The $10 billion business of self-care in the United States can be overwhelming with books, posts, and podcasts discussing the benefits of exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, and relaxation. Of course, taking care of yourself is important, but it’s not everything. Self-care and self-love are not the same thing.
What is self-love and why is it so important?
Self-love is a broader concept of self-care that involves wholeheartedly accepting who you are and treating yourself with kindness and respect. It’s not only how you look at yourself, but how you think and feel about yourself. It means looking at yourself, truly, flaws and all, and loving yourself, without judgment. It means taking care of your own physical, psychological, and spiritual needs first and not sacrificing your well-being to please anyone else. At its core, self-love is about truth—in knowing who you are, your true nature. By learning to love yourself, you will begin to replace old, false beliefs that keep holding you back and allow you to begin to live a more authentic and enriched life.
Some of you might find practicing self-love challenging at first, because you’ve been in the habit of cutting yourself down, or listening what others have to say about you, or measuring who you think you are and what you should look like to those things you see and read on social media. A big first step is to be able to ignore all the external “noise” and focus on you and your well-being.
For those of you who have experienced childhood trauma or are currently in the midst of a difficult time in your life dealing with the death of a loved one, going through divorce, grappling with the loss of your job, or recovering from eating disorders or addiction, learning self-love is one of the best tools you can use to help you on the road to healing.
That’s because learning self-love motivates positive behavior and decreases harmful behavior. It empowers you to take risks, fight for your own well-being, and say no to those things that don’t work for you. It is the foundation of self-confidence and self-esteem. Self-love allows you to put your best interests front and center.
Don’t confuse self-love with narcissism, which is characterized by an over-inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a total need for excessive admiration. Self-love positively affects your mental health, stress levels, and your relationships. Other benefits of practicing self-love are:
- Empowerment. Practicing self-love allows you to believe in yourself and your abilities. By accepting your own self-worth, you can overcome self-doubt and break free from societal pressures. Practicing self-love can give you the confidence to live the life you want to live instead of living for others.
- Resilience. Self-love gives you the tools to navigate life’s challenges. When you can look at yourself honestly and lovingly, you will develop that inner voice that will support and encourage you through life’s ups and downs. When you are able to have self-empathy, you can stop judging and second-guessing yourself. We all make mistakes. When you can love and accept yourself, you can more easily bounce back from setbacks, learn from the experience, and move forward in a positive way.
- Muffling negative thoughts and behaviors. Self-sabotaging refers to destructive thoughts and behaviors that deliberately damage, block, or impair your positive goals. These negative thoughts about your life choices, your relationships (or lack of them), your appearance, or your abilities will undermine your self-esteem every time. When you learn to love yourself, you can begin to reject those negative thoughts and embrace all the beautiful things that make you unique and worthy of love.
- Healthy relationships. When you can love and respect the person you are, you are able to form healthy and fulfilling relationships that will continue to uplift and support you. By loving yourself, you set the standard for how you think others should treat you.
- Happiness and Fulfillment. Ultimately, self-love fosters feelings of happiness and fulfillment. When you love and accept yourself, you will create a positive relationship with yourself–maybe for the very first time. You will discover a new way of looking at your life and all its possibilities. You’ll feel an overall increase in life satisfaction, mental health, and capacity for joy and gratitude.
Practicing self-love is not a selfish act. By embracing and accepting all the things that make you wonderful, you will enhance your self-esteem, cultivate healthy relationships, and combat self-sabotaging. Learning to love yourself is the first step toward living a life that is empowering and filled with joy.
If you would like to learn more about the importance of self-love and how to start looking at yourself and your life in a more positive way, please reach out to us. At Wallace Family Therapy, we are trained to provide the most effective treatment that meets your specific needs and challenges. We’re here to help you.