I came up with the idea for this article’s title in the shower this morning, and while at first I thought that was just a great article name, I’m convinced that Kanye West is probably the best person to use as an example when talking about self-love. (To be fair, I hadn’t really thought about this topic before I came up with the title, but let’s see what I can do with it.) As of right now, I’m thinking this will be the first of three articles exploring Love, Will, and Truth in more depth (although only this one will be Kanye-centric, unfortunately). Without further ado, let’s get learn how to practice self-love (like Kanye loves Kanye).
Now, it should be implied by the title, but I’m a diehard Yeezy fan. I’m not into too terribly much rap beyond Ye, Jay, Afu-Ra (whose fantastic song “Whirlwind Thru Cities” gave this site its name), and a handful of others, primarily because I look for motivational, uplifting lyrics. (That being said, I haven’t listened to an extreme amount of rap, so don’t hold that against me any more than necessary. I’m primarily a metal guy.) On that note, however, Kanye beats everyone as far as his undying belief in his capacity to do anything goes, and that permeates deeply into his music. There’s a quote of his I’m quite fond of (from the video linked below):
“Go listen to all my music, it’s the codes of self-esteem. It’s the codes of who you are. If you’re a Kanye West fan, you’re not a fan of me, you’re a fan of yourself. You will believe in yourself. I’m just the espresso. I’m just the shot in the morning to get you going, to make you believe you can overcome the situation that you’re dealing with all the time.”
Worth the whole listen, good supplement to this article.
I’m going to make what is likely a controversial assertion-
Most people do not love themselves.
Now, this isn’t so simple as it appears at first. There’s a platitude I’m sure you’ve heard before that goes something like “you can’t love anyone until you learn to love yourself,” which I think is really deeply, fundamentally true. If you’ve been to the site before, you’ll know “we can only understand others to the depth and in the manner that we understand ourselves.” Because of this fact, our love for others will always be a reflection of who we are, in one form or another.
One of the cool (and also fairly uncomfortable) things about the brain is that when we don’t understand something about ourselves, we tend to continually encounter situations in our lives that will force us to engage with that hidden piece. People who say they don’t like drama are always the ones engaged in drama. Those with abandonment issues will inevitable seek out people that will abandon them, or cause them to leave because of their own subconscious behaviors. Jung said it best:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
What this means is that when we don’t understand ourselves, we’re going to be blind to the effects of our personality and traits on the world around us. If we don’t love ourselves, we’re going to be directed to music that confirms this belief. This is why I highly recommend extreme caution in regards to the lyrical content of what you listen to, because it has a much larger effect on you than you’d think.
What is love, then? (Baby, don’t hurt me…)
For most people, love is primarily built on the emotional aspect, generated by oxytocin, the pair-bonding chemical. If you’re not exceptionally conscious of your own Self, you’re not going to be more than passively aware of the things that actually attract you to someone- it’ll just be the feeling itself that drives you. Again, this will be a mirror of your inner state- if you don’t love yourself, you’re going to be (unconsciously) searching for something that complements that. The hopeless romantic springs from this- they pine away after those who aren’t interested because on some level they don’t feel they deserve to be loved, or because they have an impossible fantasy that wouldn’t survive contact with a real person.
A proper, conscious love would involve both the physical attraction generated by emotional responses, but also an intellectual alignment- complementary personalities, shared values, and enough self-awareness to know what you want and what that looks like in another person. Much of the issues we see in today’s relationship environment stem from the pursuit of the former without regard to the latter- we fetishize people as purely sex objects and forget to consider the person attached.
On that note, some people like to try and desexualize the individual as a result, but fundamentally, people are literally built for sex. To deny that is to deny reality, and that’s always a bad move. What we have to understand is that we’re both sexual animals as well as thinking animals- and just like that, we’re back at the mind-body dichotomy again. As you work to align your body and mind with your purpose, you’ll move past the over-intellectual romanticizing and the basic animal lust, because they should work in concert with one another.
That’s all interpersonal love, though, what about Self-love?
One of the hardest things we’ll have to do in this life is to truly choose to live. After all, we don’t ask to be born. You didn’t decide to grow up in the place you did, or be born to the parents who birthed you, or the color of your skin, or your, nationality, or any of that. Most people seem to go through life neither here nor there, just being alive and moving from thing to thing, half in and half out.
However, let’s imagine Death walks into the room you’re in right now.
Time stops. The room darkens and grows colder. Before you, amidst the frozen people, you see your preferred form of Death (I like the Grim Reaper skeleton with the scythe, but feel free to substitute that dude from the Twilight Zone, or the Punisher, or whatever comes to mind.)
He tells you your time is up.
You beg and plead with him, tears in your eyes. For whatever reason, he decides to take mercy on you- but there’s one catch.
Going forward, you have a year to get everything right. This means you have to get in shape, stop procrastinating on that book you’ve talked about writing for years, quit that job you hate, finally leave your hometown, all of that stuff you said you would do but never did. If you fail, he’ll come back in a year and slice your dome clean off with the scythe (or whatever you imagined- maybe a comically large pair of scissors, like they use for grand openings.)
