Self-love. It’s the foundation of everything good in our lives. We know we need self-love be fulfilled in our self, and in our intimate relationships. But what is self-love, precisely, and how do we generate more of it?

In popular culture self-love has become synonymous with self-care — which this article honestly explores: “True self care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do…”

I like that last sentence. That feels more like self-love. Because while self-care can be a tool in service of self-love, it can easily address the symptom while ignoring the cause. Self-love always involves questioning our assumptions, embracing our uniqueness, and honoring our true feelings. Self-love means listening and paying attention to our deeper desires, even when its uncomfortable to do so. Self-love requires a commitment to self-honesty and authenticity in all areas of our lives.

Many define self-love through our self-care action items (cooking a healthy new recipe, spending time in nature, reading good books)… which is fine, as when our self-love well is filled these actions can lead to bliss. But when we check off all the self-care items on our checklist and still feel cut-off from our self, and unhappy, deep down inside, that’s a sign pointing to a greater need for self-love.

  • Self-love is doing the most loving thing we could do for our selves in this moment. With a twist. We are honest with our self. We know our trap doors, our little dark habits. Self-love knows our good intentions are the quickest path to hell, that it is too easy to hide our needs behind them.
  • Self-love takes the time to ask, “What is my soul yearning for?” “What is hiding behind this hunger, feeling, craving; what do I truly need, right now?” It is asking, “What would LOVE do, in this moment?” Then doing it.
  • Self-love is the act of acknowledging that we’ve paid for our wisdom- in blood. We cannot, and do not want to, hide from what we’ve learned about our self, our life, any longer. We honor the wisdom of our experience. We do not want to reach for the substitution; we want the real deal.
  • Self-love takes the time to question debilitating ideas and beliefs that we perpetuate in our minds, self-talk we’ve inherited from culture, family. We decide to no longer blindly follow the dictates of what happiness, confidence, aging, beauty or love looks like. We make up our own minds.
  • …Without self-love, we farm our need for love out to others, or to self-care rituals, trying to fill holes that only we can fill with our own loving, kind, honest attention.

Personally, I can no longer separate self-love from authenticity: honoring my unique differences and needs, and honesty about my true, deeper experience. The more authentic and honest I am with my self, the more self-love I generate.

To help us all become discerning masters and mistresses of love, and inspire you onward in your quest for the most coveted possession of all time, LOVE, here are some practical examples of the differences between self-care and self-love:

-Rescheduling a phone call with a colleague because I need to spend time journaling (self-care). Not apologizing, resisting the need to tell them why- both are old habits of taking care of others’ energies which causes me suffering (self-love).

-Getting a pedicure because I need some pampering me-time (self-care). Listening to how I treat myself when difficult feelings or jangly energies arise. Not judging my feelings, or my self, for having them. Allowing the feeling sensations to just be, without adding mental stories (self-love).

-Meeting a potential new friend or love interest for coffee (self-care). Making sure I have someplace I need to be afterwards, communicating that from the beginning of the date, in case I start feeling uncomfortable. I don’t ever need to continue a meeting, out of obligation, that doesn’t feel good (self-love).

-Keeping to regular exercise routines and eating habits that help me to feel good (self-care). Making the decision to not let my partner or love interest interrupt this, and sticking to it. I know I have the tendency to sacrifice my needs for others. Being gentle on myself when “I fall off the wagon” (self-love).

-Buying a new swimsuit for my beach life (self-care). Noticing judgmental thoughts and comparisons when I look in the mirror; spending some time questioning those, and my definition of what “confidence” means. What do I want “confidence” to mean to me? Do I want cultural definitions to dictate my ideas of beauty? Deciding that “feeling good” is the new confidence -which feels more honest, authentic, liberating. I buy the bathing suit I feel good in (self-love).

Do something nice for yourself this week: Make your own self-care versus self-love list. With nurturing Ceres in self-appreciative, notice-me Leo, and the Goddess of Love, Venus, exalted (expressing nicely) in consciousness-raising Pisces, it’s a good time to explore and celebrate how well you are loving YOU.

Making mine was enlightening (the above was my list, minus the “love interest” part– I threw that in for everyone). I became more conscious of the actions I take that perpetuate deep, abiding self-love. I also know that when I give positive recognition to my good habits and behaviors, I perpetuate them.

Now go love yourself up!!

image: Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash