I’m frequently asked what the difference is between self-love and self-care. Most of us have a general understanding of both terms, and I will share how they are different as well as how they are related. Also, I will share why both are of critical importance to our physical and mental well-being.
Let’s start with self-care.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is an external activity that we do to preserve or improve our health, physical or mental well-being, or that just bring us calm or excitement or contentment or joy!
I often talk about what I like to call my “Joy List”; it includes my favorite, simple, self-care activities such that can quickly get me into my happy place such as: as going for walks, looking at artwork online, listening to music and watching funny animal videos. What would be on your Joy List?
Other types of actions that would qualify as self-care include: going to the spa, going to the hair salon, reading a good book, taking a bubble bath, making a nice dinner for yourself, healthy eating, exercising, etc.
What is Self-Love?
Self-love is a way of living in which we recognize and honor the importance and primacy of the relationship we have with ourselves. Our relationship with ourselves is the most important one we will ever have. Self-love can be a lifelong journey.
Self-love requires reflective internal activities:
– Identifying and correcting ways we over-give, people-please, or allow others to cross our boundaries
– Accepting ourselves fully, perceived flaws and all
– Forgiving our shortfalls and healing our past trauma
– Creating new behaviors that better serve us
– Not letting others put us down or make us feel small
– Celebrating our accomplishments, both big and small throughout our day
– Learning to show ourselves as much love as we show to others
I speak from experience when I say that creating a practice of self-love is not easy.
Evaluating the decisions we have made that resulted in our current circumstances, critiquing our behavior, and digging deeper into and reliving events of our past can cause us discomfort and even pain.
We are also required to break ingrained behaviors like seeking approval from others so that we can create new behaviors like learning to approve of and validate ourselves.
Self-love may also require us to break programmed behaviors such as self-sacrificing by putting everyone else’s needs before our own.
And when we break old conditioned behaviors, no doubt guilt will set in! Guilt is a very uncomfortable feeling that makes us think we are doing something wrong. But what I’ve learned through research is that guilt is most-often just an indication that we are breaking a conditioned behavior.
So yes, it can be very uncomfortable at first to deal with feelings of guilt when you start to practice self-love. But you just have to push through the guilt and continue to choose yourself and honor your relationship with yourself. Check out my post titled: Do We Allow Guilt to Sabotage Our Self-Love? to learn more.
For additional self-love practices, please see my article in The Chalkboard Mag, “Seven Powerful Self-Love Habits to Nourish Your Well-Being.”
How is Self-Love Different from Self-Care?
Are self-love and self-care related? Yes, I use self-care as part of my daily practice of self-love.
That said, self-love and self-care are very different in both concept and action.
Self-care involves external activities and does not demand the weighty internal reflection needed in establishing a long-term self-love practice. Self-care is a short-term tactic that we can use daily as part of our self-love practice by taking care of ourselves and prioritizing our happiness. Self-care makes us feel good – always.
Self-love is a practice that requires deep internal work. It is a strategy, a way of life. The process of learning to love ourselves can be challenging and even distressing at times as we work through past programming, mistakes, and trauma.
While self-love and self-care are different, both are essential to our well-being.
Why Self-Love and Self-Care Are Essential
When we practice self-care, we make time – and put our needs first – to do something beneficial for ourselves today. By being kind to ourselves, we can lift our mood, bringing ourselves happiness. Self-care helps us to refill our Power Containers when our energy levels are low from the ups and downs in our daily lives.
When we practice self-love, we can transform our lives into ones with more joy, more harmony, and more success.
As our self-love practice grows, our positive energy becomes expansive, flowing out onto those around us. Self-love empowers us and makes us more compassionate, tolerant, courageous, and authentic.
Our ability to love ourselves determines how much positivity, generosity, and energy we can bring into our relationships with others, how resilient we are in overcoming adversity and traumatic events, and the measure of contentment and happiness we will experience throughout our lives.
In my book, “I Love Me More: How to Find Happiness and Success Through Self-Love”, I share many lessons in building a self-love practice that can guide you along your self-love journey!