pop Culturist’s Take On The Greatest Love Of All

  1. A lot of self doubt definitely comes from other people’s judgement or rather, how we ourselves THINK others perceive us. In reading your post I was constantly thinking of an issue that I had been struggling with for years and that is makeup. I almost never use makeup but most girls I know do – it is like standard expectation nowadays. The fact that you mentioned that you could tell how much someone loves themselves by the way they dress etc. is interesting because some people think I am not “taking care” of myself enough or that I don’t love myself enough because I don’t use makeup. And it is completely not true. Then I begin to have doubts and wonder if people are right and if using makeup will mean that I love myself more, which is ridiculous. I’d like to think that I love myself but because of things like this I can be so self-conscious t times and it rather annoys me. OK that was a long ramble. Good job for making me think so much 😛

    1. Hi Annie,
      Thank you for your comments!
      In my opinion, having self-love is all about doing what makes us happy and making us feel in alignment with the best, the most comfortable and the most confident aspect of who we are. I don’t know much about makeup. But I have heard, in North American Context, some people make some hurtful statements, describing a woman sans makeup as lazy. I completely disagree with this type of overly judgmental words. My mom is not a makeup girl. I find her beautiful as who she is naturally. That being said, as much as I preach that all of us should do what makes us happy, we can’t ignore the fact that we do live in a visual world, where physical impression does count for something. It does contribute to one’s public acceptance, respect and ultimately success. Sartorial statement does represent a part of who we are. For example, if there’s a choice, I’m sure that most of people will prefer be near to someone,who looks and smells good; rather than be next to someone, who doesn’t dress appropriately and smells. I do believe that certain compromise needs to be made, at times, as much as we do our best to assert our individuality.

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