What is self-love? Why is self-love important?
Why do so many of us shrink with embarrassment, guilt, or aversion when we hear the word “self-love?”
I rolled my eyeballs at the idea of self-love for most of my life. Like many of us, I was conditioned to equate self-love with conceit, self-centeredness, narcissism, and excessive self-interest.
Now, I know that the attributes of self-love are precisely the same ones used to describe a healthy person. Seen from a new angle, self-love seems a necessary and obvious choice.
The more you and I can model a healthy sense of self-love, the more it will encourage younger people who struggle with theirs.
So I invite you to step up and embrace self-love, the essence of what it means to be a healthy person.
What Is Self-Love?
To practice self-love, you need to know what it is. If you confuse it with a gooey, romantic feeling when you look in the mirror, you’ll miss the point.
So let’s break it down.
I like the way Christine Arylo, author of Madly In Love With Me, The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend, describes self-love as a tree with self-worth as its trunk and ten additional qualities comprising its branches.
Arylo says that self-love is not any single one of those qualities (listed below), but a “vibration” that comes about when all those qualities are alive and active in one’s being.
If you find the word “vibration” too woo-woo, substitute “a feeling.” I like the word “vibration,” however, because it describes not just an inner emotion but also a feeling that you exude to others, to the world.
Let’s start with Arylo’s brief definition of self-love, and then we’ll look at the self-love tree, it’s trunk, and it’s ten branches.
“Self-love is the unconditional love and respect that you have for yourself that is so deep, so solid, so unwavering that you choose only situations and relationships — including the one you have with yourself — that reflect that same unconditional love and respect.” — Christine Arylo
What do you think of Arylo’s definition of self-love? Does it resonate for you?
Arylo suggests that you spend some time with it. Repeat it to yourself three times, in the “I” form. Repeat it slowly, hold your hand on your heart if you wish, and allow its meaning to sink into your being.
“Self-love is the unconditional love and respect that I have for myself that is so deep, so solid, so unwavering that I choose only situations and relationships — including the one I have with myself that reflect that same unconditional love and respect.”
Try it out right now, if you feel ready. How does it feel to say these words to yourself? What would it be like to have that level of unconditional love for yourself?
If you don’t resonate with Arylo’s short definition of self-love, that’s okay. Take some time to write one for yourself, one you feel you can embrace and adopt as a way of life.
Now let’s expand this brief description with Arylo’s eleven aspects of self-love.
11 Aspects of Self-Love
Arylo describes her Self-Love Tree as the totality of self-love represented by all the loving qualities and actions indicated on the trunk and the 10 branches. These qualities are both distinct and synergistic. They are not fluffy practices, but the most essential and powerful ways you can love yourself.
The Trunk is Self-Worth. The Ten Branches of the Self-Love Tree include:
Self-Awareness and Self-Honesty
Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness
Self-Respect and Self-Honor
These are my own descriptions for each of the eleven qualities of self-love:
Self-Worth means knowing that you are valuable simply because you exist. It means valuing yourself and knowing that you are enough, irrespective of the opinions or views of others.
Self-Awareness and Self-Honesty means you are willing to get to know yourself fully — your values, your believes, your wishes, your vision — and to live your life based on who you truly are. That means knowing who you are and who you are not. It means practicing self-awareness each day. It also means you accept responsibility for the impact of your thoughts, words, and actions on yourself, on others, and on the world.
Self-Acceptance means accepting yourself just as you are, including your weaknesses, quirks, and difficult parts, without judgment, comparison, or envy of others. It means actively taking the time to appreciate and acknowledge yourself often.
Self-Care means a commitment to look after your needs — physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual — on a daily basis so you can lead a healthy and happy life. It means you help others from an overflowing well rather than an empty one.
Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness means being kind to yourself even when you make mistakes. It means speaking gently to yourself and sending yourself unconditional love to heal your emotional wounds. It means accepting your human frailties with a tender heart. It means forgiving yourself for your mistakes and imperfections.
Self-Trust means a willingness to listen to and follow your inner voice, your intuition, and your instincts, regardless of what others say. It means trusting that you know what’s true for you better than anyone else. You remain open to feedback, but you make your final decisions based on what you know to be true for you.
Self-Esteem means you believe in yourself; you hold yourself in high regard, and you feel confident you can achieve your goals.
Self-Empowerment means taking charge of your life, the knowingness that you and only you are the creator of your life, and the determination to create the life you truly want.
Self-Expression means the honest expression of your feeling, thoughts, and ideas; the willingness to allow people to see the real you.
Self-Respect and Self-Honor means speaking about yourself in a respectful way, making choices aligned with your true self, and setting healthy personal boundaries.
Self-Pleasure means allowing joy into your life, in the forms that most nourish you.
After reflecting on the Self-Love Tree, I had the “aha” moment, I mentioned above. I realized that these eleven qualities of self-love are synonymous with the qualities of a healthy person.
That’s why self-love is so important. Without self-love, you’ll never really feel whole or experience a deep, more enduring sense of contentment, peace, and joy.
If you recoil from the thought of self-love, replace the term with the idea of becoming a “healthy person.” That’s a good workaround until the time comes when you feel comfortable with the idea of “self-love.”
Create Your Own Path to Greater Self-Love
Use the Self-Love Tree to create your own path to greater self-love.
Look at the trunk and each branch in terms of your own self. Is it strong, does it need some work, or has it been abandoned? You can rate where you’re at with each branch/quality using a 1–10 scale.
But remember, be kind to yourself. If you find you have weak branches, you’re not alone, most people do. If you find you have strong branches, appreciate and acknowledge yourself.
After this self-assessment, make a list of specific steps you’ll take to strengthen one or more self-love qualities over the next month. At the end of the month, come back to your self-love tree and assess where you’re at. Then make a new set of self-love commitments for the next thirty days.
Self-love is a practice. It takes time, focus, and commitment. It doesn’t happen overnight. If you make mistakes or fall back into old patterns, as we all do, keep loving yourself.
Self-love is a journey. No one starts out with perfect self-love. Accept where you are on the journey, appreciate your self-love strengths, and keep growing the weaker branches of your Self-Love Tree.
Self-love is not selfish. When you love yourself, you naturally radiate warmth to others. You’re able to give from a full well, without resentment. You model healthy self-love to others as well.
I appreciate Christine Arylo’s Self-Love Tree because it explains self-love in detail and provides a roadmap for increasing your self-love, and as a result, becoming a healthier and happier person.
But the most important thing is to find a self-love definition that works for you — one you feel you can embrace fully. Then put it into action and increase your self-love more and more each day. No one deserves your love more than you do yourself.
I would love to hear your thoughts on self-love and the eleven qualities of self-love I’ve shared.