What We Keep Getting Wrong About Self-Love + How To Fix It ASAP
True self-love means that you accept yourself fully, treat yourself with kindness and respect, and nurture your growth and well-being. Self-love encompasses not only how you treat yourself but also your thoughts and feelings about yourself. It's a nice concept to strive for, but even on our best days when all of this is in check, why do so many of us still feel as if something is off?
Perhaps we are getting this self-love thing all wrong.
In our #bornthisway #nomakeup, "Yas queen!" pro-body-positivity culture, we've learned that self-love is important. Self-love as a theme has become a trend, an unapologetic #thisisme standard to embrace and adhere to. So admitting that you don't love everything about yourself could be considered taboo. We've been trained to think that strong people never feel shame or sadness, as this would go against the self-acceptance culture we are learning to embrace.
Yet, as I share in my book The Self-Love Experiment, the vast majority of people are unhappy with some aspect of their bodies or want to change some aspect of themselves.
Is it possible that self-love has become self-sabotage?
Here's what we keep getting wrong about self-love and how we can fix it.
In doing research for my next book and working with clients in my private coaching practice, I've started to document the main misconceptions we have about self-love and what it really means to be one with yourself:
Self-care is not self-love.
When I ask clients what their self-love practice looks like, many look at me like a deer caught in headlights. Self-love practice? Yes, self-love is a practice that we show up for daily, and it is not the same as the self-care routine that should be a foundation for our mental and physical well-being in itself.
We tend to think self-love is synonymous with bubble baths, yoga poses, or juice cleanses, but effective self-care is more about the collective and less about stuff you buy and do. It's the idea that when I take care of myself, I can better show up for you, and help the community. Furthermore, studies show that helping others1 (such as buying things for others, a nice meal for your neighbor, flowers for a friend, coffee for the person behind you in the barista line, etc.) can reduce stress and promote happiness in the long term.
Self-love is not about how you look but how you feel.
Many of us are focused on how our life looks, aiming for some unachievable benchmark we've all envisioned in our minds, the ideal number on the scale, the picture-perfect relationship, etc., all in an effort to perfect our social feed.
Using filters to block out blemishes...this is not self-love. Self-love has nothing to do with how you or your life looks but how you feel on the inside. How do you talk to yourself? Are you kind to yourself when you look in the mirror?
Your mental health is just as important as your physical, spiritual, and emotional health. All of these aspects together create genuine self-love. The good news is, some signs suggest that we're starting to see how important our inner world is for lasting happiness: Barnes & Noble, for example, reports that for the first time in years, more people invested in books to improve mental health rather than dieting and physical fitness books during the 2019 holiday season.
Self-love doesn't mean loving everything about yourself.
Self-love is not an all-or-nothing approach to life. Rather, it's about appreciating where you are today and how far you've come. There will always be more layers to loving yourself. Just as you would love a child, accept that you, too, are growing and changing.
Self-love is not about fitting in but standing out.
Another important aspect of self-love is using your voice and standing up for what you believe in. I don't mean jumping on the bandwagon and supporting causes and movements because everyone else is. Instead, real self-love is a deep inner knowing of who you are as a person and a faith that what you believe in matters. It is about the courage to be who you are in a world that often tells you to be different.
Self-love is not about hiding yourself but showing up more fully. It is also about allowing yourself to be seen, expressed, and acknowledged in the world.
Self-love is a journey with no endpoint.
Self-love is a lifelong experiment and journey of self-discovery. We are always growing and changing and learning more about ourselves. This is the hidden gem of self-love.
Become fascinated with discovering who you are. What do you need and want out of life? What makes you unique? Identify your interests, and connect with the different sides of yourself. And it changes—who you were a few years ago is most likely not the same person you are today. Your needs change, too, so keep committing to grow with the new aspects of you.
Self-love is not one-size-fits-all.
It is important to discover what makes you feel worthy, confident, and happy about who you are. What you require for self-esteem is not necessarily what another person will require. Self-respect at the highest levels comes from honoring your soul. This means speaking and acting from a place of integrity and honesty that reflects your highest self.
Self-love is not selfish.
Perhaps the most common barrier to self-love is the idea that it's egotistical or narcissistic. This couldn't be further from the truth. Self-love is a quiet confidence and harmony with all life. It is about the collective. As I share in my book, "Suddenly it made sense, to stop hating myself was to raise the vibration on the planet. To stop loathing myself is to reduce the negativity and pain in the world."
Because when we choose to love ourselves, this is one less person hurting. This is one less person in judgment and shame. We can all do our part by being more kind, compassionate, and loving, starting with ourselves. When we do this, we help to uplift the entire world.
Shannon Kaiser is the best-selling author of 5 books on the psychology of happiness and fulfillment including The Self-Love Experiment and Adventures for Your Soul, Joy Seeker, and Unshakable Inner Peace Oracle card deck, and the forthcoming book Return to You. She has a B.A. in journalism and communications from the University of Oregon. As an international life coach, speaker, and retreat leader, she helps people awaken and align with their true selves so they can live their highest potential.
She's been named top 100 Women to Watch in wellness by mindbodygreen, alongside Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kris Carr and Gabriel Bernstein, and was listed as of the freshest voices in mental health and wellness by Chicken Soup for The Women's Soul. She's been named one of Entrepreneurs Must-Follow Instagram Accounts for Inspiration and Top Facebook Accounts for Daily Motivation by Mind Body Green.
Her website Playwiththeworld.com has been names top 75 Personal development websites and top 100 self-help websites by the institute for the Psychology of Eating. She's an international life coach and author mentor, and a full time world traveler with a home base in Portland, Oregon with her best friend, her Golden Retriever Chance, who she flew to China to Rescue.