I’ve been struggling with this term self-love which seems to be gaining currency of late. Given that I have no problem with words like self-respect, self-esteem and self-hatred, it might seem surprising that I resist the idea of a love for the self. My threshold obstacles to accepting it are two-fold: an overlap with the concept of narcissism, and my aversion to some New Age, wishy-washy formulations that focus on love to the exclusion of other darker emotions.
As I often do with problematic words, I start with a dictionary definition from Merriam-Webster.
Self-love: love of self
b: regard for one’s own happiness or advantage
There’s the first of my problems — definition 1(a) places self-love in the realm of narcissism; definition 1(b) hints at a kind of ruthlessness. From this point of view, self-love doesn’t appear to be a positive attribute; self-love verges on egoism and selfishness, overemphasizing the wishes of the individual to the disadvantage of other people. My impression is that the meaning of the word is currently undergoing an evolution, however, largely inspired by developments within New Age thinking. Check back with Merriam-Webster in ten years and you’ll find an additional definition.
I did a little online research about other conceptions of self-love and came across the following, from a website called Inner Self: