A lot of people talk about love and they talk about relationships. When they talk about love and relationships, they are usually talking about love and relationships with other people. Significant others, family and friends are usually who people consider when they think about relationships and love. However, there’s more to love than what others give and take. There is more to love than relationships with others. What other kind of love is there? Well, it is the most important type of love: self-love.
Self-love is very important, and it is easily seen as the most important love someone can give: the love they give themself. Self-love does not have to come before being able to love others, but it should be given some attention. Unfortunately, loving oneself is harder than it may seem. It is not overly complex nor does it require a lot of work, but it does require some mental strength. What the most difficult part of self-love is, though, is that many people have the wrong idea and definition of what self-love is. Many think that self-love is selfish and narcissistic. The Oxford Dictionary definition, the first definition that pops up when it googled, said, “[Self-love is] regard for one’s well-being and happiness.” It seems like a good, general definition, right? To have respect and consider one’s one happiness and health seems like an easy thing to do, but in actuality, it can be quite difficult. In fact, according to HuffPost’s Science-Backed Reasons It’s Important to Love Yourself, “[Self-love] is the habit that many people practice the least.” Self-love and compassion are not readily practiced by people and that is normal. Many people forget to love themselves when a lot is going on in their life.
For example, work and school place a lot of stress on people. Doing well can be important to people and sometimes being overcritical can become part of the journey to reaching that goal. Unfortunately, the overthinking and criticizing of oneself can set someone back from their goal instead of pushing them forward.
The science director at the University of Standford for the Center of Compassion And Altruism Research And Education, Emma Seppala, wrote, “Scientific data shows that self-criticism makes us weaker in the face of failure, more emotional, and less likely to assimilate lessons from our failures.” She also wrote how many people see pushing themselves hard as a way of loving themself and getting them closer to their goal. It can push people toward their goals, but research is suggesting that self-love can get them much farther.
Self-love is not all about setting goals and “loving” oneself to get there. It is about growing and evolving as a person. However, growth is not always seen on the outside, at least not right away. So here is why self-love is important, these are the things that are noticed.
Having compassion for oneself can lead to increased mental and emotional strength. According to an article written by Emma Seppala for Psychology Today called, Change in attitude and is linked with greater well-being as well as superior performance outcomes…[self love] involves toughening up and taking responsibility.” The strength gained from self-love is not hard to notice. Thicker skin is developed, not because someone is criticizing themself, but because they are encouraging themself to own up to their mistakes and remind themself that it is okay to make mistakes. It can also allow someone to see why they are making that mistake and what they can do to improve. They are not shaming themselves for it happening; instead, they are becoming more understanding of themself. That can lead to even more love that someone has for themself, which can exceed how much an external person can love.
Also, Kerri-Anne Brown, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, stated, “No one has a better understanding of your innermost thoughts and needs than you do…The number of people who know you better than you know yourself is probably very slim if existent at all.” It is true, no one knows what is happening on the inside besides the person experiencing it. Each life is different and each perspective is different. No one can give someone the love they truly need besides themself. No one knows them better than they know themself. This could fill in a lot of gaps that external sources of love could leave. Especially for those who have a hard time sharing their feelings, self-love could help hone them in and build on them. Nowadays, though, the thing that people are struggling with is procrastination.
The University of Berkely published an article titled Can Self-Compassion Overcome Procrastination, compiled different studies about the causes of different levels of procrastination. It revealed that the negative emotions associated with workload and procrastination are less of an obstacle when a person has greater self-compassion and love for themself. This is due to their increased mental resilience and their ability to look at procrastination without judgment for themself. One of the studies, done by Fuschia M. Sirois of Bishop’s University in Canada, expressed, “People prone to procrastination had lower levels of self-compassion and higher levels of stress…procrastination might increase levels of stress—particularly among people low in self-compassion.” She also stated that chronic procrastinators struggle the most with low self-compassion. High school and college students were more likely to experience higher procrastination and stress levels. What does that say? Students, in particular, need to learn to love themselves more to recognize their procrastination and the cons of it without feeling guilty or shameful. That is where self-love truly comes in.
Overall, there are most likely hundreds of reasons why people should spend more time loving themselves. It is relatively hard to do so, with the ability to be shown what people do and do not have in a back pocket or sitting on the table. Social media can be a hindrance to self-love, but that does not mean that it is all to blame. Self-love takes effort and people need to be able to seek help for themself from themself. Odd, is it not? In actuality, it is more normal than it seems since many people prefer to look to themselves for help instead of outside resources. So, it should not be impossible to start a self-love cycle. In fact, it is not difficult to get started.
Self-love starts from the inside out. Being able to take care of oneself is what is most important. Eating healthily or not overindulging in unhealthy foods is a great start. That takes care of the physical body. Self-love also gives the ability to accept flaws and mistakes. That means not self-shaming or guilty feelings when an accident or purposeful mistake is made. Getting into the habit of self-reassurance during times of uncertainty and bad situations is an important skill that takes time to cultivate.
Another way to express self-love is to practice positive self-talk. This does not mean standing in front of a mirror, reciting a mantra that may lose its meaning over time. It means not judging oneself for actions taken and having self reminders and reassurance instead of negative thoughts. Instead of, “I shouldn’t have done that”, or “It’s my fault (blank) happened”, try, “It’s okay, it’s not the end of the world”, or “I can learn from this”. Writing a letter to oneself as a compassionate friend or writing down negative thoughts is a great way to get them out of the head. Learning to love oneself means learning to talk nicely to oneself. No one would intentionally have a negative conversation with someone they love.
There are many ways to practice self-love. However, no one starts by loving themself. They learn to like themself first, then they get to know themself better and love who they are. It is like dating, only better because there are only one person’s feelings to consider in the relationship. Andrea Brandt, a psychotherapist in California, wrote on her blog, “Self-love means giving yourself what your body, brain, and soul needs for the marathon that is life.” It is similar to being in a relationship with another person. In a relationship, both persons’ feelings and health are considered. The same goes for a self-love relationship. Oprah Winfrey said on her last episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, “I see you, I hear you, and what you say matters.” So, act like it. Do not ignore inner voices and needs that need to be filled. Take the time to give the body and soul what it needs to be successful. Give the relationship more love. That way, the love that might be wanted from other people can, instead, be found inside.