I have myself and that’s okay | Inquirer Opinion
Love.Life.

I have myself and that’s okay

/ 08:03 PM August 05, 2015

  "Sing that song, do that dance, write that article."


“Sing that song, do that dance, write that article.”

Many of us have been given the usual advice: “Love yourself before loving someone else,” or “give that love you have for him/her to yourself.” As most humans do, we react to whatever counsel is given to us and muster a response. My usual reactions range from the sincere “you’re right” to the sarcastic “yeah, right.” On worst days, I wish to punch some of my friends right on the face because they don’t know what they’re saying, even if they sound sincere about it.

That’s the most frustrating thing. People telling you to love yourself and what you can do with it. Love yourself and you can watch a movie without a companion. Love yourself and you can go eat in a fancy restaurant alone. Love yourself and “the one” will come. They say once you finally learn to love yourself, all these will come, yet no one tells exactly how. Maybe that’s the problem. Society makes us expect things to happen in the future but it doesn’t tell us how to get there.

Being blinded by the big picture makes a lot of people oblivious to an important detail: That not everyone is born with the same amount of self-love. They fail to understand that maybe they can say things happen when one has self-love only because they already have it to begin with, or they may have attained it in a way that they think will be applicable to everyone. Nonetheless, it’s fruitless to ask someone to just have it and make a life after it, because acquiring a love for one’s self isn’t exactly a task that can easily be done.

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The same can be said for self-confidence. Though I am currently a medical student in one of the most prestigious universities in the country, I still battle with the constant anxiety and doubt that come from nagging feelings of my own insufficiency and behavior I may have developed through the years. Writing this at the end of an academic year, where people say they’re okay but wish they’re more than just so-so grades and extra-curriculars, both of which I’m hiding from my mother, further emphasizes the fact that what people can see on paper or in actions isn’t always a reflection of what one feels inside.

In school, we have this concept of “synaptic pruning” where some brain connections are lost during puberty to give way to others. I usually entertain the idea that maybe I have lost my sense of self-love and confidence from my days of “shutting up to fit in” in high school and college, and with them the understanding of my own self-worth. A little bit of bullying and self-embarrassment have paved the way toward a life where I am afraid to speak up in fear of being too much of a lot of things: A smartass, drama queen, mama’s boy, weirdo. Somehow, it has turned me into somebody that is safe, but also less of one thing: Enough.

The feeling of never being enough isn’t always that great big push toward greatness as great people put it, especially when it’s constant and overwhelming. Things I could’ve done better, that could’ve went better and could’ve been kept gnawing at me, whatever I was doing at any time of the day. I’d stop thinking about the dissection or the exam and just focus on not being enough (which may have been aggravated by a disintegrating friendship). I may breathe a little, or a lot, and keep on working, trying to escape from what I feel every time.

You know that John Green line from that book about pain? It’s true and it finally came to a point where there was no job to be done, no sleep to be had, and no one to give comfort, where everything I hid from myself crept in and welled up too much that I just gave in and faced it. I took the things I needed to put my mind at ease, because I finally realized that I shouldn’t be hindering myself from what I needed, no matter what I was feeling about myself. Funny enough, putting myself out there to get what I needed led me find more hurt and a closed chapter in my life. Getting what others rarely achieve isn’t always what one thinks it will be like.

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It was utter sadness at first, but the feeling grew lighter—a freedom further catalyzed by serendipitous Facebook posts I pieced together to finally understand that the steps I took toward self-confidence, self-worth, and self-love weren’t about the goals, but the process itself.

Pouring out love for someone else onto yourself doesn’t really make sense, because it’s not something you just get in one box and put into another. Like other forms of love, it’s something that grows from a process, one that requires time, understanding and acceptance. The actualization of this fact gives a new outlook to the process.

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Changing a perspective toward what you normally do alters how you do it. I have come to understand that what they mean about treating yourself as you would a lover doesn’t mean doing things for yourself because no one else will do it—it means doing it because you consider yourself someone you love.

Doing things not only for an academic or romantic pursuit but also for the benefit of others and one’s own self-growth makes the process pure by eliminating the bias that comes from measuring self-worth as a function of other people’s praise, attention and affection. It is now that I realize how flawed it is to ask someone else to fill your holes, when you can learn to love and fix yourself toward independence.

Love shouldn’t make one weak when it’s gone; it should be strong when two people are apart and stronger than the two when they’re together, just like the Gestalt theory or any great power couple. It is only with the love you have for yourself that you can actually realize that the person you love is someone that can stand by you as your equal, without one overpowering the other.

I guess if there is anything I want you to take from this, it is to let things go and just go for it. Go for the slow (and possibly grueling) process of self-discovery toward self-love, because it’s worth it—because you’re worth it. Go ahead and do the things you want to do for yourself, like any supportive love life would. Go and sing that song, do that dance, write that article. I know I would.

The process toward my self-love is nowhere near finished and that’s the beauty of it—it doesn’t end, because love shouldn’t.

Dondiego “Dondie” Casanova, 21, is a second year medical student at University of the Philippines. He has hair that’s curlier than his calligraphy drills and spends too much time editing photos which he forgets to post on Instagram.

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My unexpected love

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