Self-care is the act of taking care of yourself in order to assure optimal well-being.
You do not have to love yourself in order to take care of yourself. Oftentimes we only care for ourselves in order to relieve the burden of someone else having to take care of us. Or we may take care of ourselves just because we “know” we should and feel the pressure to, rather than actually “wanting to.”
When it comes down to it, much of self-care has to do with reasons outside of ourselves. It has to do with other people or things. And this makes self-care feel more like a chore, something we would rather forget about, therefore making it harder to do.
But when you actually love yourself, self-care becomes second nature, effortless. You do it because you want to, not because you have to. You take good care of yourself because you respect your mind and body, and you know you completely deserve it!
Self-love means to genuinely have love for oneself.
With self-love, the same way you would go out of your way for your partner, family, children, pets, friends, even strangers is the same way you would to for yourself.
Why do we lack self-love?
- From day one, we are conditioned to compete with one another. In school, we are pit against classmates for who gets the best grades and who gets into honors classes. Then at your job, you compete with others for promotions, and you can’t climb the latter without pushing other people down. We’re taught we have to compete for partners by looking and being the best — when in reality, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we all belong with different people. Instead of being praised for our uniqueness, we are taught to be the same as everyone else and constantly compare. You will never fully love yourself when you feel like you are in constant competition with others, you end up despising your uniqueness rather than embracing it.
- In a consumer-based society, we are constantly being encouraged to buy things in order to keep the economy going. So the media sends us nonstop messages that subliminally imply that we are not good enough. With lower self-esteem, it becomes easier for us to be controlled and give our power/money away in order to feel better about ourselves. They tare down our confidence and then try to sell it back to us. They say “you don’t have the perfect body — but we can fix that!” They say “your life is meaningless — but we can fix that!” They say “you’re not good enough — but we can fix that!” and so on. When you love yourself, you do not become subject to this manipulation.
- We dwell on our mistakes. Life is a process of making mistakes and growing from them. If you never mess up, then you never truly grow. But there is so much pressure to be perfect that many of us put on a fake face and play pretend. Many people live numb lives because they are so scared of messing up — they would rather not try at all, than try and risk failure. Yet failures are the stepping stones of progress — trial & error — go for it, reassess what worked and what didn’t, refine your strategy, and then do it better next time. However instead of focusing on future improvement, we dwell on past regrets. Sadly we become so wrapped up in guilt for our own wrongdoings that we never forgive ourselves. We are all holding grudges against ourselves for the things we needed to go through, things that made us better people. And if you can’t step back to look at the bigger picture, instead you choose to get too caught up in the tiny details, then you’ll never find self-love.
Understand that self-hatred is something that is forced upon us from the moment we are born. It’s more common than we realize, and it’s never entirely your own fault. However, you have the free-will to decide that you can love yourself.
Self-love vs. self-lust
Most of us are not in love with ourselves, but in lust with ourselves. It’s a type of love that comes from your ego, which is not true love at all. This type of “false love” is what I call “self-lust.”
Self-lust leads to cockiness, arrogance, and narcissism. It causes you to place all of your worthiness based on your appearance. It means if you’re having a bad hair day, you aren’t worthy. It means if your makeup is on point, then you deserve the best. It means you believe happiness comes from a certain weight, or a certain amount of likes on your selfies, or a certain amount of attention and praise from others.
Self-lust can easily disguise itself as self-love: constantly posting photos of yourself, being the loudest in the room so everyone hears you, thinking of yourself as beautiful, over-grooming yourself, bragging about how great you are, using intellect (degrees, test grades, awards, etc.) to prove yourself, using money (lavish purchases, nice cars, etc.) to prove yourself, winking at yourself in the mirror, and so on.
Someone who possesses those qualities may appear to be someone who loves themselves. In reality, they are in love with an “image” of who they are, a protective layer that covers their real self. Their greatest fear is that anyone — especially themselves — will ever see beyond this layer and find out who their true soul is.
They don’t love themselves — they are hiding themselves in shame. They love their “fake self” — their body, face, hair, brain, voice, mannerism, intellect, money, etc.
Why should we love ourselves?
So, why love yourself? What’s the point?
- Self-love is selfless. Just like self-care, when you practice self-love, you encourage others to do the same. You can’t tell people what to do or they will resist. But if you do it yourself, others will be inspired and end up wanting to do the same. Loving yourself means encouraging others to love themselves.
- Self-love propels self-care. You are more likely to effectively take care of yourself when you do it because of intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivation.
- Self-love opens doors not just to better self-care, but an overall better life. You will stop the misery, you will stop self-sabotaging, you will accept all those things you thought you didn’t deserve. And you will walk away from anything that is harming you.
Seven ways to cultivate self-love
- Affirmations. Self-hatred is something we have all been conditioned to feel deep down in our subconscious. So if you want to transform this into love, you have to go deep, deep, down. The best way to reach your subconscious is through conscious affirmations. Repeat these phrases to yourself over and over until you don’t have to think about it anymore. The mind is easily shaped by its environment and has no filter. So feed your mind with positivity. Examples of self-love affirmations: “I love myself; I believe in myself; I have faith in myself; I am enough.”
- Unplug. With the media sending us so many self-hatred messages just to make us buy more things, it’s exhausting to keep fighting it off. So just unplug. Take time in your day to silence your phone, shut off the TV and computer, and feel present. Whether you are hanging out with others or you’re on your own, just be in the moment. If you want to read a book or listen to a podcast or something, be extra sure that there is no hidden agenda. Avoid anything with advertisements or commercials.
- Create instead of consume. Creation brings confidence. It’s a reminder that you do have an impact on the world. In a consumer-based society, of course we will always feel an urge to consume. Instead of reading, try writing; instead of watching, try imagining; instead of fast-food, try home cooking; instead of a museum, try painting or drawing, etc. See how powerful you are and how much beauty comes from within.
- Hobbies. When you have hobbies and skills you are working on, it will naturally bring more confidence as you show improvement. At first, you will have to deal with the insecurity of trying something new for the first time, but as you practice, you will develop more faith in your abilities. They say, “be brave enough to be bad at something new.” Just be sure you are doing it solely for yourself, not to impress others. Don’t do it for status, awards, or praise — do it because it makes you feel good.
- Look within. We are too externally focused. Forget about self-lust, forget about loving your ego. None of that matters. Understand that physical factors have nothing to do with who we are, they are all illusions. Quit buying the lie that money and buy happiness. Love yourself not for your physical accomplishments or outward appearance — love yourself for the inner qualities you possess, love yourself as a sacred soul who is a humble guest in this body/life.
- Forgive yourself. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t get caught up in guilt. Admit your faults, release them, and learn from them as you move forward. In a world of illusions, misunderstandings are inevitable. We are all blind, all missing pieces of the puzzle. We all mess up and make mistakes. Failure paves the roadway of success. The only difference between those who succeed and those who don’t has nothing to do with how many failures they made, but everything to do with how they refused to give up despite their failures.
- Know yourself. To know yourself is to love yourself. Let go of shame and guilt in order to reveal yourself. There is an amazing person hiding underneath your ego. This person is so raw and precious that you felt the need to protect it. If you really knew how incredible of a person you really are, you would treat it with the upmost respect and care. All of your “flaws” are actually everything that makes you unique, special, and different from everyone else, and should be celebrated. Remember you were meant to live a life completely different from anyone else. Only YOU are brave enough to walk down your own path.