Opinion: What is the difference between being self-centered and centering yourself?

Katelyn fecteau

As finals week rolls around, the panic of students can be sensed all over campus in a sort of herd-mentality sixth sense. The library fills up and the line at Starbucks gets longer; the school is on edge. We shovel C-Store donuts in our stressed-out mouths and take bubble baths, quoting Parks and Recreation: “treat yo self.”

Why do we justify this—satisfying our basic need for comfort with the idea that it is a luxury to be at peace? We need to be better at finding a healthy balance. In short, we need to learn how to love ourselves. Not like ourselves, not spoil ourselves with trivial junk food and quick fixes and not better ourselves, but love ourselves and care for ourselves the way we care for others.

When asked this semi-existential question—“do you love yourself?”—most of my friends responded with a negative, such as “not really” or “I guess.” This isn’t because I spend my time with tragic people and pessimists—it’s because they’re attempting to straddle the line between pride and self-respect. The tug-of-war in our psyche between anti-narcissism and self-care is a difficult game, and often ends with a worn-out spirit peeking through in times of stress. Do we love ourselves? Sure, we may like ourselves, but do we care for our bodies and minds in a way we would want our loved ones to practice? Most likely, we don’t. This is our problem: a lack of self-love.

To be clear, I am not advocating for egotism or gluttony in the slightest sense; I am advocating for being responsible for our own mental health. We shouldn’t have to justify taking basic care of ourselves at the price of seeming self-indulgent. When we care for a friend who is going through trauma, we feel, at the very least, a sense of satisfaction knowing that the person we love is in some way more mentally comfortable because of our actions. Why do we fail to take the same steps for ourselves?

In the same way, I am not lauding the vain, not condemning the competitive. Our ability to listen to criticism and adapt to be better at whatever we are attempting is nothing short of evolutionarily amazing, and this should not be seen as a vice.

However, as much as we should want to better ourselves, we should take care to do so healthily. Loving yourself doesn’t mean accepting yourself as perfect; it means accepting yourself, period. We should strive for our goals but remain whole as we do so, knowing that our goals will not complete us because only we have that power; you are complete already. You should be loved, at the very least, by yourself. Why do we have such a hard time doing this?

It is imperative that we love ourselves. As millennials, we are often categorized as lazy and self-indulgent, but looking around Loyola I simply have a hard time buying that label. I see a student body of tireless social activists, many of whom protest for what they deem is right, whether or not the issue affects them directly. I see care for each other and overflowing support for the people we love. But I also see tired faces—faces that are unsure of their paths after graduation, after Thanksgiving break, after the weekend. I believe that if we took the time to reassure ourselves the way we do others, and care for ourselves in a mentally healthy way that was more stable than survivalist, we would be wholesomely happier.

It is a basic human need to love ourselves, and it is a necessity that, to be able to truly love others, first you must love yourself. If you do not practice self-love, you have no way of being remotely able to love others to the potential that they deserve.

To quote Lucille Ball, “love yourself first and everything falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

Remember to care for yourself the way you want others to care for you—set the bar high. The respect that truly matters in this world is your own self-respect, and treating yourself as a precious object worthy of your own love is the first step to peace. This finals week, be kind to yourself as well as each other. Think to yourself the way you would want others to think about you. Be the person you know you can be, because you deserve all the love that is offered to you—most importantly, your own.