If you are reading this, it means you typed a similar phrase into Google (or clicked a pin on Pinterest), which means you care about your mental health and wellbeing.
So, here’s the thing about self-love — it’s one of the foundations of optimal mental health as well as personal growth. There cannot be one without the other.
But there’s often that voice telling us we are not that important… we don’t deserve this and that… and worse of all, somehow we’ve learned to see self-love as a form of selfishness.
But that’s far from the truth. And here’s why.
Why self-love isn’t selfish
1. Self-love is necessary
Feel free to ignore the remaining eight points until this one sinks in. First and foremost, self-love — just like a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-worth — is vital; it’s essential.
Much like the food we eat every day, self-love is nourishment. We don’t just get nourishment from calories, vitamins, and minerals — it goes beyond the body.
Guess what, if you only rely on others to feel good about yourself and feel loved, you’re in for an emotional roller coaster. Those who base their self-esteem on what others think are way too fragile and vulnerable.
2. Self-love is inspiring
Here’s reason number two, which is probably as important as the one you’ve just read — self-love is contagious, and as such, an act of love.
Ever met someone and thought, he/she has a really good self-esteem, and then subconsciously started to love yourself a bit more? Or perhaps it’s a close friend, and you notice the same pattern whenever you spend time with them.
As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.Marianne Williamson
3. Outer reflects inner
Once you let go of a view in which things are separated from each other, and realize everything — including object and subject — is interconnected, then it doesn’t really matter where you direct your thoughts, actions, or feelings.
This works regardless of positive or negative. To inflict pain you first have to do it to yourself, even if it’s just a negative thought about the world; same for giving love and affection.
You don’t need any mystical experience to “get” this. Look inside and you’ll realize your inner world is never independent from the outer, and vice versa. Love yourself and you love the world.
4. Self-love changes the world
Self-love helps you focus on what you like and what you are drawn to, which usually corresponds to what you are meant to do — your purpose. For example, your ideal career/lifestyle.
Once you get clear on that, you can then flourish and express yourself and then in turn create actual value — be it performing at your best, creating amazing things or even just inspiring others.
Mediocrity doesn’t change the world. Excellence, genius, and great art does. Study those who excel at what they do and you’ll find that their drive often comes from self-knowledge and self-love.
5. You deserve the best
We live in a big world, which contains pretty much anything. Since it’s up to you to choose what to get/receive, it makes sense to pick the absolute best.
Mind you, I don’t just mean material items or even experiences e.g. traveling the world. It’s also and most importantly thoughts and feelings about yourself, the way you see yourself, your inner dialogue, etc.
It’s not an oversimplification. It really is about choice, and psychology and spirituality — getting in touch with your own mind and soul — are the key to choose self-love and positivity in general.
6. Self-love allows love
That is, it allows and leads to better relationships with others, be it romantic relationships, friendships, and even random encounters with strangers.
The main reason behind it is, as we’ve seen, you first learn to love yourself to love others. You also learn to get in touch with your own emotions to then see them in others; you need to know yourself to know others.
Your own insecurities and/or lack of self-worth are inevitably projected onto others. If you don’t love yourself, you can then fall into the trap of unhealthy attachment or conditional love.
7. Self-love is self-discovery
Who are you, anyway? And what do you like? What drives you? Isn’t it funny how we tend to be very clear on what we don’t like, but only have a vague idea of what we want in life?
And it’s not even our fault. As a way to survive, we have learned to identify dangers immediately to then be able to avoid them; things we fear or dislike trigger very strong feelings, and those feelings shape our thoughts.
So here’s another way to look at self-love: see it as an exercise to really get to know yourself. Self-love, much like intuition, is a compass and a guide. Love yourself to discover your personality, your purpose, your unique traits.
8. No such thing as too much
Though it may sound unrealistic, there is no such thing as too much self-love — just like there will never be too much love, or affection, or empathy in the world.
This is where words make things tricky. We call toxic relationships “love” and then assume love can be bad. Similarly, we may also call selfishness “self-love” and then convince ourselves that they are all the same thing.
In reality, love that is pure, healthy, and unconditional (regardless of its direction, i.e. towards yourself or others) can never be bad. Self-love that is selfish isn’t self-love.
9. Normal isn’t normal
Lastly, consider this: there may be a thing called normality out there, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect the absolute best scenario. We live in a world that’s far from perfect, and the average person’s mental health isn’t optimal.
Demons like guilt, self-sabotage, or even low self-esteem aren’t just very common, but somehow they seem to be growing recently (though this could also be attributed, in part, to an increase of mental health awareness).
What I am getting at is, don’t just copy others; don’t automatically assume things like low self-worth are normal just because they are common. Love yourself with all your heart and don’t be afraid to be the exception.
Tips to cultivate self-love
- Engage in activities that clearly contribute to your wellbeing: meditate, journal, get a massage, spend time outside, take care of your health
- Pay attention to your own mood and its “reflection” on others; notice how your own light tends to brighten the world around you, as subtle as it may be
- Make your physical and mental health a priority because while we are okay with sacrificing “unimportant” things from time to time, priorities are always number one
- Take a break from social media or at least learn to use it in a very conscious and controlled way; it affects your self-image in ways you can’t even imagine
- Cultivate true self-love — the one that is unconditional; that is, love yourself and all your good and bad bits no matter what; don’t attach any condition to it