Self-care and self-love have gained a lot of traction recently. These two concepts are ultimately focused on improving our well-being. However, they don’t always provide relief or a welcome calm in amongst life storms. Instead trying to practice self-care and self-love can leave one feeling drained and disheartened. Given experts highlight their importance, how are they linked? And what are we missing when self-care and self-love aren’t helping us?
What are Self-Care and Self-Love?
Self-care is something we do in a moment to feel better. It’s often focused on taking the time to feel good. Practising real self-care takes us to a place where we are practising self-love. Self-love encompasses looking after ourselves continuously but also goes deeper to a place of loving yourself unapologetically. This means taking care of your needs without comparing yourself to someone else or being apologetic for taking time to address your individual needs. Thus, it means devoting time to be intentional in your efforts to enhance and safeguard your overall well-being.
Real self-care is turning towards ourselves and focusing inward to address our personal needs. This is beyond the roles and demands in our lives. Effective self-care links practice to needs and thereby helps foster self-love. Often strong emotions and turmoil are a subconscious recognition of unmet needs. Through them, our bodies and minds are prompting us to address an unmet need. When we practice self-care that addresses an unmet need we have moved from merely caring about our wellbeing to self-love.
What are Needs?
The first step towards elevating self-care to self-love is to figure out what your needs are. We require a need because it is essential to our well-being. It is therefore not just a desire or something that would be nice to have, it’s a necessity. This means that fulfilling one’s needs is the cornerstone of self-love.
Our needs can fall within various categories, such as connection, physical well-being, honesty, peace, play, autonomy and meaning. For example, connection could mean needing to feel appreciated, experience affection, belonging, communication, empathy, support, stability, self-respect, and closeness. Physical well-being could include the need to move, sleep, eat, feel safe, breathe fresh air, or express yourself sexually. Having meaning could relate to needing to be challenged, contribute, be creative, find purpose, contribute towards something, learn, and grow.
Why Meet Your Needs?
The more we meet our needs the more we build our resilience. This helps us to bounce back from adversities as well as maintain our overall well-being. It also assists us to navigate stresses, overcome challenges better and helps us to enjoy what we doing in our lives. Addressing our needs is one of the things we need to do to replenish our reserves and boost our energy levels. If we don’t do this, the danger is we can’t give our best professionally or personally when we need to. Nor will we be able to sow into the lives of those around us as we would like to.
Essentially nurturing and looking after yourself will enable you to look after those around you and achieve. It is therefore not a selfish desire but a practical approach to being able to function optimally. It does not take our focus off others but rather enables us to give more of what we can when we should.
Why is Self-Care Neglected?
There are numerous reasons why self-care is neglected. Life is busy and simply finding time for it is sometimes tricky. Most people have a daily list of things to get through, family and friends they have commitments to and obligations to fulfil. And that’s all fitted in between career pressures and professional demands. Aside from the practicality of how to fit self-care into life, self-care myths prevent us from regularly practising it.
5 Self-Care Myths
- It’s expensive.
- Takes lots of time.
- Inherently selfish.
- Undeserved or unearned treat.
- Nice-to-have luxury or indulgence, not a necessity.
Challenges with Just Self-Care
Another reason self-care sometimes happens too late and therefore seems to bring temporary relief. Other times it acts like an ineffectual plaster and doesn’t help us at all. The reality is that self-care doesn’t relieve situations or discomforting choices that need to be made. Nor does it resolve a problem or situation, help us make decisions, boost job satisfaction, or rectify relationships. This is why self-care needs to become self-love. Self-love encompasses sustainable, continual, and long-term practices that enhance and nurture wellbeing.
10 Ways to Move from Practicing Self-Care to Sustaining Self-Love
- Set boundaries.
- Learn to say no when you need to without feeling guilty.
- Self-reflect and be more mindful so you can understand and know your own needs.
- Speak gently and positively to yourself.
- Actively be kind to yourself.
- Stop comparing yourself to others.
- Join support groups and connect with others.
- Celebrate achievements.
- Tackle difficult decisions and choose to make good ones that enhance your life.
- Break ties with negative people and leave toxic situations for good.
Help Other Practise Self-Love
Learning how to care for oneself without feeling guilty or selfish can be challenging. It’s therefore often helpful to have someone assist you to change your mindset or establish healthy habits. If you are passionate about assisting people, consider studying one of the counselling qualifications offered through SACAP’s Applied Psychology Faculty. Or investigate doing a SACAP coaching course. Contact a SACAP student advisor to find out more or enrol online today.
1. Is self-care the same as self-love?
Self-love is an extension of self-care. Self-care is focused on taking time to feel good, whereas self-love is about actively pursuing well-being. This means continuously addressing real individual needs and building healthy habits into daily life.
2. Is it possible to practice self-love when you are busy?
Self-love can and should be practised when you are busy. This is because it is about enhancing well-being which boosts productivity and energy reserves. True self-love establishes healthy life habits and thereby promotes flourishing.
3. Is self-love expensive?
No, self-love does not need to be expensive. Self-love is about continually doing things that enhance your well-being. Therefore, it can be regularly practising mindfulness, establishing healthy boundaries, limiting time on social media, or speaking kindly to yourself.