An open essay about why self love is not selfishness

Self-love is so far from selfish. 

It is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship with yourself and others.

Anyone who suggests that self-love is anything but a positive attribute doesn’t understand its impact.

In other words, they are naive to what self-love actually is and the power it has!

Some people tend to associate self-love with being an overly indulgent thing that only privileged people have the time to concern themselves about.

But this is not true… Self-love is free!

I had a complex relationship with self-love for years, but I’ve finally come to the realization that it’s essential and something that needs to be in place to be in balance in life.

Debunking the myth of self-love 

To cultivate self-love, you do not need a large bank balance and all of the riches in the world. 

It’s entirely free – and something that only you are responsible for.

In fact, it’s one of the few things in life that’s actually free – so the fact it is sometimes associated it with privilege and being indulgent is wrong! 

It’s the opposite.

Self-love is your birthright and something you deserve to feel. It’s a basic human right! 

For such a long time, I thought it was a luxury to sink time into ‘self-love’ because I literally just associated it with long baths and repeating affirmations that you deserve love and abundance.

I thought self-love meant surrounding yourself with crystals and booking extended trips to Bali.

Truth is, my idea of self-love was warped for a long-time. This was because I hadn’t taken the time to actually understand what it meant to love yourself

I thought it was just about pampering yourself. I didn’t fully grasp what self-love actually meant… 

Beginning to understand self-love

So much more than just taking care of your skin (although this is important and it boosts how you feel about yourself), self-love is fundamentally about appreciating yourself. 

The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation explains:

“Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. 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.”

In other words, it’s not just one thing, but how you do so many things. 

It’s about making good decisions for yourself, holding yourself in high regard and taking care of your own happiness.

You could say that self-love is all about celebrating yourself and being your biggest champion.

Self-love isn’t something that you should switch on and off throughout the day, but it’s something that should be a constant from the moment you wake up to when you go to bed.

It’s not something that should be an afterthought; it should be something that’s made a priority in your life. 

So how can you do it each and every day?

How to embrace self-love 

Self-love should be cultivated and nurtured through daily, consistent practices.

It can take so many forms, including:

  • Listening to what your body needs 

One day, it might be movement that you need; the next it might be more rest. By honoring yourself and what it is that you need, you’ll be truly loving yourself. 

  • Going tech-free and being in the present moment

Doom scrolling through social media and spending all of your time contacting other people will drain you of your own resources. Instead, self-love is calling back your own energy and topping up your own cup.

  • Eating a balanced diet 

Adequate and varied nutrition is a pillar of self-love. If you’re not looking after your body with the right nutrition, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Self-love is having a balanced diet, and not going between extremes of restricting or overindulging.

Over time, you’ll find that self-love habits become a natural part of your day.

You won’t have to think about whether you’re extending love to yourself… You’ll just naturally be doing it. 

Self-love also means talking to and about yourself with care and love, and not coming down so hard on yourself all of the time. 

When I said it starts with the second you wake up, I mean it starts with your thoughts. 

Now, you could wake up and think: ‘today I’m going to achieve all of the things I set my mind to’ or you could wake up and think ‘why do I feel so tired, ugh, I’m so lazy’. 

Do you see the difference? You could start your day with a positive statement that supports you, or you could choose to berate yourself from the second you open your eyes. 

Your self-love journey literally starts then.

It’s said we can have up to 6,000 thoughts a day… Of course, not all of these are going to be super positive and filled with love. 

But you can consciously make a point of trying to filter out the negative and to replace unhelpful thoughts with positive, loving thoughts.

I’ll be honest, before I got on board with the fact self-love isn’t selfish or something luxurious, I just thought my negative thoughts were me and something I couldn’t escape. 

I didn’t realize the harm they were doing to me day in, day out until I started to change them… And my life changed as a result.

Why self-love changes your life

Before I discovered the power of self-love, I wasn’t nice to myself.

Honestly, I was pretty horrible to myself. 

Not only would I tell myself that I didn’t look good enough and that I didn’t deserve my partner because of how I looked, but I would judge myself on all of my decisions throughout the day.

I practically judged everything that I did – from the food I ate, to the way I said something to my decision to do something. 

As these things played out in real-time, I would step back and think thoughts like: ‘you have no discipline’, ‘you make bad choices’ or ‘you’re an idiot’. 

I would speak to myself in the most awful way constantly as I criticized every little part of myself.

Truth is, I would never speak to another person like this… 

They would run a mile and tell everyone how awful I am. But I never stopped to think about why I thought it was alright that I spoke to myself like this! 

The scary thing is, this went on for years in my late teens and early twenties. During this time, my confidence plummeted and I was near or less depressed. 

I spent a lot of time hating myself and not being able to stand my own habits and decisions; loving myself wasn’t in the picture.

It wasn’t until I started my self-love journey that I realized the levels of harm I’d been causing myself. 

Loving yourself is essential 

Now, there’s a difference between loving yourself and thinking you’re the best thing since sliced bread. 

The latter is well, unfortunately, quite narcissistic. However, there is nothing narcissistic about loving yourself. 

Loving yourself means doing things like:

  • Making yourself a priority 
  • Trusting your decisions
  • Setting boundaries
  • Forgiving yourself

You see, it doesn’t include taking long bubble baths (as nice as they are!), but it’s about getting your fundamentals right. 

Self-love is essential if you want to have a sound relationship with yourself and to live in harmony with others. 

Truth is, if you don’t have self-love, you’ll struggle to be in a healthy relationship with another person.

This is something I learned from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê, in his incredible free video on Love and Intimacy

While watching the masterclass, it dawned on me that two people both need to be whole individuals before they come together in a union.

I learned that you can’t find the love you’re lacking in yourself through another person. You need to grow and cultivate it yourself!

Simply put, you need to feel good in yourself and to have a solid relationship with yourself before you let someone else in.

What’s more, self-love isn’t something that can be faked.  

More reasons you should embrace self-love

Self-love has so many benefits – from your own mental and physical health – to the way you show up in the world and in relationships.

This is why it’s not at all something that can be called ‘selfish’.

As you increase your self-love, you’ll raise your self-esteem and feel better throughout each day.

You’ll likely have more self-awareness, which will make you a better friend, partner and person to generally be around. 

There are so many ways self-love can positively impact different areas of your life. 

Chances are, in the workplace you’ll that find you have a greater sense of resilience and increased motivation to get on with the tasks at hand – and you’ll be able to take any feedback in a positive way.

And when it comes to a romantic partner, you won’t be looking to them to plug that gaps of love that are missing – because you’ll know that only you can give yourself the love you need.

As if that’s not enough, with less inner turmoil, you’ll find that you have a lower rate of anxiety and can enjoy better quality sleep. 

Now, tell me what’s selfish about all of that?

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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