Self-esteem and Valentine’s Day: Reflections of a Community Organizer

Self-esteem as a celebration of one’s value as a human being is a basic self- interest. Self-interest is not a bad word as many sectors in society would like to make you and me believe. In community organizing, a basic guiding principle is: People act on the basis of self-interest. If people are affected by a problem, they get angry or they are worried. Let’s say your home at the foot of a mountain is at a place where a landslide is waiting to happen. Of course, you think of a way to prevent a landslide from happening or you stay away from the danger area. Danger makes people afraid or angry, depending on what causes the danger. Fear, anger or any other emotion that threatens one’s survival makes a person act. Survival is a self-interest.

A parallel thought to self-interest is loving oneself. Then, Loving oneself is a selfish emotion, you may argue. The concept of “selfishness” needs to be decoded from the negative judgments most of us have been conditioned to believe from childhood. Loving oneself as a so-called act of selfishness is different from self-centeredness. Self-centeredness makes the self so big at the expense of others. Actually, self-centeredness is an aversion to loving oneself for the nature of love is to radiate – from inside the self to others. Loving oneself is the principle on which loving others is founded if we believe that we are part of society and therefore should be capable of letting our love flow into society. Loving oneself, in fact, is an inherent individual responsibility. To illustrate this thought, here’s an actual experience of a young community organizer whose idea of loving oneself was just not a practice of community workers. This particular community organizer just arrived from a mobilization with the community. The time was 4:00 pm. She said she was very hungry as she had not taken her lunch because of the so many things she needed to attend to. The Trainer of the young community organizer asked: How do you think you can help people take care of themselves when you yourself cannot look after your own self-interest? The young community organizer sheepishly replied: “I thought I would be affirmed for postponing my lunch.” The Trainer continued: “Don’t display an irresponsibility”. Community Organizers, if they are indeed community organizers, will know how to relate their self-interest with the self-interest of others. If the people were able to feed themselves and therefore took responsibility for their well-being, all the more that the community organizer should have been conscious of her duty to look after herself, the Trainer said.

Self-interest is a neutral concept just like money; just like politics. It’s the conditioning that these concepts are bad that limit our deeper exploration of the power of these concepts at helping humanity evolve into higher consciousness.

On February 14, Valentine’s Day, love symbols will be all around our highly commercialized world. No Valentine Card will convey this message: “ To love you eternally is to be able to love myself in the deepest way possible” or “I am truly loving myself so I can love you eternally.” It’s time we decode the concept of love, self-interest and Valentine’s day.