Saturday, February 14, 2009

Me Time on Valentine's

Today is St. Valentine's Day. I myself am particularly indifferent to it except for the pleasure of the sight of all the candy boxes and seeing the color pink on women, but for some this can be a spectacularly miserable holiday. Its misery has gone so far as to be a classic stereotype, but let it be known that each single person's misery towards the lack of romance is their fault. Not their fault along the lines of being undesirable or having bad luck or whatnot, but their fault along the lines of accepting the notion that being in a relationship is necessary to one's happiness. This could not be further from the truth.

The underlying issue to the problem is the chosen standard of happiness, that is, what people choose to base their happiness on. In principle, there are two types of this kind of standard: either one's standard is based on something within one's control or it is not. If the base of one's happiness is not in one's control, then the obvious problem one will run into is that what will be achieved will not be happiness; rather the best-case scenario will be that one will achieve occasional periods of good moods that can be stopped at any time. This is the problem miserable single people face on Valentine's. Implicitly, or (less commonly) explicitly, such people have placed their standard of happiness, at least some of it, on other people. But one cannot arrange people as one arranges furniture. It does not matter how sexually attractive a person is on the outside or inside (considering people paying attention to personal traits), one simply does not have the power to guarantee a satisfying personal relationship at any given time, which is what leads to the discontent of single people reminded of their relationship status on Valentine's.

Furthermore, this irrational standard leads to the disregardance of an essential component of happiness: self-love. If one does not love oneself, then a love of other people is impossible. This arises for two reasons:

  1. Nobody can escape or be parted from their *self*; so if there is an absence of self-love then one is always around in the presence of a person one dislikes. Such people cannot bear the thought of being alone for any reason.
  2. Self-love is a corollary of self-esteem, the psychological attribute of the individual confident in his abilities. Such individuals feel that they are worthy of pursuing and achieving values, so without self-esteem one will not believe one is worthy of having values and people will become an escape from an unpleasant reality, not an affirmation of a pleasant one.

To quickly summarize, not only does one need a rational standard of happiness to be able to form a consistent sense of life, but also one needs to attain a degree of *self sufficient* happiness before pursuing the additional value of people at all.

Of course, then double questions pop up: how does a rational standard of happiness translate into practice and how does one go about establishing self-love? The answer to both is the pursuing and achieving of goals. To repeat, a rational standard of happiness and self-love are logically connected and can be established in the same way at the same time. You do not like that you spend most of your morning oversleeping? Start setting a bedtime and a wakeup time, and move the alarm clock to the furthest part of the room; you will like yourself all the better and be happier. You do not like that you are ignorant? Start a study routine or form a mental habit of focusing on trying to understand what one deals with; you will like yourself all the better and be happier. And so on. The point is to identify attributes you admire as being a part of your vision of the ideal person and then work to integrate them into your own habits. After a time, one will have created a self that one can admire and love, and thereafter only the maintenance of the desired attributes will be necessary. That is when one can start pursuing people as values, to offer spice, not subsistence.

If all single people fully understood the necessities of happiness the stereotypical gloom of Valentine’s Day would disintegrate and much less often would a person’s sense of life risk being destroyed by something as simple as an unsuccessful relationship. We would also have many more people who would be able to enjoy their alone time more often, as they will always be around a loved one. In short, everyone would be much better off and happier. So remember: love yourself before all else.

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