Some believe that self-love is a useless research or even selfish. Others think that the advices to love ourselves from Psychology are hollow phrases devoid of meaning. However, the truth is that we must spend our whole life with ourselves, so we better cultivate a good relationship with our “self”, be able to forgive ourselves and encourage ourselves in the darkest moments. All that is summed up in self-love.
In fact, scientific research has shown that self-love is an essential aspect of our lives: it not only improves our health and enhances longevity, but it also motivates us to improve, grow as people, and defend our assertive rights.
Unfortunately, many times society puts so much pressure on us to achieve a certain status that we focus too much on the failures and ignore the areas in which we have grown. This search for success on a social level can make us forget to satisfy our basic needs, such as psychological security or time for ourselves. Self-love is a change in the rules of the game.
What is self-love?
Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that feeds on all those actions that promote our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. It implies taking ourselves into account and ensuring our well-being and happiness.
It means recognizing our needs and worrying about satisfying them, avoiding sacrificing our well-being to please others. It also means understanding our worth as individuals and being willing to protect it. It means not settling for less than what we deserve.
Self love is treating ourselves with kindness, respect and compassion. Focus on what is good for us and strive to grow every day. Therefore, it is an essential pillar of our mental balance and underpins our emotional well-being.
What is self-love for? Its huge benefits
• Less stress, more resilience
Stress is often triggered when we feel that we are not up to the challenges we must face. However, when we profess enough self-love we feel more confident in ourselves, so we will have more strength to deal with those challenges and they will scare us less.
Also, negative feelings about oneself and critical thoughts add to stress. However, when we feel comfortable in our skin, we often find it easier to solve problems, we are more confident in our abilities, and we become more resilient in the face of adversity.
• More empathy and better relationships
Contrary to what many people think, persons with self-love are not selfish, but quite the opposite: they develop greater empathy. By seeing and accepting yourself as you are, with your strengths and weaknesses, you can also be more understanding of the mistakes and struggles of others.
Self-love goes hand in hand with compassion and appreciation, not only for oneself but also for those around us. Therefore, feeding self-love is not a narcissistic act, but rather helps us put ourselves in the shoes of another person, strengthens affective ties and, in the long run, usually improves relationships.
• Increased well-being thanks to healthy boundaries
A dishonest “yes” to something we don’t want to do is equivalent to an honest “no” to oneself. Many times we think that saying “yes” to everything and always being willing to help is a virtue. However, one of the keys to self-love is knowing what to allocate our energy to and when it is time to say “no.”
As a result, self-love becomes our shield. Not only does it allow us to protect ourselves from people who try to manipulate us, but it is also a protection against ourselves, when we try to go beyond our possibilities or when we neglect ourselves. Therefore, self-love helps us set healthy boundaries to protect our well-being.
What it means having self-love? Loving yourself without going over
Unlike selfishness or narcissism, which involve excessive self-absorption, self-love is a positive trait. In fact, while self-love acts as a pillar of mental health, narcissism affects our emotional balance and relationships.
Being selfish or narcissistic is going too far with self-love. Those persons are so wrapped up in themselves that they can’t be empathetic and put themselves in the shoes of others because they think the world revolves around them. On the other hand, those who have self-love love and prioritize themselves, but since at the same time they feel safe and confident enough, they are also capable of maintaining healthy and satisfying relationships with the others.
The secret to not fall into selfishness is to balance the love we feel for other people, especially those close to us, with the love we should experience for ourselves. This way we will not sin as narcissists, but neither will we continuously relegate ourselves to a second plan either.
Of course, self-love can be expressed in a thousand different ways:
• Talking to ourself with love and patience
• Treating us kindly and benevolently
• Prioritizing our needs
• Pursuing our dreams
• Giving us a break from destructive self-criticism
• Trusting more in ourselves
• Being faithful to our values and beliefs
• Setting healthy boundaries to protect ourselves from toxic people and environments
• Forgiving ourselves when we make a mistake
• Listening to our body and emotions
• Taking a break from work to relax and disconnect
• Taking care of our physical and mental health
It should be clear that regardless of the ways to cultivate and express self-love, it must always go through acceptance. Loving ourselves implies recognizing and embracing our lights and shadows, as well as taking care of ourselves and striving to bring out our best version, but without subjecting ourselves to harmful stress. Self-love encompasses not only the way we treat ourselves, but also the feelings we have for us and the thoughts we direct to ourselves.
Self-love involves having a positive overall image of ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that we feel optimistic or content with who we are or what we do all the time. Feeding those kinds of expectations would simply be unrealistic and end up hurting us. We can feel temporarily upset, angry, or disappointed with ourselves and still have self-respect. In fact, self-love is precisely what allows us to forgive ourselves and make decisions that promote our well-being to keep going in the most difficult moments. After all, as Oscar Wilde wrote, “Loving yourself is the beginning of an adventure that lasts a lifetime.”
Ming, L. et. Al. (2021) A Qualitative Exploration of Chinese Self-Love. Front. Psychol; 12: 10.3389.
Gebauer, J. E. et. Al. (2012) Self-love or other-love? Explicit other-preference but implicit self-preference. PLoS One; 7(7): e41789.