Self-care and self-love are probably terms that we’ve heard before. But we might not know what they mean in practice. It can also be tricky to untangle self-care from self-love and to work out where one ends and the other begins.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care encompasses all the things we do to care for ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
It can range from basic self-care, such as cleaning our teeth and going to bed at a reasonable time, to the things that help us feel better but aren’t perhaps as essential, such as setting some time aside to read a book or treating ourselves to our favourite bubble bath.
What Is Self-Love?
The dictionary definition of self-love is “the instinct or desire to promote one’s own well-being; regard for or love of one’s self.”.
Self-love is all about unconditionally accepting ourselves. It includes how we talk to ourselves, our feelings about ourselves, and some of our actions. It’s not about thinking that every single part of our personality and body are fabulous. But it is about loving ourselves despite any perceived imperfections.
Misconceptions About Self-Care
When we talk about caring for ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally, we’re talking about looking after ourselves, starting with our basic needs and working up. Our basic needs include feeling safe, secure and warm, taking our medication as prescribed, having adequate food and water, and getting enough rest.
Once we’ve covered our basic needs, we can think about things like creating healthy boundaries, managing our relationships, coping with money and bills, keeping our living space clean, being creative, learning, and working towards our full potential.
There’s a misconception that self-care has to cost a fortune. Bath bombs, pampering sessions and spa days could all form part of our self-care. But self-care is much broader and will differ from person to person.
Misconceptions About Self-Love
Sometimes, when people are described as someone who ‘loves themselves’, it’s in a negative context. There’s a misconception that loving ourselves means we’re boastful, self-important, and have an overly-inflated opinion of ourselves.
We use the term ‘self-love’ differently. When we use it, we’re talking about wrapping ourselves in a hug. Caring for, and being kind to ourselves. Seeing ourselves as worthy; someone who deserves to be comfortable and okay.
We don’t believe these things because we’re egotistical, self-important or vain, but because we deserve to be loved, cared for, and okay.
“Nobody Can Love You Until You Love Yourself’
There is a quote that pops up all over the place. There are multiple variations of it, but the general sentiment is the same; nobody can or will love us until we love ourselves.
This isn’t true.
It’s a damaging myth that many of us interpret as ‘I don’t love myself so nobody will ever love me’. If we think about it, most of us have at least one person, animal, or thing that we love despite not knowing where they fall on the ‘self-love-o-meter’.
If we love someone who struggles with self-love, it can hurt to see them struggling with it because we care deeply about them. But it doesn’t make us love them any less.
Can They Be Linked?
The short answer is yes.
Self-care can help us to get to a point where we love ourselves. If we begin to prioritise self-care (however hard it may be), that can slowly help us to feel a little more ‘human’. Self-care can teach us that actually, we do deserve to be cared for. We do deserve to be looked after. It can help us to gain a sense of self-respect and start to love who we are.
It can go the other way, too. When we start to love ourselves, our self-care often improves. Loving ourselves can help to reduce our levels of self-neglect. We might start to see our worth. To value ourselves and start doing things like going to the dentist for the first time in years.
Do We Have To Love Ourselves To Carry Our Self-Care?
Self-love is not a prerequisite to self-care.
We can care for ourselves whether we love ourselves or not. Everybody goes through patches where self-love is tricky, but that doesn’t mean that we need to stop caring for ourselves. It might be harder to keep up our self care when we don’t love ourselves, but it’s not impossible.
How Do They Differ?
In general, self-love centres around the thoughts and feelings we have about ourselves whereas self-care focuses on our actions. That’s not to say that we can’t carry out acts of self-love or think about self-care. It’s a general idea as opposed to a black and white concept.
If someone asked us how we were and we answered ‘self-care’, or ‘care’ it wouldn’t make sense because it’s not a feeling in the same way that ‘love’ is.
In contrast, if someone asked what we were up to and we said ‘self-love’, it would make less sense than if we said ‘self-care’.
Some actions would class as both self-loving and self-caring actions, such as eating a balanced diet. The difference is that eating well as a self-loving action is often because we accept ourselves and our body and believe that we deserve to fuel ourselves with the things we need. It’s more of an emotional motive. On the other hand, if we were eating well as part of our self-care, the motive would probably come from the knowledge that without food we can’t keep going. The motivation behind the action is more factual and practical.
They Can Both Take Work
Both self-care and self-love can take work. They’re not always easy to think about or do, especially if we’re feeling dislike or hate towards ourselves.
Both of them are things that we can work on, though. We can learn to love ourselves and we can start small with self-care and slowly build it up. We don’t have to do it alone, either, we can access support from our friends, family or professionals.
Wherever we stand on the self-care and self-love scale, it’s important to remember that we’re not alone. We’re not the only one who feels as we do, and we won’t feel this way forever.
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