The Self Cannot Be Our Perfect Partner

When self-love goes rogue. And turns into raging narcissism.

If self-love is the end-all-be-all of relationships, self-partnership seems to be the new trendy social media status. It’s no longer enough to expound about one’s greatness in print, we must make our love official with a gushy update on every single platform we use. Anyone who approaches us should know that we’re already taken.

With ourselves.

Let it be known to the assembled multitudes that we are abundantly fulfilling our every desire and need by embracing voluntary singlehood. And we have very proficient hands, our nimble fingers tap tapping those touch screens in a rhythmic fashion, day and night.

We are orgasm made manifest, constantly stimulated by thumbs up, hearts, and claps; when we tell the world how much we love ourselves, it loves us back. Therein lies the paradox of what it means to be a human in the world: Validation can never be self-generated; we need to convince others of our greatness because we do not believe it ourselves.

And why would we when we’re constantly beset by self-doubt only the reassurance of others can dispel?

Deep down, we know we’re frauds even the most aggressive of personal branding campaign can never redeem. We hope no one notices before we’ve had a chance to blind everyone with self-made mythology and the importance of growing our dreams. We batten down the hatches, double down on building personal empires elevating the “moi” to a living deity and when we come to, we realize we are completely disconnected from our peers.

Lest this should torpedo our personal brand, we need to find a way to spin the lovelessness into some hip and relatable concept that will bring some comfort to those similarly affected by chronic people deficit.

When not sought-after and the result of deliberately isolating ourselves, lack of attention, rejection, and abandonment will corrode any human heart. To navigate this physical, mental, and emotional drought, we use the same coping mechanism our ancestors have used for millennia to survive.

We turn to storytelling and tell ourselves the stories we need to hear. And they’re invariably overblown, full of monsters, heroes, and villains among whom hides our personal savior. And because we are exceptional on a personal — and in the case of America on a national — level, it suddenly stands to reason we are the one we’ve been waiting for, our very own superhero.

What better success story than being the individual who comes to our own rescue, the one we fall for, and the one we commit to when the rest of the world is still looking for connection and connectedness?

Mythology is like sex: It can be used to sell anything because a touch of extraordinariness will often inspire us to take action and remedy the things that are unsatisfactory in our lives. And if there’s any narrative that promotes us from loser to winner, of course we’ll co-opt it without pausing to check whether it is even feasible, viable, true.

If we were cake, we’d literally eat ourselves. After all, isn’t choosing to accommodate only our bloated ego in our head and heart the ultimate fast track to building a life that advances our personal goals and benefits us? And if it’s at the detriment of others, never mind. We’re self-partnered, we don’t need them.

Or do we?

If you’ve ever had to hold your own hand and sensed the absence of human warmth so deeply it made you want to die, you already know self-partnership is the newest, shiniest consolation prize for those who are losing the ability to forge deep, meaningful bonds with peers. If the self-help industrial complex exists and thrives, it is a symptom of how estranged from one another we’ve become.

We can’t even meet peers without tech interfaces or converse with anyone whose social media profiles we haven’t studied in depth. As for dating, how many of us check a prospective love’s LinkedIn profile to make sure they fall into an income bracket that would afford us the kind of life we feel we deserve? When our every interaction is a transaction, how can spontaneity survive and how can the heart guide us when the mind is busy totting up ROI?

No wonder hearts greed hasn’t bypassed yet will run for cover, as far away from our nonsensical self-partnerships as they can to try and find their kin. Like it or not, we all need one another; we always have and we always will as this is how society works: One for all and all for one.

One is a symbol of unity, not the self standing tall and defiant among peers it dismisses as zeroes.

The truth cuts deep into the meat of our deceit, impaling our necrotic heart. When it lost the ability to be curious about others, it started dying and no amount of self-love could revive it. And no amount of digital peer validation could conjure up physical human warmth, a pair of arms to hold and comfort us.

The cult of the self takes no prisoners and we can eventually become so tangled up in our own self-marketing campaign we can’t even remember who we are. When survival demands we remain on brand and on message all the time, our entire reality becomes make-believe.

A mirage.

The ego thrives, the heart withers. Greed spins alienation into a partnership choice, conscious self-coupling for the masses; it is so grotesque of course it goes viral. As we bask in the sudden adulation of peers hailing our relationship status at the answer to human loneliness, we believe we are loved.

Because we are herd animals at heart, we self-partner in the bliss of studied ignorance and keep building up walls around our person so we never have to step out of our echo chamber of choice.

Instead of chasing our own heart and allowing it to lead the way, we are letting it die on purpose, out of neglect.

Love needs an outlet; the self will never suffice.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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