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rambleHuman beings are always looking for love. Most teenagers read romance novels and fall in and out of love with the conviction that the ultimate goal in life is to find that ‘perfect someone’ with whom to share a fairytale love story.

When I first heard Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All, I was truly inspired by the lyrics: “Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all”. This song is about a kind of love we overlook and often forget all about – love for oneself.

You are wondering: Doesn’t self love amount to vanity or narcissism?

Although the risk is certainly there, a healthy amount of self-love is referred to as ‘self-esteem’ and is more than acceptable. In fact a good level of self esteem is an important function of physical and psychological wellbeing and contentment.

It is true that when significant individuals in your life show you acceptance and respect and provide validation it can, and will, strengthen your positive attitude towards yourself. However, it is good to remember that self-worth essentially comes from within; it is a tree whose seeds are sown during childhood and nurtured over time.

When you decide to love yourself – weaknesses, shortcomings, flaws and all – you will find that you are more confident and positive. Start by acknowledging and nurturing your strengths; at the same time, learn to face and accept your weakness and attempt to correct them.

Take care of your physical wellbeing and develop your spiritual side by spending time with yourself, reflecting and meditating. Cultivate balanced and healthy relationships that are based on mutual respect and that allow you to mature spiritually and intellectually. Be assertive and ask for what you want, and most importantly, learn to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.

As the world prepares to celebrate Valentine’s Day, ask yourself: Have I really achieved the greatest love of all? For then and only then can you expect someone else to love you as you deserve and desire to be loved.

– Dr Uzma Ambareen, MD
The writer is a consultant psychiatrist at the Free Mental Health Clinic and a member of the Pakistan Association for Mental Health.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on February 10, 2013.