As you see the whirlwind of cards, hearts, and candy all around you, it’s easy to think of Valentine’s Day as simply a commercial holiday that doesn’t have meaning. While the commercialization might be true, what about the focus on love? How does it send a message to approve and love ourselves?
What Does Self-Love Really Mean?
Many of us grew up with the idea that taking care of our individual wellness is self-centered, egotistical, and even narcissistic. Not exactly. WebMD describes narcissism as “extreme self-involvement to the degree that it makes a person ignore the needs of those around them. While everyone may show occasional narcissistic behavior, true narcissists frequently disregard others or their feelings. They also do not understand the effect that their behavior has on other people.”
In its healthiest form, “love of self” isn’t narcissistic or selfish. It’s simply an acknowledgment of individual worth and prioritizing the steps to care for your emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Self-love doesn’t come from other people—but it doesn’t take away from them, either. Finding this balance is essential for all of us to be the best versions of ourselves.
What Does It Mean to You?
Jeffrey Borenstein, president and CEO of the Brain and Behavior Foundation, states that “self-love can mean something different for each person because we all have many different ways to take care of ourselves. Figuring out what self-love looks like for you as an individual is an important part of your mental health.” In this article, he outlines some primary characteristics:
- Talking to and about yourself with love
- Prioritizing yourself
- Giving yourself a break from self-judgment
- Trusting yourself
- Being true to yourself
- Being nice to yourself
- Setting healthy boundaries
- Forgiving yourself when you aren’t being true or nice to yourself
These aspects are often challenging for some people to attain, especially if they’ve struggled with mood disorders, substance and alcohol addiction, and eating disorders. All too often, our internal criticism meter is high in these situations, clouding our ability to make healthy emotional connections. Without positive and supportive relationships, there’s a tendency to spiral deeper into more obstructive patterns, creating a vicious circle.
For example, let’s say you’ve had trouble setting boundaries in the past with certain individuals about how they treat you or monopolize your time. Professional therapy and dedicated self-care rituals help redefine the nature of your relationship with them. You’ll learn practices which reinforce self-esteem, help develop an intrinsic sense of value, and boost confidence. This buoy of self-love makes it easier to not only establish gentle-but-necessary boundaries, but do so in a way that accepts other people for who they are, just as you wholly accept yourself.
You might have heard the adage “you can’t love others until you love yourself.” This isn’t quite true, as many people heal with the guidance of devotion and belief from others, and learn to reciprocate in time as they grow. Instead, reframe what it means to love fully—especially yourself—in order to live with more joy.
Is There a Difference Between Self-Love & Self-Care?
Yes…and no. Think of self-care as the tools that strengthen self-love. These purposeful routines and rituals create a valuable foundation of awareness to help you have a better barometer of how you’re really feeling and functioning.
However, not everyone needs the same self-care methods. In this blog post, we outline a way to clarify techniques that matter most to you. In this way, you do things because you want to, not because you have to.
They often include, but aren’t limited to:
- A dedication to exercise and healthy eating
- Engaging in positive activities
- Assigning importance to moments of reflection and stillness
- Building progressive relationships
These and other actions allow you to understand what it means to truly care for yourself and, in this way, love yourself.
What Self-Love Looks Like
Borenstein writes that in addition to self-care, there are other ways to practice self-love. We include them verbatim:
- Becoming mindful. People who have more self-love tend to know what they think, feel, and want.
- Taking actions based on need rather than want. By staying focused on what you need, you turn away from automatic behavior patterns that get you into trouble, keep you stuck in the past, and lessen self-love.
“Finally, to practice self-love, start by being kind, patient, gentle and compassionate to yourself, the way you would with someone else that you care about,” he adds.
More Resources for You From Cottonwood Tucson
Now that you know more about why self-love matters, go ahead and give yourself a treat for Valentine’s Day. Review our additional blog posts for more quality information about building a life you deserve and, if we can help in your journey, please reach out.