Therapists like myself spend a lot of time talking about self-love. But if you’re like many of my patients, you might not know what self-love means exactly. Many people mistakenly believe that self-love is the same as narcissism, or having a big ego. It’s not. So, what do we mean when we say “self-love”? Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve.
Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re the smartest, most talented, and most beautiful person in the world. Instead, when you love yourself you accept your so-called weaknesses, appreciate these so-called shortcomings as something that makes you who you are. When you love yourself you have compassion for yourself.
You take care of yourself like you’d take care of a friend in distress. You treat yourself kindly. You don’t nitpick and criticize yourself. For many, especially those of us who grew up in households that lacked love or in which love waxed and waned, loving yourself will take work. Self-love is a practice and it’s a skill that takes work.
Self-love isn’t about instant gratification. A new pair of shoes or eating an entire pizza might make you feel good in the moment (or taste delicious), but the feeling isn’t lasting–and could be damaging in the long run. Self-love means giving yourself what your body, brain, and soul needs for the marathon that is life. It isn’t hedonism and it isn’t chasing a physical or emotional high. The practice of self-love is the practice of nourishing yourself.