“love yourself”

Valentine’s day gave me the excuse to smother the people I love with appreciation and heart emojis. The holiday also gave me a reason to share something I learned recently about love.

Having experienced the transformative power of pursuing the things you love, I’ve told others as if it was a secret sauce to fulfillment: to love is to fall in love with the work — to give it your all so that the wins and loses of the journey become yours uniquely. No one could take that away.

Become so good that they can’t ignore you.
Overcome fear and show up every day.
Repeat, and wait patiently when the outcome compounds.

Guided by these inner voices, I hone my craft with stubborn repetitions, I got decently skilled at what I do that more people start to demand my skills. I got to deliver faster and deliver even more work, and soon I begin to feel like a machine uploading files onto Dropbox with a sense of empty satisfaction.

Something was missing. The ultra-focusing on self-improvement has empowered me just as much as it’s alienated me from the feeling of love. All the self-help books we can find on the market screams: “focus on YOURSELF” and “don’t give an Fk about what others say.”

I decided that these titles are misguiding, or maybe just incomplete. Sustainable fulfillment comes from being the relentless dedication to what you do, and that requires LOVE, which is only complete if it contains oneself and more importantly, the Other.

Love is becoming the best version for yourself, so you become more lovable, but love is also empathizing with others’ needs, so you become genuinely helpful. Love is internal as much as it’s external. The Self and the Other are two sides of a delicate equilibrium.

I came across this quote when I was reading Alain De Button’s The Course of Love:

“Being another’s servant is not humiliating — quite the opposite, for it sets us free from the wearying responsibility of continuously catering to our own twisted, insatiable nature… [As adults] we learn of an unexpected capacity to hurt without meaning to: to frighten without eccentricity or unpredictability, anxiety or momentary irritation. We must train ourselves to be as others need us to be rather than as our own first reflexes might dictate.”

Serving is loving. When I say “love you” to those around me, I know I’m also loving myself, my day, and the world around me.