For 20 years, William Sieghart has cured the sad and the sick with poetry. Now he’ll do the same for you

CONDITION: inertia when alone ALSO SUITABLE FOR: inadequacy, feelings of · insecurity · self-recrimination

PRESCRIPTION: Love After Love by Derek Walcott

I see a lot of people in my Pharmacy sessions who tell me that they can’t do anything when they’re on their own. If they had a visitor, they could entertain: cook, buy food, be cheerful and welcoming. Yet somehow the motivation to do this for themselves is very hard to come by. Left alone, they don’t believe that they’re worth the effort. Similarly, I meet person after person who funnels all their energy into helping and caring for others, yet has no regard for their own wellbeing. It’s as if they saw themselves as the only people on earth not deserving of love and kindness. There’s a fundamental unfairness in this: a sense that people are wilfully selling themselves short.

It seems to me that a crucial objective of existence is to come to terms with oneself. Learning to like ourselves is something we all battle with, young and old. It’s a constant, permanent progression, and it’s never truly complete. But when you can look yourself in the eye and actually cherish yourself – when you can recognize who you are with all your faults, and be happy with that – then you’ll see that you are no less worthy of kindness than your friends and guests. You’ll be able to speak kindly and politely to yourself, no longer tearing yourself down as you might an enemy, but instead bolstering and encouraging yourself as you would anyone else.

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