Self-love, it’s been a commonly brought up topic in the last few years. Everybody needs it, and everybody should engage in it is the general statement. A simple google search will lead you to millions of results from practical self-love tips, self-love quotes to self-love as self-care. In all this self-love (self-)guru(ing) do we really know what it actually means? Do we know what self-love is and what it is for? Let’s take a closer look.
The concept of self-love has been around for many years, it really came back into mainstream popularity around October of 2015, according to a google trend research. When looking at the events that happened during that month there isn’t anything that hasn’t happened before that hasn’t been equally shocking, mind you this is on a world level so for every country this might be different. When continuing investigating when the concept of self-love gained traction again we find that it’s around March 2020. Personally I think this could be tied to the COVID-19 crisis that is currently happening as the WHO (= World Health Organization) officially declared it a pandemic on March 12th 2020.
Over the years, as the topic gained grounds in popularity, there have been many people researching and writing about it, which has lead us to a consensus on what the definition of self-love is:
‘’A state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth.’’Khoshaba, 2012
This definition clearly states that self-love is something you do, as in actions. The self-love apparently grows from the actions. I can’t happen but to agree with this sentiment. Learning to have self-love is something that has to grow, but everything that grows needs to grow from or out of something, in this case actions but what actions? Now we are in vague terrain. The self-love definition clearly states that actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth are included, so how can this be vague you ask? Because of the way ‘’support’’ can be interpreted.
The subjectivity of self-love
The concept of self-love has always had a subjective tone to it. It would be easy to think that it’s because so long it has gone without a definition. A fact I can relay immediately as there has been ‘’a’’ definition for many years, many different ones even. So different that for some there aren’t any actual overlaps, as they are coming from such different angles. This highlights a very important point that was left midway in the previous paragraph.
What self-love is, has been and is subjective given that many people have given it a definition. The definition above is the general consensus on what it is, however as I already stated it being actions even though specified what type of actions leaves a lot open for suggestion and interpretation. There are lots of actions we could be doing that might feel as if we are nourishing ourselves and showing ourselves self-love that under the surface could be hurting us. A prominent example that springs to mind is self-handicapping.
Besides actions that are of harmful nature on or under the surface there are also actions that are deemed universally accepted to be self-love enhancing. Even though they are universally accepted doesn’t mean they will work for you, which is a mega important nuance. Self-love is a process of oneself, as the definition above states. Therefore the person to actively listen to is oneself. Out of that results that the actions taken to grow and cultivate self-love need to fit the definition you yourself have of self-love. Meaning that the actions that help you love yourself are different for every person. Yet all of them fall under the definition stated above, with the side note of them actually contributing to your self-love journey on and under the surface.
I believe it would be better to not continue thinking in how to define self-love but to make the definition itself a question to oneself;
‘’What do I do for myself that makes me feel loved by myself?’’
This question houses the subjectivity and allows for one to do some exploring which is absolutely necessary as not everything falls under self-love.
Actions and the internal self-love process
With us saying actions that enhance you loving yourself it is easy to overlook the internal process that also needs to happen. The definition clearly states ‘’psychological, and spiritual growth’’. There are lots of things, as in physical actions, that you can do to make yourself feel better spiritually and psychologically and still barely or not even touch the internal process of learning to love yourself. That again can be/is very toxic to your journey.
Actions in this case can also be adopting new thinking patterns. A completely internal process yet still a psychological action.
In concluding words the term ‘’actions’’ has a lot more to it than one might think at first glance.
Self-love as an umbrella concept
There are also people who believe that self-love is an umbrella term for a variety of concepts pertaining to the self, such as self-worth, self-esteem, self-compassion and a few others. Personally I feel it is dangerous territory to walk on because you are/might be basing your love for yourself on things outside of you. This might seem weird as all the examples mentioned are self based. It is correct that they are self based but not always self executed.
The concepts on their own are very complex to manage when coming completely from the self thus we sometimes base them on things outside of ourself. This has to do with the way our society is set up, our cultural norms and the social circles we keep. For example there are quite a number of people who believe in the concept of doing things to earn the respect of people and that then will boost their self-worth. (due note earning respect is a whole conversation on its own, that I am not getting into at the moment as it surpasses the point.)
The self concepts are mostly coming from the self when taught, and the way things are at the moment we are not always taught to love ourselves. There are quite a few people who say that people who love themselves are selfish and egocentric. For the record, being selfish and egocentric could be coming from a self-love perspective but is definitely not inherently tied to self-love.
In conclusion we can say that loving yourself is a very personal thing of which the definition needs to be filled in instead of being blindly accepted. The self-love definition given above is one that can be agreed with but needs to be further developed or perhaps even fully cultivated for each person.
So I leave you to wonder what is self-love for you?
PS. Want to know more about self-love? Find it below;
1. What is self-love? Unpacking the popular concept
2. Easy Self-Love Treats To Treat Yourself With
3. Self-love vs. Self-care; Key Differences You Need To Know
4. Toxic self-love practices you need to stop immediately
5. Learning To Love Yourself: Can Self-Love Be Taught?
6. How To Start Your Own Self-Love Journey (+ Free Workbook To Get You Started)