Is Self-Love Selfish?
When you’re on an airplane, and the flight attendants are giving the safety spiel, and they get to the part about how oxygen masks will drop down if the plane loses pressure -Then they tell you to put on your mask before helping anyone else. If you have a small child with you, the flight attendants will often go that aisle and tell that person individually to put their mask on first. Many parents would die for their kids without hesitation. The thought of not helping them first is hard to fathom. When it comes to this airplane scenario, putting your mask on first instead of risking passing out before you can help your child or yourself by trying to help them first is not selfish, it’s just smart. As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Acts of self-love must be reiterated in our society because they can be viewed as selfish when they are, in fact, healthy actions.
What Exactly is Self-Love?
My favorite definition of self-love describes it as nurturing your mind, body, and soul and embracing the experiences that shape you. Self-love is also a basic human necessity to survive and thrive. If you think back to grade school when you learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you may recall that there are five levels of needs that affect human motivation. Visualized as a pyramid with five tiers or levels, starting at the bottom with basic needs, once those needs are met, there is then the motivation to move to the next level. According to this theory, physiological needs must be met, then safety and security, love and belonging, esteem, and then self-actualization. Self-love is a part of the esteem level and necessary before reaching the self-actualization level, AKA your full potential in life.
Self-love is actually loving yourself, just as it sounds. It is valuing your emotional and overall wellness. Self-love can look different for every individual, but the benefits are the same. Learning to love yourself results in less stress, anxiety, and depression, higher levels of satisfaction, personal growth, improvements in physical health, increased motivation, and even boosts attractiveness.
How Does Self-Love Look?
The way you feel about and treat a person you love in a healthy relationship is the same way you should feel about and treat yourself. The key is being self-aware and mindful enough to do so. Hopefully, the feeling is still there, but I am sure you can remember a time when you were head-over-heels for someone. There wasn’t much they could do no wrong, and you would show them how special they are any chance you get. Just like you were quick to forgive a partner you loved, you should be quick to forgive yourself. Self-love can also be treating yourself with respect, speaking to yourself in affirming ways, not allowing people to take advantage of you, acknowledging your feelings, and meeting your own needs through acts of self-care, just to name a few.
What is the Difference Between Self-Love and Self-Care?
Self-care can be defined as the active process of creating a body and mind that is pleasing to inhabit. Whereas self-love is the creative force and energy, self-care is simply self-love in action. Acts of self-care can range from basic daily hygienic actions to planned activities done to better oneself.
Self-care is important because, along with reductions in stress and anxiety, it can increase happiness, reduce health risks, increase energy, and even help us tune in with our higher power. Basically, we can improve our overall wellness through self-care. However, self-care happens as a result of self-love. For example, the self-care act of eating healthy is because we accept our body and believe we deserve to nourish it with the proper fuel through self-love. Both self-love and self-care are essential for your personal growth and for reaching your full potential in life.
How to Practice Self-Love and Self-Care
Self-care and self-love are habits that must be cultivated and practiced with intention. It may not feel natural or like it should even be allowed at times, but you can learn to love and care for yourself the way you deserve with daily practice. Below are five ways you can practice self-love and self-care.
Free yourself from toxic relationships and life roles. It is necessary to prioritize your needs over the wants of others. If your relationships and life roles do not allow for your needs to be met with direct communication and healthy boundaries, it may be time for a change.
Take a break. I’m not encouraging procrastination, but setting boundaries for others and yourself is necessary. That can mean saying “no” to others or to yourself. Knowing when it is time to step away and reset can really show how much you care for yourself.
Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Perfection is an unattainable illusion. Remember that it is ok to make mistakes, and it is ok to ask for help. Replace the negative thoughts with positive self-talk.
Be yourself and accept people for who they are. Stop comparing yourself to others and instead practice authenticity and take pride in who you are. You should acknowledge your feelings and the feelings of others, but be true to your wants and needs.
Enrich your life with things you enjoy. That’s right, have fun! Life is meant to be enjoyed. Buy yourself flowers. Take yourself on a date. Whatever brings you joy, try to add more of it to every day. If you love yourself, you should, of course, do what makes you happy.
Effect of Self-Love on Mental and Emotional Health
Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, Calvin Ridley, Ben Stokes, and Matthew Wolff are a few of the elite athletes who in recent years have taken a break from their respective sports for mental health reasons. These athletes are in the spotlight, which has fortunately brought awareness to mental health. However, elite athletes are not the only ones under tremendous pressure. Ordinary people also go through the same mental health challenges.
Self-love is not always easy and, quite frankly, can be downright scary. Walking away from millions of dollars under the public eye’s scrutiny or leaving a stable but toxic job to follow your passion because you love yourself sounds good in theory but is quite risky on paper. It could be considered especially risky if you have other people you support. But while you may be able to support them financially, you will be lacking in any other kind of support.
Loving yourself makes it easier to love others, and you can give your best when you take care of yourself. We all want to be superheroes. We glorify being busy. We run so much that we never even stop to think about ourselves and what we need. There is beauty in the selfless act of putting others’ needs before our wants, but destruction in putting their wants before our needs. It can be challenging when self-love results in seeking help, breaking toxic generational cycles, changing life roles, or removing yourself from unhealthy relationships or situations. But no matter how tough it is, the benefits to your mental and emotional health make it well worth it.