What do you see when you look at yourself in the mirror. Do you see yourself the way you wish to see yourself? Or is your mind riddled with the imperfections that you feel others may point out? The voice that speaks to you when you see yourself is a very important one. It determines your body language, your confidence level and it helps you set standards for yourself. The wrong voice is capable of pushing a person off balance. Here is an abridged version of a real psychiatric case shared with me, emphasizing how an opinion from a person we feel dear to us can potentially collapse our entire persona.
I never really understood the importance of having to love yourself. We hear this but at some point many of us laugh at the logic of having to love oneself and wonder if the art of self loving may one day lead to narcissistic behavior. I have even questioned the ideology myself and have, during my short stint practicing Clinical Psychology, come to push aside the need for self-love as something that an individual in dire need for it should only practice. How wrong I was! I was reminded of the reason why it should be practiced when I met the case of Vijay. The day I was to meet him, Vijay (name changed) was supposed to see me at a particular spot but never showed up. The nurse who was to escort him came rushing in saying that his mother claimed Vijay had run away from her while they were waiting to be called. An alert was sent throughout the hospital and a group of our staff went in search of him. It was quite a secure area so we were quite sure that he was somewhere on the hospital premises.
Sure enough, Vijay was found, blanket covering his head, crouched behind a trash bin. He refused to come out. When I offered to see him I found him still cowering, refusing to reveal any part of himself to the outside world. His mother said that he arrived covering himself with the blanket. That was the only way he agreed to go out in public, apparently. I eventually persuaded him to come inside, separate from everyone else and told him that he can continue to cover himself if that is what he was comfortable with. He took a few more minutes to trust that I would not make him do anything against his will, but thankfully, he acquiesced. What I heard from him after that, was something that changed my view on the importance of self-love.
Vijay is your average IT professional in his late twenties. As he spoke, he seemed to have everything going for him: a great career, a steady girlfriend, a supportive family. The only curiosity I had was what lay beneath the blanket. It took another hour for me to gently earn his trust and persuade him to relax which would entail him letting go of his blanket. When he did, I was thoroughly shocked. I expected to see someone who had some obvious distortion in some facial feature, but here was a young man, tall, fair with sharp features capable of evoking jealousy among lesser endowed men, cowering before me, ashamed to show his face. The only hint of anomaly was his unkempt moustache and beard.
Upon further investigation, I found that his troubles began with the start of his girlfriend comparing his looks with other colleagues and asking him to constantly change his appearance to match whomever she liked better. Eventually, she left him for one of his co-workers. Apart from being unable to deal with her rejection, he felt unable to deal with his own appearance. He put so much in store by her opinion, that her final rejection resulted in his mind being pushed to a clinically critical state. He is now in Psychiatric care.
This may sound far-fetched, but it isn’t fair to blame this girl alone; she was merely the final push. There are many factors that contributed to his state, one major factor being an inability to see himself in a favorable light. This is where self-love comes into play.
Teaching one to love himself/herself is not narcissism. Loving oneself is an act of being able to rationally look yourself in the eye and admire the strengths you have. When you learn to love your strengths and see your own hidden capabilities and evaluate areas of improvement, the mind does not fall prey to the opinions of others. When you feed your own mind thoughts about yourself, it leaves less room for other’s thoughts.
Self-love builds a strong mind. I think it is high time our society teaches its young the art of loving oneself.