Self-Love vs. Self-Care: What's the difference? (hint: it's huge!)

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Self-love is a hot topic these days. And for good reason! Our relationship with ourselves, specifically how loving it is, impacts absolutely every area of our lives. It affects how we experience both the mundane and significant moments in our lives. It is the cornerstone of our ability to flourish fully and evolve into who we are meant to be.

But there’s one very big problem I see all the time with regard to self-love- it’s not really understood. If you don’t understand what it is to love yourself, you stand little chance of fully experiencing and benefiting from real self-love.

One way we get self-love wrong is that we equate it with self-care. The two are intertwined but not the same thing. Self-care is to self-love what self-esteem is to self-concept- one is a proportion of the other. In this post I will explain the difference and aim to define self-love in a concrete and, more importantly, useable way.

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is the part of self-love that involves you taking care of you, as opposed to you taking care of others or allowing others to take care of you (yes, both of those things are parts of self-love!), although self-care is also beneficial to others, which I’ll discuss more later. In our society, when we talk about self-care, things that come to mind are exercise, nutrition, rest and relaxation, bubble baths, and massages. These are all great self-care practices! But self-care involves so much more, and I’ll also explain how a little bit later in the post.

What is Self-Love?

Self-love is a broader concept of which self-care is a part. Self-love, as I have come to define it, has 3 functional parts that are rooted in its spirit or essence. Let’s start with the essence.

The Essence of Self-Love

The spirit of self-love is rooted in a conscious commitment to cherish, protect, and nurture your self, your life, and your inner path. The key here is conscious and deliberate devotion. It is evoked with a vow you make to honor your soul’s truth. Self-love is the creative force from which you build your life. This energetic, creative force is activated in the moment you solemnly swear to honor your soul’s path and begin bringing self-love into practice.

Deep, I know.

Self-love is a very deep, transformative and healing thing.

How do you practice Self-Love?

Once you have consciously opted into a life of loving devotion to yourself, you can begin practicing that love. There are 3 ways to do this, and self-love isn’t complete without a balance of them all. This is really important to understand and this is where we often get off track with self-love.

Self-Care: Self-care means regularly and systematically nurturing all aspects of your own wellbeing- spiritual, physical (where we tend to mainly focus our self-care), intellectual, relational, and emotional. It’s clarifying and setting boundaries, leaving unloving relationships, doing work you love, having savings, learning new things, getting to know yourself well, questioning your beliefs, planning for your future, practicing self-acceptance, dealing with your struggles head-on, being principled, asking for help, and keeping your stress levels in check. It’s being responsible for yourself in all ways. It’s doing no harm to yourself. It requires never abandoning your own needs and always being there for yourself.

The practice of self-care is as important for your relationship with others as it is for you. In taking adequate care of yourself, you are optimizing your ability to show up in a loving manner for everyone around you and beyond.

Care for others: Doing for other people is often believed to be separate from self-care and love. In fact, a common reason to promote the idea of self-love is to remind people that they need to care about themselves as much as they do others. The truth is, loving others is an act of self-love. You cannot be self-centered and happy. It’s impossible. When you give to, help, or otherwise nurture the needs of other people, you are simultaneously nurturing yourself. What a beautiful arrangement, isn’t it?! You will only feel depleted when caring for others if you are not keeping the balance of the 3 practices of self-love. Giving to others in a way that is not joyful and fulfilling is no longer serving anyone. True generosity is giving with a joyful spirit. This type of generosity is deeply self-nourishing thus making it a critical component of self-love.

Receiving care from others: This is where most of us miss the mark on a complete approach to self-love. Even more difficult than prioritizing your self-care is allowing other people to take care of you. But you must. We bless both ourselves and others, since, as we already clarified, by receiving we enable others to thoroughly love themselves! Again, isn’t that a beautiful arrangement?! Realizing that allowing other people to take care of you benefits them hopefully makes it easier for you to do. Reach out for help more often. Accept time, attention, gifts, compliments, and other generous acts from people. Let people love you all the way!

In summary, I believe that self-love is a deep, deliberate devotion to your own soul’s path, manifested through a regular conscious practice of giving and receiving love. It requires facilitating the flow of loving energy between self and others through mindful care in all possible directions- you to you, you to them, them to you. The practice of self-love is the key to wholeness, which is the key to transcendence.

Do you think this is an approach to self-love worth spreading? If so please share this post!

How do YOU approach self-love and self-care? What are your thoughts on this post? What would you add? Keep the conversation going with your comments and suggestions and inviting others to do the same. If you’d like to email me your thoughts I’d love to hear from you. Write me at dara@mudcoaching.com.

Dara offers Life Coaching for women, men, and teens, with focuses on Life Balance Coaching for Entrepreneurs and Professionals, Life Direction Coaching, Self-Awareness Coaching, Self-Love Coaching, Relationship Coaching, and Coaching for Self-Esteem.