Self-love is great, until it becomes dangerous and unhealthy

Social media culture encourages us to take life by storm, but the reality is that we are now lonelier than ever. Is self-love sabotaging our happiness?

 Stickers all over a computer read "Love yourself" in this artistic illustration. (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Stickers all over a computer read "Love yourself" in this artistic illustration.
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

During the Industrial Revolution, the entire social and economic fabric of society was carefully planned and designed to make sure people understood that they were all working as part of something bigger – family, work, society, the country.

In recent decades, though, more and more people have realized how important it is to put themselves first, take care of themselves, and love themselves, which will help them love and care for everyone else.

But before we get to the main point, it's worth emphasizing that both according to our observations and to several scientific studies, this is a good thing. It makes us healthier, more stable, and more balanced people.

Writer Shannon Kaiser said in her book The Self-Love Experiment that "Whether you want to achieve weight loss, land your dream job, find your soulmate, or get out of debt, it all comes back to self-love and accepting yourself first."

So it is not difficult to understand the importance of self-love in one's journey to improve their life and the lives of those important to us.

 An illustrated image reflecting self-confidence and high self-esteem. (credit: PIXABAY)
An illustrated image reflecting self-confidence and high self-esteem. (credit: PIXABAY)

That's all well and good in theory. In practice, though, it seems that in recent years, self-love has grown to such proportions that some people seem to be obsessed with it. Nowadays, many people think they need to love themselves in any situation and that society needs to do the same, always and unconditionally.

Lonely, stressed, and frustrated

TIME Magazine extensively covered this trend and tried to understand why these days, when self-love is praised so much, people seem to feel more lonely, stressed, and frustrated than ever. In the article, it was shown that studies said rates of loneliness have reached an unprecedented peak in recent years, partially because of COVID, which increased the distance between everyone, but it wasn't the only factor.

For example, in a study conducted by the Cinga research group, it was found that almost 80% of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 felt lonely. Another similar study found that even before COVID, back in 2018, a majority (54%) of Americans felt that nobody really knew them in detail.

Emphasizing separation rather than connection

Many experts look at the dismal data surrounding the feelings of loneliness and alienation in our modern society and they try to explain why, at a time when everyone is more open to being sensitive and sharing feelings, do people feel so alone.

One of these experts is Dr. Dan Siegel, an expert in psychiatry at UCLA and author of the book Intraconnected. In his book, Siegel referred to contemporary Western culture as the "culture of separation" and even noted that our culture at this time "emphasizes separation rather than connection, independence instead of interdependence, individuality rather than shared identity."

He further stated that in the end, everyone feels like they need to be a major success and to accomplish it by themselves without any outside help, and they don't even feel it's okay to go to someone for support during a period of crisis.

One great example of this is on Instagram, where good-looking men and women share photogenic proof of their self-love while receiving virtual love from tons of random followers – and also advertising various products and services along the way.

In a culture where that is the only thing you need to do in order to not only make a living but also to receive love from people online, there is always a constant need to compare yourself to others, which makes people feel they aren't good enough. As a result, they suffer from low self-confidence and self-esteem. which continue to drop to new lows.

And if you thought that people who "make it big" end up immune to all of this, you might be surprised (or you won't be surprised) to find out that even among successful influencers, these feelings still exist – sometimes, it's even at higher rates.

In an article published in the magazine Women's Health, the writers looked at this trend and found that many female social media influencers regularly deal with anxiety or even paranoia, depression, addiction, and low self-confidence.

When self-love turns into narcissism

But none of this is really anything new. All the way back in 2013, a comprehensive study examined the way self-love can turn into excessively focusing on ourselves – something that strains our relationships and makes us lonelier, more anxious, and more frustrated. All of these, according to the studies, can also harm the body's health by increasing inflammation, causing an increased risk of heart disease, and even increasing the chance of premature death.

So what can we do?

Remember that on the one hand, self-love is an important and powerful tool that can have tremendous impact, for better or for worse. Self-love can also help us connect with people more easily. But on the other hand, it can also make us develop destructive, narcissistic tendencies that will end up distancing people from us even more.

Life is a never-ending journey of sometimes successful attempts to balance different aspects of our behavior. Self-love is one such aspect and as such, requires constant balance. And this won't always be easy.

As such, it is worth remembering one of the most famous verses from the Bible: "Love thy neighbor as you love thyself." Loving ourselves is important, and loving others is just as important – not more, but just as much.