Self Love vs Self Care. What’s the Difference?

self love

This is a question that I get a lot from clients. Isn’t self love self care

Self care is how you treat yourself when you love yourself. Self love is the foundation of your perception of self. Self care is the maintenance you provide for that foundation. Self love is founded in forgiveness and can take deep work to cultivate. 

The Origin of Self Love

Self love is something that we are born with. It’s innate to human existence and the human experience. 

When my nieces and nephews were little, it was such a pleasure to watch the utter joy they found in themselves. Wow! Look at that hand move! Holy cow, I’m walking! And yes, I’m hysterically funny!

It’s so natural for children to love and accept themselves. 

So what happens when we get older?

When we start becoming institutionalized, we are taught to follow certain rules and abide by certain behaviors. When we fail to do either, we don’t feel we belong and that feeling starts eroding our self love. Add to that the traumas each of us experience during every day life, which is hard, and you end up with a lot of adults who constantly beat themselves up for the minor mistakes that they’ve made. 

It’s interesting that while we recognize the big traumas and how they affect us and sometimes even intentionally work to move through them, we don’t always recognize the small things that erode self love. Things like the negative thought patterns we direct toward ourselves over small things, relatively minor mistakes and imperfections (check out my blog about dirty talk for more on this). 

No One’s Had a “Great” Childhood, No One

Is the hair raising on the back of your neck? Are you feeling defensive? So did I when I first had this conversation with someone years ago. I was doing some internal work and when this question was asked I said, “Hold on. I had a great childhood. I was well cared for. My parents loved me. They never hurt or abused me.” 

These are the parameters many of us use when determining if we or others had a “great” or “bad” childhood. The thing is, no one leaves childhood undamaged. 

When I was a kid, I always sat at the adult table. I was precocious and entertaining and I was the second grandkid so I got a lot of attention. We lived close to my grandparents so during family gatherings, I was put at the adult table as a source of entertainment. I thought it was great, but I see now that the experience trained me to feel responsible for the emotions of others. 

Was my family good to me? Yes. Was I provided for? Of course. But…I was also conditioned to be something that affected my perception of myself. This happens to everyone. No matter how “good” our childhood is, no one has a great childhood. Every childhood ties a person’s self worth to conditions. My childhood was good, but it wasn’t great because a great childhood doesn’t exist. 

That is how the slow erosion of self love happens. 

How I Began to Cultivate My Own Self Love

When I first truly grasped the concept of self love I was an adult, a confident one, or so I thought. I had a successful career, friends, family, enjoyed many adventures and had no problem presenting myself to a room full of people or defending my opinions. 

Unfortunately, words like confidence and self assured are often falsely considered synonyms for self love. Having confidence is great. Being self assured is wonderful. But think about someone you know who you consider confident. Have you ever heard him/her say something negative about themselves? I bet you have. They may know they can win a case or land a difficult contract, but that does not mean they love themselves.

I’ll never forget the day I had my self love epiphany. I was at one of Tony Robbins’ Unleashing the Power events where people push themselves to extremes to recognize the extreme possibilities within. We stayed up all night, walked on coals and meditated. During one meditation, I was asked to imagine myself as a baby. When I did, I surprised myself by just balling. 

Think about babies. How innocent and perfect and wonderful they are. They’re so precious. We used to be babies. That precious life is still us! Once I saw myself as a baby, I understood that I wasn’t treating myself as a precious and divine being. That’s how I started down my path toward self love. 

My Self Love Practice

Self love absolutely starts with forgiveness which is why every day during my mediation I say: I forgive myself. I love myself. I accept myself. 

Because self love is such a personal journey, I can’t tell you the best way to start working toward self forgiveness. Sometimes it takes the work of a therapist, energy clearing, prayer, meditation, or a combination of these and other practices. How you find self forgiveness is up to you. Just trust that whatever feels right for you IS right for you in this time and space. 

You cannot love yourself if you don’t forgive yourself and see yourself as a compassionate, divine, loving being. How will you practice self love?

You Can’t Timestamp Love

I wouldn't be surprised if you’re thinking, “Cool, how long does it take to cultivate self-love?”

Think about the people who you love. You love them from your heart, not your head, right? Self love is a heart activity. It requires opening your heart consistently and offering forgiveness through your heart consistently. It means refusing to listen to what other people are saying and instead tapping into your intuition, which comes from your heart.

Finding self-love can take as long or as short of a time as is right for you. Show up consistently and with compassion and you will find it. But a timestamp? Self love is immeasurable.

Loving Activities: 

  1. Love meditation: Close your eyes, put your hands over your heart—this is how I connect my mind and my heart—and begin and end each day by saying, I forgive myself. I love myself. I accept myself
  2. Love prayer: For this activity, I like the Serenity Prayer or the Our Father, but you can use whatever calls to you or feels right
  3. Love compassion: Start offering compassion for yourself. When you make a mistake or hear negative self-talk creeping in, put your hand over your heart and say:
    It’s okay to make mistakes. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. And mean it!
  4. Love self care. Self care is the way to maintain self love so incorporate self care activities as you learn to love yourself. As it so happens, I’ve written a self-care blog that gives tips on how to do this. 

Looking for more guidance? I offer one-on-one coaching to help women find more in their life—more love, more success, more happiness. Self-love is a HUGE part of this. Contact me for a free chat. 


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