In a society where external influences and societal expectations hold sway, the ideas of “self-love” and “self-esteem” have been discussed ad nauseam. Although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they actually carry unique meanings and consequences. Self-esteem revolves around assessing one’s value through accomplishments and external input, while self-love delves deeper, emphasizing an acceptance of oneself and the cultivation of kindness and compassion.
Self-love vs self-esteem
Self-esteem, as commonly understood, refers to the perception, value, and confidence one has in oneself. This perception is based on achievements, abilities, and life situations. It involves judgments about your worth, confidence, and self-image; and his often formed in early childhood. It can fluctuate throughout the day and can be influenced by comparison to others. People with low self-esteem often struggle with self-worth, self-confidence, and accepting compliments. Building self-esteem involves positive affirmations and rewiring negative thought patterns, acknowledging that it might take conscious effort to bridge the gap between explicit (conscious) and implicit (subconscious) self-esteem.
Self-love is a relationship with yourself, regardless of achievements or external factors. It is the innate tendency of every human being to seek their own happiness and well-being. It’s about relating to yourself in a compassionate, accepting, and kind manner. Self-love focuses on self-acceptance, embracing flaws, and treating oneself with love and care. Self-love is a foundation for improving self-esteem but doesn’t rely solely on external validation. Self-love is not something that needs to be learned; it’s a natural inclination to pursue what one believes will make them happy and less miserable.
The main difference between self-love and self-esteem is that self-love involves a broader concept of embracing oneself, including both positive and negative emotions. It’s about accepting the entire spectrum of emotions and allowing oneself to experience them without judgment.
Self-love can be quickly defined by these main ideas:
- You recognize your own value as an individual
- You reject negative messages from the media and society in general
- You accept and embrace all your emotions, both positive and negative
- You break down self-criticism with positive affirmations
- You focus on self-appreciation
- You’re mindful and compassionate to yourself
- You’re forgiving, both to yourself and others
- You focus on personal growth
- You recognize your own potential
In essence, self-love is the practice of valuing, respecting, and caring for yourself on a deep level. It involves transforming negative thought patterns, embracing your emotions, and nurturing a positive relationship with yourself.
Self-love is healthy
Sometimes self-love may seem selfish. Others may criticize you for your high self-love, but self-love is healthy! Self-love helps break the cycle of low self-esteem fueled by the constant need for self-improvement to feel worthy. It promotes self-acceptance, leading to improved mental health and emotional well-being.
Self-love also encourages self-care, prioritizing your needs and overall happiness. It allows you to relate to yourself positively and develop a healthy sense of worthiness, ultimately leading to a fulfilling and content life.
It is, however, important to know that self-love can become toxic. It’s an unrealistic expectation that people should always feel 100% content and positive about themselves. Embracing self-love in a healthier way involves recognizing and accepting the full range of human emotions, including fear, guilt, shame, and pain. It’s about validating these emotions rather than suppressing or avoiding them. As mentioned about, true self-love includes allowing oneself to grow, change, and adapt, rather than subscribing to fixed self-concepts.
How to practice self-love
We’ve briefly touched on how to practice self-love, but here are some suggestions and exercises for how to engage in self-love in your day to day life!
Start with self-acceptance, embracing all your flaws, weaknesses, and qualities as a whole. Try to avoid being overly critical of yourself. Then show yourself compassion. Understand that you, like everyone else, are an imperfect being deserving of kindness. Acknowledge your mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.
Skylight Exercise to try: Meditation For Forgiveness
Practice mindfulness to observe the internal dialogue between positive and negative voices (the “good cop” and “bad cop”), while also incorporating awareness of the physical body. You can practice mindfulness through journaling, meditation, and self-reflection. During such practices, reflect on your goals and desires!
Skylight Exercise to try: Mindfulness Facial
Act on What You Need
Identify activities and situations that energize and fulfill you. Prioritize your well-being over external pressures. Also learn to live intentionally, making choice aligned with your goals and values. Live with purpose and make decisions that support your well-being.
Skylight Exercise to try: Yoga For Self-Esteem
Define what is acceptable in your life and what isn’t. Establish healthy boundaries to protect your emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Sometimes setting healthy boundaries involves practicing tolerant and understanding toward yourself. You need to acknowledge that you have both positive and negative aspects.
Skylight Exercise to try: Heal a Toxic Relationship
Surround yourself with supportive individuals who contribute positively to your life. Distance yourself from those who bring negativity.
Skylight Exercise to try: Affirmations For Positivity
Prioritize your basic needs. Engage in activities that promote your mental and physical health, such as taking breaks, eating well, and engaging in self-care routines. This also means learning to show up for yourself. Acknowledge your efforts and achievements, even if you don’t accomplish everything. Practice self-compassion in your self-talk.
Skylight Exercise to try: Spiritual Self-Care: Intro
Slowly build a positive and nurturing relationship with yourself over time through acceptance, acts of self-kindness, and through positive affirmations. More specifically, try using “I am” statements to rewire negative thought patterns and establish positive neural pathways.
Skylight Exercise to try: Affirmations For Self-Love
By incorporating these practices into your life, you can cultivate a stronger sense of self-love, which contributes to improved mental health and overall happiness.
In the journey toward personal growth and well-being, understanding the subtle yet crucial disparity between self-love and self-esteem is paramount. While self-esteem undoubtedly has its merits, its reliance on validation from others can lead to a fragile self-concept. Ultimately, it’s the practice of self-love that forms a sturdy foundation for overall mental and emotional health, nurturing an authentic and enduring relationship with oneself in a world that often tests the limits of our self-worth.
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