6 shadow signs to look out for
You laid all of this out so succinctly and beautifully, and I appreciate how much time and effort you have put into really getting to know this subject and it's larger context in society.
I really feel that you hit the nail on the head when you explored the connection between deeply LOW self esteem/lack of connection and toxic self love.
I believe this is EXACTLY what we are experiencing in our culture at large.
The hyper-individualism that is celebrated as our best of way of being, the fact that we are forced into a state of viewing everyone around us as competition, the fact that we are trained to hide, deny and reject who we really are so that we can 'fit in' to culture, the fact that we are trained to see ourselves purely through the lens of what we consume and produce (and thus lose so much of our actual humanity), the fact that spirituality has become another commodity that we use to try to 'be good enough/achieve a goal' so we can SHOW others and the fact that we are all deeply insecure because we lack true self awareness or the safety of a culture that allows us to be ourselves and find connection in that ALL leads to this place where we are now - where people are simultaneously totally self obsessed while having little to no actual self awareness or actual self esteem.
When we get on the REAL self love path, when we start to build true self worth via understanding that we ARE flawed, we are always going to make mistakes, that we aren't necessarily 'special' but we ARE unique and that there are ways of being that serve our humanity that work BETTER than what culture is offering us (learning to process emotions, learning to communicate clearly, learning to identify needs/wants/desires and how to meet those things healthfully) we are ALSO going to start to become aware of the greater SYSTEM.
We are going to naturally find that this path of connection to our OWN humanity leads to a path of connection to GREATER humanity - we will start to see the flaws in the logic of our culture AND we will naturally start to develop a sense of care and empathy for others as we realize it's the whole game of being individualistic that's harming us - it's not the route to freedom.
The true self love path takes us out of spiritual toxicity and into true humility and the desire to do what's right by all beings - and that's the actual gift of it.
It's not a checklist as you state - it's a connection to all the aspects of being human that the system is robbing us of - and this is going to be in large part a reconnection to community and care beyond what others can do for us.
This is what happens when we really love ourselves, because there truly is no separation in real reality.