No matter how hard you try, not everyone in life is going to like or appreciate you. Other people’s opinions of what you do and who you are will always vary. Sometimes you’ll put everything into a piece of work and it’ll be trashed by someone whose opinion matters to you. When this happens, it can sting. I’d love to tell you that I always take criticism in my stride, but sometimes bad feedback shakes my opinion of my abilities to the core. This is not something I’m proud of.
After all, self-belief is important. If you believe in yourself, other people believe in you. It can make you famous for something as useless as taking selfies. It can make you the front-runner to win a Presidential race despite having no compassion or brains. Perhaps ramping up my own self-belief could do magical things for me as well.
Enter: I Heart Me: The Science of Self-Love. Written by a man with a PhD and promising to deliver the topic through a scientific lens, I presumed I would be in good hands. As a MSc student, I’ve been learning about the scientific method and now have decreased tolerance levels for fluffy crap. This is a problem when your blog is about self-help books. So bring on the science! Make me love myself using empirically based, peer reviewed studies! I AM READY!
Alas, it turns out I was duped. Here are some examples of ‘science’ from the book:
‘I asked my good friend Kyle Gray about it. He’s a highly accurate medium… Kyle asked his angels about my experience.’
‘Each of us is made of atoms. That makes us quite a large expression of love. Technically speaking, we’re made of love…. kind of.’
If self-love means believing this sort of stuff, perhaps I’m better off being insecure. I wanted to find something nice to say about this book. I tried, but I couldn’t. It recycles tired ideas from other self-help books, bunging on a ‘scientific’ label to try and disguise the fact there’s nothing original in it at all. For one thing, he claims doing the exercises in this book will work because they’ll ‘rewire your brain’. Not that he has any actual evidence for this, such as fMRI scans. I’m guessing he thought that ‘neuroplasticity’ was more exciting than plain old ‘learning’. Other scientific evidence in the book is scraped from TED talks that we’ve all seen before, such as Amy Cuddy’s ‘power pose’ work. Given that 32 million people have watched her TED talk, and the fact that it’s so famous it’s been parodied on Brooklyn Nine Nine, it’s a waste of paper to cover it again.
Unfortunately for me, the whole point of this blog is that I actually *do* what the self-help books I read tell me to do, even if the author is confused about atoms and does wee dances in his spare time. (I’m not kidding. There’s a whole section about the benefits of silly dancing, and describes how he once did a wee dance in an underpass). I decided to put Hamilton’s ‘self-love gym’ exercises to the test.
‘Blame the parents’
Hamilton’s first exercise asks you to think whether your parents had self-esteem issues. I have no idea whether mine did. They have both passed away, and as I don’t have any friends who are mediums, I can’t get in touch with them to ask.
The ‘I am enough’ pose + ‘love thy selfie’
Do you suspect that this exercise may be an appropriation of Amy Cuddy’s Power Pose research? You would be right. I decided to go for Kanye in the Power video, given he’s a man not short of self-love. Here are the results. Magnificent, yes?
‘Be a self-love Olympian’
This has nothing to do with sport, sadly. In this exercise, you visualise a situation where you would normally have low self-worth and imagine acting as if you didn’t. I imagined winning the Nobel Peace Prize despite the fact I’ve done nothing with my life apart from watch a lot of Netflix. It was a nice way to spend two minutes, but I didn’t feel any of my neural pathways changing.
‘Set them free’
Apparently, identifying the people you judge and the people you feel judged by helps you to set them free! I tried this on the Tube, because I am VERY judgemental of people who breach Tube etiquette. Sadly, identifying the people who behave antisocially on public transport did not set them free of the carriage. Probably just as well, given the dangers.
‘What do you like about yourself?’
I quote: ‘Most of us feel unhappy about some aspect of our body image; whether it’s our weight, […] breast size (women), hip size (women) or penis size (men).’ I’m glad he’s cleared that up for me. I’ve always been unhappy about my penis size and now I can be free!
Apparently the key to turning around poor body image and resisting the pressure of the media is this: focus on three things you like about your body and keep telling yourself why you like them. I choose my hair, my brain and my liver. All of them work bloody hard for me, after all.
Sadly, I cannot say I have felt any difference to my self-love levels after reading this book. I am the same as I have always been: a person who is sometimes unsure of herself, and who sometimes takes things to heart. I’m OK with this, so perhaps I’m richer in self-esteem than I thought I was. What I have learned is this: science sells; and scientists who write should never abuse the power and authority that the scientific label brings.