Whenever I visit Amazon in search for a particular book I’d like to read—which generally happens on a bi-weekly basis—the home page displays a catalogue of recommendations based on my previous searches and purchases. Despite the fact that, up until now at least, none of these recommendations has ever piqued my interest, I quite often browse through them, if only out of curiosity. However, recently I’ve noticed that every time I search for a philosophy book (or any book that is vaguely philosophy-related) I get suggestions for pseudo-philosophical / pseudo-psychological self-help books, which annoys me. What particularly gets on my tits is that among these books, titles containing the word ‘self-love’ keep cropping up.
Just the other day—by which I mean about two weeks ago—Amazon’s algorithms suggested I might be interested in a book entitled “The Seven Habits of Self-Loving People”. Usually when something like this occurs I just utter the words “fuck off”, close my web browser and move on. However, this time I was beginning to feel that this whole self-love thing is getting a bit out of hand. So I decided to do a little research into the matter. I reopened my web browser, revisited the website of the aforementioned online retailer, typed ‘self-love’ into the search bar, chose the category ‘books’, and subsequently clicked on the little magnifying glass to the right. Half a second later, the search was complete and I was presented with a selection of self-help books, the titles of which ironically made me feel quite depressed. I’ll give you the highlights: “Radical Self-Love”, “The Seven Habits of Self-Loving People”, “The Self-Romance Manifesto”, “Madly in Love with ME”, “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on it”, “How To Love Yourself”, “Self-Love: The Key to Happiness”, “Self-Love Secrets”.
Judging by these rather sensationalist book titles, I presume you won’t be too surprised to learn that most of these books have American authors. Curious as I am, I wanted to find out a little more about these books. However, while most of them had lengthy—and, I assume, ostentatiously self-laudatory— descriptions pertaining to their content, I couldn’t really be arsed to read them. My interest in the matter had perished quite swiftly. In the end I decided that instead of telling you what these books are actually about, I’d play a little game of ‘book title association’.
“How to Love Yourself”. Do you mean physically? Because I already know how to do that.
“Self-Love Secrets”. Similar to the previous book, this must be a detailed guide to esoteric self-pleasure techniques.
“Self-Love: The Key to Happiness”. Well, it definitely can be the key to an ephemeral but intense outburst of happiness.
“Radical Self-Love”. How does one love oneself radically? Sounds rather aggressive if you ask me. Accordingly, let’s avoid further references to masturbation.
“Madly in Love with ME”. This must be a novel but tedious comedy drama in which a sufferer of dissociative identity disorder falls in love with his alternative personality, resulting in an on-again off-again relationship that is doomed to fail.
“The Self-Romance Manifesto”. Leaving aside, the ‘manifesto’ part of the title, this also makes me think of a film: a surreal slapstick RomCom in which a handsome 32-year-old businessman called Fred (short for Frederick) takes a full-length mirror out on a romantic date. As they meet in front of the Italian restaurant where they’ll have their candlelit dinner, they awkwardly laugh at the fact that they’ve both brought the exact same bouquet of flowers (what a coincidence!). During their meal things get a bit messy when Fred and his date try to recreate the iconic spaghetti-kiss scene from Lady and the Tramp. As the evening progresses, the protagonist gets increasingly annoyed by the fact that his date seems to imitate his every movement. Furthermore, the mirror only ever speaks when Fred is talking, thereby ruining the flow of their conversation. Finally, the businessman loses his temper. He throws a tantrum. Both of them are upset but also embarrassed because of the scene they’ve caused. They soon calm down and tearfully apologise to each other. The tension is resolved and the atmosphere improves. Generously, they both insist to pay for the food. In the end they decide it’s easiest to split the bill. They leave the restaurant and talk about heading home, when they come to realise they both live in the same apartment building. Once arrived at the building, they walk up the stairs but come to a halt halfway up as Fred puts his arms around the mirror’s frame, pulls it towards him and gives it a steamy kiss.
Lastly, “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on it”. I’ll level with you, I’ve run out of ideas. The title suggests some kind of Hollywood, big budget action film. Unfortunately, I can’t come up with anything more specific.
All jokes aside, I cannot fathom how anyone could look at the world in its current state and confidently hold that what we need is more self-love. Self-acceptance, i.e. the ability to not be unreasonably hard on oneself, undoubtedly is a very important psychological trait. It’s something that a lot of people—myself included— struggle with. However, to suggest that the solution to self-esteem issues is to love oneself unconditionally seems a bit exaggerated. I mean ‘love’ is quite a strong word, isn’t it? Incidentally, and I know I can only speak for myself here, but I find that, generally, the people who really do love themselves unconditionally are not people you want to have in your social circle. I’m all for people feeling comfortable in their own skin, but I draw the line at lusting after one’s skin, metaphorically speaking of course… hopefully.
Given the increasing popularity of self-help literature that encourages you to love yourself no matter how much of an egocentric wanker you are, the following might seem almost contrarian, but I would suggest that instead of endeavouring to love ourselves more it would serve us all a lot better to try and love each other more. Corny, I know.
As far as I’m concerned all the people who think self-love is oh-so-important can—quite euphemistically—go love themselves, which presumably, they’ll enjoy.
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