Now, here’s the important part of this story- this is basically life, except you don’t get to know when he’s coming to take you. You also don’t have the luxury of having this bargain explained explicitly to you- in real life, most people live out the entirety of their spans of existence without ever fully committing to what life requires of the living.
Because of this lack of understanding, we all possess a degree of weakness, doubt, laziness, disbelief, and so on, all milling about in our psyche. When you understand what this really means, what the high price of living really is, then you can start to see that all of this desire not to do what you’re meant to do is actually self-hate.
Most people hate themselves far more than they love themselves.
Every time you choose not to pursue your passion, every time you want to put off your dreams, you are choosing to die, just a bit at a time. Pursuing your dreams is painful because to live is to suffer- that’s the catch. You have to not only accept that the life of your dreams is going to hurt to attain, but to embrace and welcome the suffering as inseparable from success.
The dead feel no pain.
Once you accept this, everything gets easier. Imagine being Kanye, deciding to go into fashion and being ridiculed by the industry? That’s a degree of suffering you will likely (hopefully, at least) never experience. Imagine being publicly ridiculed for pursuing your passions, not just once, but continuously. That’s the kind of resistance Kanye has met at basically every major turn in his career. You have to accept that in the pursuit of greatness, you’re going to become a target for every one of those sad bastards that refuses to choose to live- because you become a reminder of how small and pathetic (in the true sense of the word, deserving of pity) they really are.
Once you accept this horrible burden, you begin to become progressively more free. You’re acting correctly (as Peterson says, treating yourself like someone you care about), and this begins to reflect in all areas of your life. You get healthier, both mentally and physically. Many of the bad feelings you’ve lived with begin to evaporate, as you retrain your brain to run on self-love rather than hate.
On the deepest level, love is a reflection of your highest values. Our actions in the world are dictated by our values- if you don’t love yourself, you’re going value things that lead to self-destruction and death (eventually), like drugs, excessive drinking, and laziness. Remember that life is the basis of all values, and you are the person responsible for choosing good values. What you choose to value is going to impact every aspect of your life- if you value stability over freedom, you’ll probably enjoy a 9-5 over freelancing. If you don’t know what you value, intimately, you’re going to have values provided to you.
It’s when you act out of alignment with these values that you start to destroy your life and your Self. If you love painting but give it up to go be a lawyer like your dad always wanted, well, enjoy your midlife crisis at 40 when you realize you wasted your life.
Most people value comfort over the attainment of their highest values in the world. If Kanye was like most people, we would never have gotten 808s- because going so far against the grain of the rap industry was certainly not the comfortable choice. (Notably, he basically did this every time he put out an album, and it tends to be the case that once Ye does something, everyone else will be doing it in 2-3 years. Refer to my Candlemaker’s Fallacy article for more on innovation, it’s relevant here.)
To love one’s Self is one of the hardest things in the world to do- our culture is generally against selfishness (which is an immature, naive concept of what proper Self-love entails), and because basically everyone hates themselves to some degree, they’re going to hate you by proxy when you start to love yourself. To love one’s Self is hard because love is conditional. Only death loves unconditionally- it treats everyone exactly the same, regardless of class, creed, or status.
Why is love conditional? Love is a reflection of your values, and values assume that some things are better than others. This is obviously true, just like food is better than poison, and breathing air is better than breathing car exhaust. Most people can accept that, but when it comes to love being conditional, they have a huge issue. Why? Because they don’t love themselves, so they want to be loved for free. They can’t handle the possibility of being judged (which everyone is, all the time), so they look for a love that doesn’t judge.
That’d be pretty horrible in practice, though- imagine expecting your wife and kids to love you if you’re a degenerate drunk and you beat them all the time. Not only is that a wretched way to operate, it’s preposterous to ask anyone to love a person like that, because if love reflects what we value, then you’re asking someone to completely destroy their standards of what constitutes a good person. What’s more, people who “love” like that begin to internalize the belief that they don’t deserve real love, and that they’re meant to be miserable in relationships.
Your values should be your treasures- guard them well. It’s even inherent in the word- valuable. Protect what’s valuable, keep your values high and live in a way that serves what you truly believe is best in the world.
Once you’ve accepted the harsher facts of things and you’ve developed a system of values that will lead you towards your goals, you’ll begin to love yourself- and deservedly so. Many of the relationship problems you may have can likely be avoided by getting your own shit together before you attempt to find love beyond yourself- ultimately, you’ll get what you deserve, for better or for worse.
Remember, your goal should be to love yourself like Kanye loves Kanye, but Kanye certainly deserves it. If you’re going to get there, you better start pursuing some form of excellence, whether it’s with a rap career, by revitalizing the fashion industry, or perhaps by writing philosophy. Really depends on you, I think.
Me? I’m aiming to be the Kanye of philosophy (meaning the GOAT, duh)-
y’all can’t tell me nothing.