Monday, August 27, 2012

C.S. Lewis on Loving Yourself

Lately I've been in a funk, feeling worn out, unenthusiastic about life and reluctant to do any of my responsibilities. I was thinking that maybe I should take a vacation, or schedule several hours of alone me-time, or get a babysitter and do something just with B, when I realized what I really wanted was a vacation from myself. I am tired of listening to my own thoughts, of watching myself do things that are a bad idea (like not exercising enough, or eating gummies for dinner), and of all my annoying qualities.

C.S. Lewis wrote on self love thusly:
For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life—namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated these things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.
I remember reading this (in Mere Christianity, which is a very interesting book even if you aren't religious) and wondering about it then, because I don't feel this way. I do have difficulty in loving myself, especially when I'm engaging in tiresome behavior. My self-love is conditional: present if I'm pleased with my behavior, but vanishing when things aren't going well. Instead, I often feel like I am that annoying coworker who sits next door: you have to be polite and accomplish tasks together, but you don't like or respect them, or even feel any positive emotion towards them. It's not that you actively hate them, but it's maddening that you can't escape.

I wonder if I am a unusually psychologically ill-balanced person, or if Lewis just has a really good opinion of himself.


  1. I'm so sorry you're feeling this way. I don't have any real advice or anything, but I do hope that you can find peace, happiness and love for yourself. I think I can become particularly annoyed with some of my qualities and have been trying to change, but it's a slow process full of falls and missteps. Sometimes when I've felt my worst and most annoyed with myself, I would try to get together with a good friend or try to focus on them and their life just to try to get "out" of myself and whatever I'm going through.

    1. Thanks Mandy: you have good advice I think, to focus on something else besides myself (luckily for me with a baby this is somewhat easier than otherwise, one reason perhaps why my general mood has improved since becoming a parent?).

  2. I'm with you on the self-love! I am often overly negative about myself - if I do things I hate, then I translate that into "I'm a horrible person because I do these things."

    I think C.S. Lewis was lucky to never fail to love himself. A lot of people, especially a lot of women, have difficulty with it, from what I've seen online.

    1. Based on some of his other writings, he did seem to have a very good opinion of himself (I suppose being a famous intellectual with many adoring friends/fans can do that).

      I think you're right it's partly gender-based too. I wonder why that is?