A woman in a red sweater closes her eyes in sunlight. Self-love is warm and comforting like the sun on your skin.

What is Self-Love, Exactly?

A woman in a red sweater closes her eyes in sunlight. Self-love is warm and comforting like the sun on your skin.
Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

“When you learn to love yourself /

you dissolve all the stones that are cast.” – Indigo Girls

What does it mean to love yourself?

The statement can seem to make no sense. Obviously you love yourself. Every person does, right? You take care of yourself, you look out for yourself.

You have a set of routines that help you feel calm, manage your day, and protect you from harm, insults, and frustration.

You take care of your family, your pets, your plants. This means you love yourself, right?

The answer might not be that easy.


Existence vs Self-Love

Those actions describe above are existential instincts. They are NOT evidence of self-love.

It is not enough to simply work to keep yourself alive. Fundamental instinctual interest in keeping ourselves alive is built into our very reflexes. We jump scare from danger, we blink from objects near our eyes, we lash out if something nearby seems ready to hurt us.

These are instincts for survival.

They are NOT self-love.

So what is it, if not that?

In her book Eastern Body, Western Mind, Anodea Judith offers this definition of self-love:

“In general, self-love is an act of treating ourselves the way we would treat anyone else that we love – respectfully, honestly, compassionately with feeling and understanding, pride and patience.”

It is now easy to see how this is different from the simple act of survival.

Many people survive day today but are hidden by shame, plagued by doubt, and fail to forgive themselves for their mistakes.

Alive, but not loved first by themselves.

But how do we get to this place?


Self-love is a Process and a Destination

The path to self-love is long and rocky. Few people have truly traveled to the end of this path.

We each have multiple barriers along the way. A short, non-comprehensive list of these barriers includes:

  • Shame
  • Grief
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Lack of empathy
  • Narcissism

We all possess most of the above barriers to self-love, to varying degrees.

In order to move forward along our destination we have to be willing to be honest with ourselves about our past and how it has shaped our thinking. Our childhood experiences in our homes, schools, playgrounds, friends’ houses, and every other place we went helped shape patterns of thinking.

To be happy in our own company is a journey. Photo by Fikayo Aderoju on Pexels.com

These patterns invisibly impact every decision we make.

Most of us need a guide to unpack these experiences. This guide will help us understand the flaws in our approach to life’s problems. Then we can begin to trace those to the experiences of our youth.


How do I start that journey?

The good news is, by getting to this very point in this article, you have started the journey.

You have seen what you need, and you have begun to ask important questions about who you want to be.

The path to self-love is most quickly and effectively traveled with a professional counselor or therapist.

However you can start this process on your own.

Some tools you can use to help become more aware are:

  • Journaling
  • Reading articles and books about self-love and self-care
  • Sharing your journey with a trusted friend
  • Meditation
  • Affirmations

Each of these will help you come more in touch with who you are, and to learn to love and accept yourself for your flaws and your fabulousness.


You can start that journey today with an experienced guide you can trust. Use the red button on this page to connect with Sakina Issa and find a convenient time for a one-time consultation.

Having trouble with siblings? Struggling to meet your goals? Having a hard time getting your children to meet your expectations? The blog has answers for this too.

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