It’s time to fall in love… with yourself
This Valentine’s Day, Zenifer Khaleel finds out why it is important to love yourself to maintain a healthy mind, body and interpersonal balance
About 12 years ago, Sherine Keseba was at the threshold of a successful career in a multinational company in Dubai. As a reporting analyst for Middle East and North Africa, her job entailed preparing financial statements, making reports, calculating budgets and estimates on a daily basis. ‘I was hopping in and out of meetings all through the day, helping the company with important financial decisions and basically feeling very empowered,’ she says.
If someone had told her back then that soon she would be raising two children, making grocery lists and balancing the household budget instead of an MNC’s, she would perhaps brushed them off with disdain.
But after the birth of her second daughter Malak, that’s exactly what she did. ‘I decided to quit my job; my husband was stressed out with a very busy work-related travel schedule and we couldn’t find a trustworthy nanny,’ she says. Sherine decided to set aside her career and tackle the challenges around her. ‘I didn’t wait for them to ask for my help, I just decided to sacrifice my dream for them,’ says the 39-year-old Egyptian expat.
Looking back, Sherine says given another chance, she wouldn’t have done anything different. ‘I’d decided long ago that I wouldn’t go into a ‘self-pity’ mode.’
‘It’s important to compensate yourself with self-care activities or hobbies you enjoy, like indulging in a massage or having a manicure, going out with friends… These moments are total mood enhancers. It will dissipate your tiredness and eventually be reflected on your behaviour with your family and friends.’ Among the other benefits that she lists are having more patience for things and enjoying less stressful days. ‘Ultimately, it is healthier to love yourself a bit so that you are refreshed to give back to your family and the society at large,’ she says.
Sherine is not alone. An increasing number of women across the world are now beginning to realise the power of ‘me time’ and are kicking off their heels to stretch out and chill out with friends or to enjoy a bit of pampering with massages, spa treatments and mani-pedis.
Bite-sized bits of love
In his bestselling book, A Year of Self-Love, Troy advises readers to discover myriad methods for loving yourself every day of the year. ‘Celebrating small victories can be a great way to establish a self-love routine,’ he says. ‘For instance, take yourself on a date once in a while as a reward for an achievement. It can be small or ‘bite-sized’ moments but it can do great wonders for your morale.’
It is a piece of advice Sherine wishes she knew earlier. When the kids were young, Sherine tried to convince herself that she could enjoy quality me time without feeling guilty about it once her kids grew up. But reality proved otherwise as her ‘me time’ only kept shrinking with the passage of years.
‘Most women feel vulnerable after giving birth and having to choose between career and children. It is important that they take a decision that suits their needs and not feel guilty or selfish.’ She has a few tips: ‘Celebrate your happiness and love with yourself by keeping your head high and reminding yourself that you are doing a great job. For instance, if nobody is going to give you a treat this Valentine’s Day, just treat yourself; you deserve it,’ she says.
Selfish or self-sustaining?
According to Troy, trying to make everyone happy is actually a defense mechanism to minimise pain. This, unfortunately, is less effective because it’s impossible to please everyone all the time and unsustainable for a person’s well-being. The opposite of people-pleasing is having boundaries that allow people to define their limits, create a safe space and voice their opinions in clear terms. ‘Having a voice and the courage to use it is empowering,’ says the author. ‘Without boundaries, often people experience depression, anxiety, resentment, and burnout – none of which are beneficial to our overall well-being.’
Self-love, he makes it clear, requires courage. ‘It is not for the faint of heart. It needs commitment and daily practice similar to the way a musician must rehearse every day or an athlete must work tirelessly to hone their skills,’ he says.
Sometimes self-compassion can be mistaken for selfishness. But it is important for people to realise that engaging in some habit of self-care enables them to put up a better show for the world around. As Troy points out, taking an hour a day to read, meditate, exercise, or any other form of self-care, is not being selfish; rather, it’s a preparation to face the world and courageously interact with others.